Prison companies' profit motive sheds new light on Arizona's immigration law

From the Restore Fairness blog-

For months after Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed off on the draconian immigration law, SB1070, protestors raged about the repercussions of a law that made it mandatory for police to stop and check the papers of anyone that they deemed “reasonably suspicious” of being undocumented. Human rights activists protested the inevitable implication of racial profiling that the law brought with it, while supporters of the law argued that it would be an effective solution to the immigration issue. When analyzing how the law came to be, the progressive media went to great lengths to highlight the direct links between those who drafted the law and “hate” groups the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FIRM) and white supremacist organizations. In all this, little was said about how the law came about in the first place.

A breaking investigation conducted by NPR and released today reveals that there is a more insidious motive behind the drafting of the Arizona law; one that leaves passionate rhetoric behind and focuses purely on profit. Based on the analysis of hundreds of thousands of campaign finance reports of people like Senator Russell Pearce, the legislator that was responsible for introducing SB1070 before the House of Representatives, as well as the corporate records of numerous prison companies, NPR has found deep financial ties between the drafting and introduction of the bill, and the private prison industry, that stands to benefit millions of dollars from increased immigrant detention.

The NPR investigation found that the seeds of the immigration bill were sown at a meeting of a group called the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a semi-secret group that comprises of state legislators like Pearce, as well as the heads of big private corporations such as ExxonMobil and the National Rifle Association, and billion dollar companies like Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the largest private prison company in the United States. All of the 50 members present for the meeting in December, 2009 where Pearce first presented his idea for SB1070, voted to support it, and the exact “model bill” that he presented at the meeting became the law that Jan Brewer passed in April, 2010.

Once SB1070 was introduced in the House in January by Senator Pearce, it was backed by thirty six sponsors, most of whom had been present at the December meeting of ALEC. Almost immediately, thirty of the thirty-six sponsors received generous donations from all the big private prison companies, GEO Group, Corrections Corporation of America, and Management and Training Corporation. Further, it was clear that, if executed, this law would be hugely profitable for the prison companies. The records of CCA showed that prison executives were relying on immigration detention as their next big market.

Ties between the massive expansion of immigrant detention and the subsequent growth and profit for the largely privately run prison system are not new. What is even more disturbing is the concrete evidence that points to the lack of accountability that comes with this prison system that is increasingly dysfunctional, as well as a detention system that denies due process and fairness to hundreds of men, women and children.

Advocate groups such as the NDLON have called for a further investigation into the collaboration between private corporations and conservative politicians. Pablo Alvarado, the Executive Director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network released a statement today saying-

We have done much to confront the hate within the recent immigration debate…but what this report brings to light is that behind the odious rhetoric there are corporations cashing in…These corporations and the politicians they fund are less concerned with borders than they are profit margins. We call on Russell Pearce to fully disclose his ties with those who may benefit financially from his initiatives and we ask that a deeper investigation be launched into the private interests gaining from the human rights crisis in Arizona.

Photo courtesy of npr.org

Learn. Share. Act. Go to restorefairness.org

 

Prison companies' profit motive sheds new light on Arizona's immigration law

From the Restore Fairness blog-

For months after Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed off on the draconian immigration law, SB1070, protestors raged about the repercussions of a law that made it mandatory for police to stop and check the papers of anyone that they deemed “reasonably suspicious” of being undocumented. Human rights activists protested the inevitable implication of racial profiling that the law brought with it, while supporters of the law argued that it would be an effective solution to the immigration issue. When analyzing how the law came to be, the progressive media went to great lengths to highlight the direct links between those who drafted the law and “hate” groups the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FIRM) and white supremacist organizations. In all this, little was said about how the law came about in the first place.

A breaking investigation conducted by NPR and released today reveals that there is a more insidious motive behind the drafting of the Arizona law; one that leaves passionate rhetoric behind and focuses purely on profit. Based on the analysis of hundreds of thousands of campaign finance reports of people like Senator Russell Pearce, the legislator that was responsible for introducing SB1070 before the House of Representatives, as well as the corporate records of numerous prison companies, NPR has found deep financial ties between the drafting and introduction of the bill, and the private prison industry, that stands to benefit millions of dollars from increased immigrant detention.

