Monday, March 4, 2013

Colts Neck: The Gun Lobby at Work

By: Susan Russell, Wildlife Policy Specialist

Reliably, a gun industry group has attacked former Colts Neck Mayor RoseAnn Scotti for her stand against its plans to weaken firearms ordinances in Colts Neck (New Jersey Outdoor Alliance Release 2/25/13). The former mayor’s concerns center on public safety and the law.

Justifications for stripping Colts Neck weapon ordinances have ranged from hunter ‘rights’ – hunting is a privilege bestowed by civil society – to desired  target ranges. Now, they rest on claimed “conservation” intent.

Yet established science long confirms that hunting pressure, especially on previously unhunted populations, stimulates breeding (see Putman). By providing more food for surviving females and increasing carrying capacity, killing leads to earlier pregnancies, better neonatal health, and larger litters. Throughout New Jersey, so-called controlled hunts, initially advertised as “five-year” events, are entering their 18th year; hunting perpetuates hunting. Non-hunted sites show no increase in breeding.

Baiting deer, a common method of kill in New Jersey, actually contributes to forest degeneration and auto-deer accidents. North American biologists and wildlife health centers rely on multiple studies to show that baiting can lead to forest degeneration by concentrating deer, who feed on natural vegetation in the area.   Baiting attracts coyotes, opossums, raccoons, and rodents who prey upon ground-nesting birds.

Bait contains invasive and exotic seeds that are deposited in the area by birds, animals, or wind, threatening the integrity of a forest community. Baiting encourages illegal activity and poaching, and increases auto/deer collisions as deer cross roads to reach food. Ironically, baiting improves reproduction in deer.

Baiting increases risk for multiple diseases in deer and other wildlife; the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study "strongly opposes legalization of deer baiting."

The Division of Fish and Wildlife has allowed massive baiting for recreational deer hunting since 1998. In 1998-1999, hunters distributed one million pounds of food for deer throughout New Jersey. Since then, the percentage of hunters who bait has increased significantly.

The most vocal proponent of stripping Colts Neck ordinances is a councilman and a hunter who sells deer bait.

The New Jersey Outdoor Alliance represents animal-use trade associations, including puppy mills, loggers, and “blood sports.” Its legislative agenda is supplied by the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation. The foundation serves “sportsmen and the outdoor industry… delivering returns on investments” for the National Rifle Association, the Archery Trade Association, the National Shooting Sports Foundation (“the firearms industry trade association”), and ATK Federal Premium ammunition, among others. “Our goal,” says the foundation, “can help increase hunter access to public and private lands.”Access means “Location, Location, Location: Access to places to shoot and hunt that are close to population centers facilitates recruitment…” The closer to home – our homes – the better.

Under South Jersey Senate President Steven Sweeney, who received out-of-state donations from both the National Rifle Association and the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the gun lobby is having a de-regulatory field day in New Jersey. In 2010, the industry slashed safety buffers for bows and crossbows, and razor-tipped missiles, from 450 to a mere 150 feet from occupied homes in the suburbs. Parents in Rumson, who found a bloodied deer killed by a razor-tipped arrow in their own backyard where their children play, and in Shrewsbury, have publicly objected to dangerous weaponry in residential areas and backyards. If the Colts Neck council enables the Orgo-Mauro dismantling of Colts Neck ordinances to succeed, these practices will be at families’ doorsteps.

Mr. Mauro portrays personnel from the Division of Fish and Wildlife as objective. In fact, the division partnered with gun and archery manufacturers “to build a strong partnership between the National Shooting Sports Foundation, Inc., the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation and state wildlife agencies by providing funding to state wildlife agencies to create greater hunting opportunities and put more hunters in the field.”

Surely, the Canadian Cooperative Wildlife Health Centre, the Southeastern Wildlife Disease Study, newspaper and police accounts of hunters shooting into houses and cars, and the residents of Rumson and Shrewsbury are not telling “lies.”

To further correct the record, the Animal Protection League of New Jersey has not recommended the GonaCon contraceptive, which the United States Department of Agriculture deems up to “80 percent” effective, in Colts Neck. Whilst contraceptives, opposed by the industry as a “war on sportsmen,” are effective in certain situations, we have net seen evidence that the deer in Colts Neck are biologically overpopulated. We have seen plenty of evidence, however, that widespread recreational hunting will make matters worse. And that residents’ quality of life is jeopardized not by deer “management” imperatives, but out-of-state weapons manufacturer marketing plans.


National Shooting Sports Foundation, “About the National Shooting Sports Foundation,” industry/aboutNSSF.cfm (28 Nov 2011)