If the standing ovation and sold-out crowd were any indication, Safari Club International certainly saved the best for last as NRA Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA) Executive Director Chris Cox addressed the crowd on the final night of SCI’s annual Hunters’ Convention in Las Vegas Feb. 3. The topic: the collective hunting community’s need to be engaged in the fight to save hunting as animal rights extremists pull out the stops to destroy it.
Cox’s must-see keynote speech brought down the house as the NRA-ILA front man drove home the NRA’s dedication in fighting for hunting 24/7 on the state, national and international levels. To watch the video, click here.
High Points from Cox’s Speech In addressing the SCI crowd, Cox—who is an SCI Life member, said he’d bought his first safari nearly 20 years earlier at an SCI Washington Metro Chapter banquet, saying hunting had changed his life. In framing his speech, he said, “I hope you didn’t come here expecting to hear a 30-minute lecture on conservation statistics. We all know conservation is important. I’m also not going to talk about hunting retention and youth recruitment. Of course, we need to do both, but you’ve heard about that plenty of times. Tonight I want to talk about 1961.”
Rather than “tell Noah about the flood,” he took us back to when hunting was “unapologetically cool,” naming stars John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart, Charlton Heston, Johnny Cash, Elvis and Mickey Mantle—actors, singers, and athletes who all hunted and who wanted to emulate. “It wasn’t a PR stunt,” Cox said. “John Wayne didn’t get into a duck blind because he was pushing an agenda.”
But then came the animal liberation movement, which Cox explained became the Humane Society of the United States and PETA. Such groups operate under the false pretense of animal welfare and believe animals should have the same rights as people.
As for America’s anti-hunting celebrities, Cox said, “I refuse to be belittled or shamed by people who treat human beings like trash. The worst part of the attacks on hunting is the hypocrisy. Madonna dreams of blowing up the White House while adopting African babies and hiring nannies to raise them doesn’t do a thing to help the people in Africa.”
By contrast, Cox touted hunters such as U.S. Secretary of the Interior and family man Ryan Zinke—the most pro-hunting SOI secretary in generations—and ethical hunter and father-of-five Donald Trump Jr. Then he referenced those who the other side embraces—from Hollywood’s sexual predators to music producer Russell Simmons, PETA’s 2011 person of the Year, who is being investigated for his own sexual assault allegations.
But all in Hollywood is not lost as Cox highlighted pro-hunting celebrities such as actor Chris Pratt of the “Avengers” movie and NFL quarterback Carson Wentz, an unapologetic hunter who bought his offensive line Beretta over-and-under shotguns and then came under attack for sharing pics of his hunting dog on Twitter. Pratt’s response: “When you love something you talk about it.”
Fortunately, Cox said, the NRA we’re used to winning fights. “And 2016 will go down as one of the most pivotal years. It’s a hunting game of high stakes poker because we’re playing for freedom.” Clearly, we have a winning hand but we need to start playing it. Those who don’t know about hunting are being persuaded by seven-second sound bites while we hunters fail to tell our story beyond our community.
Regarding the upcoming 2018 elections Cox warned, “The world is either going to look like our version or theirs,” adding that anti-freedom billionaire George Soros just dedicated another $18 billion to destroying our way of life. “Are we as passionate about fighting for hunting as Soros is about defeating it?” he asked.
In addressing how well-funded the animal rights extremists are, Cox urged the crowd to give money to NRA, to SCI–to any organization defending hunting. “We can’t fight without it. Our opponents have a cradle-to-the-grave strategy. … We’re not as obsessed with defending hunting as we are about going hunting.”
And he is right. “If we don’t match it [their efforts], there isn’t much we can do to stop it,” he said, despite having history, humanity and truth on our side.
On the topic of conservation, Cox noted that it is a byproduct of hunting—not the core of hunting. “My 6-year–old daughter gets it,” he said. “’Do you know why Daddy is going hunting?’ I asked her as I put on my hunting boots?” Her answer: “Deer sausage.”
As for the word “trophy,” Cox said it is easy to attack because it is a politically-tested sound bite—a word the antis misrepresent. “So let’s redefine it,” he said. “Trophy is the experience, seeing God’s creation,” adding that what we do is hunting, not killing, and that it’s about family and camaraderie. “My best hunt was over Thanksgiving last year when I took my boy hunting.” Though he and his son did not get a deer, the trail-cam snapped a pic of the duo as they walked away from the blind. “It is the best trophy I have on my wall.”
In celebrating America’s family hunting traditions, he recognized his parents. “I’m honored to have my father here, who taught me my core values—patience, honor, determination, respect and appreciation. He taught me how to hunt. He’s my hero—and my mother is here, too.”
With the enemy at the gate, he closed by emphasizing that if we don’t defend hunting, who will? “If you refuse to surrender your heritage to a bunch of Hollywood hypocrites, only then will we win. So let’s pledge right here to fight for the greatest tradition in human history and then our grandkids’ grandkids will go on safari with their grandkids. What we resolve to do right now will determine whether that happens. It’s a do-or-die fight to save hunting.”