The NPR investigation found that the seeds of the immigration bill were sown at a meeting of a group called the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a semi-secret group that comprises of state legislators like Pearce, as well as the heads of big private corporations such as ExxonMobil and the National Rifle Association, and billion dollar companies like Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the largest private prison company in the United States. All of the 50 members present for the meeting in December, 2009 where Pearce first presented his idea for SB1070, voted to support it, and the exact “model bill” that he presented at the meeting became the law that Jan Brewer passed in April, 2010.

Once SB1070 was introduced in the House in January by Senator Pearce, it was backed by thirty six sponsors, most of whom had been present at the December meeting of ALEC. Almost immediately, thirty of the thirty-six sponsors received generous donations from all the big private prison companies, GEO Group, Corrections Corporation of America, and Management and Training Corporation. Further, it was clear that, if executed, this law would be hugely profitable for the prison companies. The records of CCA showed that prison executives were relying on immigration detention as their next big market.

Ties between the massive expansion of immigrant detention and the subsequent growth and profit for the largely privately run prison system are not new. What is even more disturbing is the concrete evidence that points to the lack of accountability that comes with this prison system that is increasingly dysfunctional, as well as a detention system that denies due process and fairness to hundreds of men, women and children.

Advocate groups such as the NDLON have called for a further investigation into the collaboration between private corporations and conservative politicians. Pablo Alvarado, the Executive Director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network released a statement today saying-

We have done much to confront the hate within the recent immigration debate…but what this report brings to light is that behind the odious rhetoric there are corporations cashing in…These corporations and the politicians they fund are less concerned with borders than they are profit margins. We call on Russell Pearce to fully disclose his ties with those who may benefit financially from his initiatives and we ask that a deeper investigation be launched into the private interests gaining from the human rights crisis in Arizona.

Photo courtesy of npr.org

Learn. Share. Act. Go to restorefairness.org

 

The Obama Boom

Well, there is one sector of the economy that is booming under President Obama - gun sales and ammunition. On average, the FBI's National Instant Background Check System is reporting some 1.2 million checks per month in 2009. That's a 30 percent rise over 2008 levels. The checks are required for all people buying weapons from licensed retailers.

But gun sales are not uniform across the country. The rise is concentrated, not surprisingly, in the red states. Take South Carolina (please). As of mid-October, 28,197 new concealed weapons permits have been issued this year by South Carolina's State Law Enforcement Division. That's an annual record that already has surpassed the 14,630 new permits issued for all of 2008 and far outstripping all previous years, according to SLED statistics. In Oklahoma, there has been a 87 percent increase in concealed carry permit applications for 2009 over 2008 so far.

According to Wedbush Morgan equity analyst Rommel Dionisio, most of the increment in gun sales has been in self-defense firearms like military-type semi-automatics or pistols. While sales of traditional bolt-action hunting rifles and shotguns remain steady, the boom has been largely in high-powered weapons that can fire more than ten rounds. But beyond weapons, there has been an explosion in ammunition sales. Since Barack Obama's election a year ago, gun shops have sold enough bullets to give every American 38 of them. Since I don't have any, that means some of us have lot more than just 38 bullets.

The Washington Post has more.

At points during the past year, bullets have been selling faster than factories could make them.

Gun owners have bought about 12 billion rounds of ammunition in the past year, industry officials estimate. That's up from 7 billion to 10 billion in a normal year.

It's happened, oddly, at a time when the two concerns that usually make people buy guns and bullets -- crime and increased gun control -- seem less threatening than usual.

The explanation for the run on bullets lies partly in economics: Once rounds were scarce, people hoarded them, which made them scarcer.

But the rush for bullets, like this year's increase in gun sales, also says something about how suspicious the two sides of the gun-control debate are of one another, even at a time when the issue is on Washington's back burner.

The run started, observers say, as people heeded warnings from the gun-rights lobby that a new Democratic administration would make bullets more expensive or harder to get. Now that the shortage is starting to ease, gun-control groups are voicing their own dark worries about stockpiled ammunition.

In between, in the 12 months since last October, gun shops sold enough bullets to give every American 38 of them.

"We've had people buy ammunition for calibers they don't even have the gun for: 'Oh, I want to get this gun eventually. And when I get it, ammunition may be hard to get,' " said Michael Tenny, who runs a Fort Worth-based Internet sporting goods store called Cheaper Than Dirt.

Tenny said some of his ammunition tripled in price, but he still sold it: "It's just like playoff tickets."

