Tuesday, August 9, 2005

Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the National Rifle Association, says he will spare no expense or effort to expose energy giant ConocoPhillips for its anti-Second Amendment stance.

Look for billboard advertising soon that says as much. An NRA-sponsored national boycott campaign against ConocoPhillips also will begin.

The sparks flew after LaPierre spoke at a rally in Idabel, Okla., to support employees fired by the Weyerhaeuser Co. because they kept legally owned firearms stored in their locked vehicles in a company parking lot that was publicly accessible. Since the firings, the Oklahoma Legislature has passed a bill to prevent such terminations, but ConocoPhillips filed a federal lawsuit to block the protective measure.

Said LaPierre: “We’re going to make ConocoPhillips the example of what happens when a corporation takes away your Second Amendment rights. If you are a corporation that’s anti-gun, anti-gun owner, or anti-Second Amendment, we will spare no effort or expense to work against you, to protect the rights of your law-abiding employees. Their rights are worth more than your money.”

LaPierre said the billboards will read “ConocoPhillips is No Friend of the Second Amendment,” and he called on all gun owners and consumers to boycott all Conoco and Phillips 66 products. He also wants Conoco and Phillips 66 retailers to ask the oil company’s hierarchy to withdraw from the federal lawsuit. The NRA also will use its legal department to try to get the fired workers’ jobs back.

According to data collected by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, sportsmen — and that certainly would include the majority of gun owners — are among the most influential of all demographic groups. Their economic contributions amount to $70 billion annually. They also support more jobs nationwide than the number of people employed by Wal-Mart, the country’s largest corporation. So watch out, ConocoPhillips.

What was wrong with this Classic? — The recently concluded Bassmaster Classic, an event its ESPN owners would like to represent as a kind of world championship of bass fishing, was anything but classic.

The tournament was held on Pittsburgh’s three rivers, Monongahela, Ohio and Allegheny. So imagine when the winner, Michigan’s superbly skilled Kevin VanDam, finished the three-day tournament involving the finest bass anglers in the world with less than 13 pounds of bass. In three days of fishing? What’s wrong with this picture? VanDam had 12 pounds, 15 ounces for three days of hard work.

Despite ESPN’s crowing that it was a big success, consider that during the three days of festive fish weigh-ins, fewer people showed up than in one day at the Richmond or Charlotte Classics in years past. Not only that, in conversations with Pennsylvania bass clubbers, the word got out that the locals predicted a poor tournament because they didn’t think the three rivers could deliver the goods.

VanDam’s final weight was an all-time record low. Is anybody surprised that all future Classics will be held in the winter and south of the Mason-Dixon line? I’m not.

No wonder the Pennsylvanians flock to the tidal Potomac River whenever possible. A good Potomac River contest sees between 17 and 20 pounds of bass per outing — far more than the Three Rivers delivered in three days.

To carry it one step further, there have been Southern bass tournaments (Santee Cooper Lakes, S.C., come to mind) when nearly 100 pounds won a three-day contest. That’s how you get — and keep — sponsors. You can’t do it with 12 pounds, 15 ounces.

• Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column Sunday and Wednesday and his Fishing Report on Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: gmueller@washingtontimes.com

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