It was already a political truism that Democrats prompt sales of both guns and ammo. The U.S. government taxes both to support wildlife conservation, and those receipts jumped after Bill Clinton was elected and after Democrats retook Congress in 2006.

But the spike under Obama seems to be on a different scale: The receipts are on pace to set a record in 2009, according to U.S. Treasury Department data, with tax revenue due from guns up 42 percent and revenue due from ammunition at 49 percent. Recently, analysts have said earnings reports from gunmakers seem to show demand for weapons slackening.

The increase in gun buying during the past year explains a large part of the increase in ammunition sales to the private market, experts on the industry say -- but probably not all of it.

They say that bullets were bought not just by new gun owners, but also by those who already owned weapons. And they say bullet sales might have increased even faster if supply had kept up with demand.

It's hard to make sense of all this.  It is, however, reprehensible how the National Rifle Association is stoking the fires. Asked for their view of what's driving gun sales, Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the National Rifle Association, said, "I think it's Katrina. I think it's terrorism. I think it's crime. And I also think that it's people worrying about [whether] they'll be attacked by politicians." He then added, "They're suspicious, and justifiably so."

Just for the record, the most recent FBI crime statistics, from 2008, showed that violent crime rates are their lowest level since 1989.

There's more...

The Obama Boom

Well, there is one sector of the economy that is booming under President Obama - gun sales and ammunition. On average, the FBI's National Instant Background Check System is reporting some 1.2 million checks per month in 2009. That's a 30 percent rise over 2008 levels. The checks are required for all people buying weapons from licensed retailers.

Take South Carolina (please). As of mid-October, 28,197 new concealed weapons permits have been issued this year by South Carolina's State Law Enforcement Division. That's an annual record that already has surpassed the 14,630 new permits issued for all of 2008 and far outstripping all previous years, according to SLED statistics. In Oklahoma, there has been a 87 percent increase in concealed carry permit applications for 2009 over 2008 so far.

According to Wedbush Morgan equity analyst Rommel Dionisio, most of the increment in gun sales has been in self-defense firearms like military-type semi-automatics or pistols. While sales of traditional bolt-action hunting rifles and shotguns remain steady, the boom has been largely in concealed weapons.  But beyond weapons, there has been an explosion in ammunition sales. Since Barack Obama's election a year ago, gun shops have sold enough bullets to give every American 38 of them. Since I don't have any, that means some of us have lot more than just 38 bullets.

The Washington Post has more.

At points during the past year, bullets have been selling faster than factories could make them.

Gun owners have bought about 12 billion rounds of ammunition in the past year, industry officials estimate. That's up from 7 billion to 10 billion in a normal year.

It's happened, oddly, at a time when the two concerns that usually make people buy guns and bullets -- crime and increased gun control -- seem less threatening than usual.

The explanation for the run on bullets lies partly in economics: Once rounds were scarce, people hoarded them, which made them scarcer.

But the rush for bullets, like this year's increase in gun sales, also says something about how suspicious the two sides of the gun-control debate are of one another, even at a time when the issue is on Washington's back burner.

The run started, observers say, as people heeded warnings from the gun-rights lobby that a new Democratic administration would make bullets more expensive or harder to get. Now that the shortage is starting to ease, gun-control groups are voicing their own dark worries about stockpiled ammunition.

In between, in the 12 months since last October, gun shops sold enough bullets to give every American 38 of them.

"We've had people buy ammunition for calibers they don't even have the gun for: 'Oh, I want to get this gun eventually. And when I get it, ammunition may be hard to get,' " said Michael Tenny, who runs a Fort Worth-based Internet sporting goods store called Cheaper Than Dirt.

Tenny said some of his ammunition tripled in price, but he still sold it: "It's just like playoff tickets."

It was already a political truism that Democrats prompt sales of both guns and ammo. The U.S. government taxes both to support wildlife conservation, and those receipts jumped after Bill Clinton was elected and after Democrats retook Congress in 2006.

But the spike under Obama seems to be on a different scale: The receipts are on pace to set a record in 2009, according to U.S. Treasury Department data, with tax revenue due from guns up 42 percent and revenue due from ammunition at 49 percent. Recently, analysts have said earnings reports from gunmakers seem to show demand for weapons slackening.

The increase in gun buying during the past year explains a large part of the increase in ammunition sales to the private market, experts on the industry say -- but probably not all of it.

They say that bullets were bought not just by new gun owners, but also by those who already owned weapons. And they say bullet sales might have increased even faster if supply had kept up with demand.

It's hard to make sense of all this.  It is, however, reprehensible how the National Rifle Association is stoking the fires. Asked for their view of what's driving gun sales, Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the National Rifle Association, said, "I think it's Katrina. I think it's terrorism. I think it's crime. And I also think that it's people worrying about [whether] they'll be attacked by politicians." He then added, "They're suspicious, and justifiably so."

Just for the record, the most recent FBI crime statistics, from 2008, showed that violent crime rates are their lowest since 1989.

There's more...

Squabbling Over the Pigeon Bill: Pennsylvania Legislature In Battle Over Pigeons

by Walter Brasch

    Dave Comroe stepped to the firing line, raised his 12-gauge Browning over and under shotgun, aimed and fired. Before him, a pigeon fell, moments after being released from a box less than 20 yards away. About 25 times that day Comroe fired, hitting about three-fourths of the birds. He was 16 at the time.

    "It's not easy to shoot them," he says, explaining, "there's some talent involved. When a live pigeon is released, you have no idea where it's going."

    Where it's going is usually no more than five to ten feet from its cage. Many are shot on the ground or while standing on top of the cages, stunned by the noise, unable to fly because of being malnourished, dehydrated, and confined to a small space for hours, often days.

    Nevertheless, even with "expert" shooters on the line, only about one-fifth of the pigeons are killed outright, according to Heidi Prescott, senior vice-president of the Humane Society of the United States. About a tenth of the birds usually escape. But about two-thirds are wounded.

    "There really isn't much you can do for a wounded pigeon except put it out of its misery," says Comroe. Prior to an order in 2002 by the Court of Common Pleas in Berks County, most of the wounded were picked up by trapper boys and girls, some as young as eight years old, who killed the birds by stomping on their bodies, hitting them against structures, stuffing them into sacks, and dumping them, some still breathing, into large barrels. Some also wrung the birds' necks or ripped them from their bodies. Since that order, the "trappers" are at least 18 years old and have gone "high-tech"; they now use garden shears to sever a bird's head.

    Trappers can't get all of the birds. Hundreds at a large shoot will fly to surrounding areas and remain untreated as long as several days to die a painful death, says Johnna Seeton, Humane Society police officer. Pigeon shoot organizers do their best to keep observers from the scene, and don't allow volunteers to pick up and treat wounded birds unless they fly off the property, even if there's no shooting at the time. "We have only been able to rescue a few birds," says Seeton.

    Dave Comroe, now 32 years old, had begun hunting when he was 12 years old. That first year he killed his only deer. Although he has been deer hunting many times, he says he has "only taken a shot once." He has gone pheasant and dove hunting about a half dozen times.

    "Fathers take their sons out," he says, noting that hunting is "a "bonding experience." That "bonding" continued through his teens and early 20s when he went to pigeon shoots. "I went as a spectator," he says, "and to hang out with my friends." He was 14 when he attended his first pigeon shoot, and remembers he didn't compete until a year or two later. Comroe says he competed in five shoots, "but attended 10 or 12 overall," including two or three at Hegins.

    That shoot, at one time the largest and most controversial in the nation, brought as many as 250 shooters and as many as 10,000 spectators, from animal rights activists to neo-Nazis and skinheads, to the community park every Labor Day. The organizers claimed they only wanted to raise money for the town park. But they refused an offer by the Fund for Animals, which later merged into the Humane Society, to buy traps, clay pigeons, and ammunition for a non-violent event.

    Confrontational protests, begun in 1991 under the direction of the Fund for Animals, were abandoned two years later in favor of a large-scale animal rescue operation. Each Labor Day, more than 5,000 birds were killed and thrown away.

    The organizers of the Hegins shoot finally cancelled the contests in 1999, 66 years after they began. It had nothing to do with a realization that killing domesticated pigeons is cruel. It had everything to do with a unanimous ruling by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court that humane society officers could arrest participants and organizers under state anti-cruelty charges.  

    Comroe, a Syracuse graduate and instruction technology specialist, is pleasant, soft-spoken, and definitely not violent. Some who attend pigeon shoots aren't. Heidi Prescott, who has been to more than 50 shoots, has seen "Children ripping the heads off live birds or throwing them into the air like footballs, adults cheering and laughing when crippled birds flop up and down in pain, and spectators parading around the park with pigeons' heads mounted on plastic forks."

    It's hard to reconcile the compassion seen in Comroe's eyes with the reality that he calls pigeon shooting a sport. "There's no pretense about it," says Comroe, "It isn't hunting. It's a sport." Pigeon shoots, claims the National Rifle Association's Institute for Legislative Action, "are a traditional and international shooting sport." But, killing trapped pigeons isn't a sport, according to the International Olympic Committee which banned pigeon shooting after its only appearance in the 1900 Olympics. The reason why pigeon shooting isn't recognized as a sport was best explained by the IOC. "It's cruelty," it said after thinking about the Olympics' only bloody "sport."

    Sensitive to the public outrage, almost every shooter and the organizers of the gun clubs that sponsor the events refuse to talk to the public or the press. But, in private, the shooters claim not only are they sportsmen, but they hold a high moral code. The NRA claims the participants "are law-abiding, ethical shooting enthusiasts, hunters, and sportsmen." However, there appears to be a different morality for pigeon shooters than allowed under state and federal laws. Like dog fights and cock fights, participants and spectators make money not from the prizes, which are usually belt buckles, trophies, and purses that average $20-$100 per event, but from an extensive underground in gambling. Comroe acknowledges "a lot of money trades hands" at pigeon shoots. In addition to tax fraud, money is also made by the illegal capture, interstate transportation, and sale of pigeons, also a violation of federal laws.

    Pennsylvania is the only state where people openly kill live pigeons in organized contests. Every other state, with the exception of Tennessee, which has no law against it but also no shoots, has either banned the practice by law or by court action, or it is covered under the state anti-cruelty statues. The actions of pigeon shoot organizers "is clearly animal cruelty, and the Pennsylvania legislature needs to finally address it," says Johnna Seeton. Several bills have failed to gather majority support in either house of the Pennsylvania legislature.

    Current bills in the state legislature not only ban shooting any captive bird at a trap or block shoot, they extends to a little-known practice of tying turkeys to hay bales and then shooting them, often with arrows. In the Senate, SB 1150, introduced by Patrick Browne (R-Lehigh Co.), has languished in committee since November. The Senate Judiciary committee was scheduled to vote on the bill in March, but pulled it to deal with an equally controversial gay marriage amendment. The pigeon shoot bill has not come up for a vote since.

    The history in the House of Representatives to enact legislation has been more contentious. In 1994, the year after State Police arrested 114 persons at the Hegins pigeon shoot, the House of Representatives voted 99-93 to ban all pigeon shoots. Supporters, however, needed 102 votes, a majority, for passage. Subsequent bills have been blocked by the Republican leadership, aided by Democrats from the more rural parts of the state.

    In the House, HB 2130, introduced by Rep. Frank Shimkus (D-Lackawanna), is also stalled in the Judiciary Committee. Rep. John Pallone (D-Armstrong), chair of the subcommittee on crime and corrections, said in February he would "convene hearings [on the bill] at the earliest convenience." There have been no hearings. Pallone says he just doesn't think a law is necessary, "because we do have animal laws relative to domestic and wild animals." Heidi Prescott disagrees.

    "Although the Pennsylvania Supreme Court rightfully termed these shoots `cruel and moronic' and allowed humane officers to prosecute participants for animal cruelty, this narrow procedural ruling did not stop live pigeon shoots," says Prescott. The Humane Society, she says, "has tried in court to apply the cruelty law to shoots, but without success so far."

    Pallone says the bill, now with 51 co-sponsors, one-fourth of the House membership, an abnormally large number of co-sponsors for any piece of legislation, "is not a legislative priority." Rep. William DeWeese (D-Waynesburg), majority floor leader, sets the legislative priority. According to insiders in the House, DeWeese, like Pallone, vigorously opposes legislation to ban the state's pigeon shoots. Pallone claims that "it couldn't be any further from the truth" that DeWeese is blocking the bill from coming to the floor and has influenced the subcommittee. DeWeese, who has been in the House 32 years, twice before voted against bills that would ban pigeon shoots.

    Records filed with the Pennsylvania Department of State reveal that DeWeese's campaign committees have accepted significant political contributions from organizations that oppose the ban on pigeon shooting. State records reveal that his committee has received $750 from the Flyers Victory Fund, the political action arm of the Pennsylvania Flyers Association, an organization of about 300 members who are dedicated to promoting live pigeon shoots. His campaign committees the past four years, according to Department of State records, have also received $6,500 in contributions from the NRA Political Victory Fund.

    When Sen. Roy Afflerbach first introduced an amendment in 1998 to ban pigeon shooting, only about five senators supported it but, says Afllerbach, "the Senate has come a long way since then." A poll of Senate committee members, conducted in February and March, revealed a majority of committee members, including both the committee chair and minority chair, support the bill. An informal and confidential poll of House committee members in March revealed that 14 of the 29-member House committee would probably vote for the bill; nine were undecided and only six were firmly opposed.

    "It does not require any courage to shoot a pigeon launched from a box, and it shouldn't require much more for a legislator to decree that it is wrong to do so," says Prescott, who is acknowledged even by opponents as one of the most effective lobbyists in the state capitol. But, Prescott is facing a formidable opponent.

    "Banning pigeon shoots would be a first step in advancing [the] agenda [of animal rights activists], and they won't stop there," wails an alarmist message on the NRA website. "It's the first step in an agenda that would prohibit all hunting," NRA spokesperson Rachel Parsons told the Pittsburgh City Paper in February.

    "That's a ridiculous argument, and nothing less than a scare tactic," says Karel Minor, executive director of the Humane Society of Berks County, Pennsylvania. Roy Afflerbach, who grew up on a farm, says he hunted "from the time I was old enough to walk into the field." He says, "We grew up with a reverence for life, and never shot anything that we couldn't eat, that gave us sustenance for life." Opposing pigeon shoots "is not a firearms or hunting issue, but an issue of violence and animal cruelty, the mass killing of animals and birds solely to award prizes," says Afflerbach, now president of the Afflerbach Group after serving four years in the state House of Representatives, 12 years as a senator, and as Allentown mayor.

    "Only the most extremist hunters would defend launching, shooting, and then dumping animals into a trash bag as hunting or as a sport," says Heidi Prescott. Jerry Feaser, spokesman for the Pennsylvania Game Commission, agrees. Pigeon shoots, he told the Philadelphia Inquirer, "are not what we would classify as fair-chase hunting." Rep. Shimkus told the Scranton Times-Tribune, "I do not support gun control," and vowed to "never allow this bill to go forward if it had to do with gun control." The bill specifically excludes legitimate hunting activities.
    Karel Minor says his organization became involved "because reasonable hunters," including those on his board of directors, "deem pigeon shooting is so far out of the mainstream." Reasonable hunters, he says, realize that "it's cruelty in order to make money from shooting animals that are catapulted."

    If Pennsylvania hunters are really worried, says Heidi Prescott, "they can look at other big hunting states--like New York, Texas, Montana, West Virginia, and Michigan." These states, says Prescott, "have outlawed captive bird shooting, but hunting continues unaffected."

    While the NRA is expending considerable time and resources to block the bills, most of the state's sportsmen's organizations, says Afflerbach, "recognize that this `sport' is indefensible." The 4,000-member Unified Sportsmen of Pennsylvania (USP) has not devoted resources to trying to quash the bills; only a one-line notice in a list of bills USP opposes indicates that organization opposes the ban on pigeon shoots.

    There were about two dozen shoots during the past year at the Pikeville Gun Club, Strausstown Gun Club and Wing Pointe in Berks County, as well as one at Valley View in Schuylkill County and Erdman in Dauphin County. At each shoot, more than 1,000 pigeons are killed and thrown away.

    Dave Comroe no longer goes to pigeon shoots. "It's not too exciting for me," he says. "It's not something I'm interested in. It's not my thing," he says. His "thing" is competitive trapshooting. Comroe now kills inanimate clay pigeons made of tar and pitch, hitting about 96 percent from the 16 yard line, occasionally busting a perfect 100 to earn championships.

    Heidi Prescott and the 11.6 million members of the Humane Society, about 7.3 million more than the NRA, wish the few hundred Pennsylvanians who are active pigeon shooters would follow Comroe's example and stop participating in the cruelty of pigeon shoots--either voluntarily or by force of law.

    [Dr. Brasch attended and reported on five pigeon shoots. An award-winning syndicated columnist, he is professor of journalism at Bloomsburg University and president of the Pennsylvania Press Club. His latest book is Sinking the Ship of State: The Presidency of George W. Bush (November 2007), available through amazon.com and other bookstores. You may contact Brasch at brasch@bloomu.edu or through his website at: www.walterbrasch.com.]

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