STATEMENT OF THE HONORABLE WILLIAM H. HARSHA

On Behalf of Sporting Clays of America, Inc.

Before THE UNITED NATIONS Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects

July 16, 2001

     THANK YOU FOR THE OPPORTUNITY TO APPEAR BEFORE THE CONFERENCE.  MY NAME IS WILLIAM H. HARSHA AND I APPEAR ON BEHALF OF THE SPORTING CLAYS OF AMERICA NGO, AN ORGANIZATION THAT SANCTIONS CLAY TARGET SHOOTING COMPETITIONS IN THE U.S.  PROFESSIONALLY, I AM A JUDGE ON THE COURT OF APPEALS IN THE STATE OF OHIO.  I HAVE HELD THAT POSITION FOR THE LAST 13 YEARS.    THUS, I HAVE PERSONAL KNOWLEDGE OF THE SUFFERING THAT THE ILLEGAL USE OF WEAPONS CAN CAUSE.  AS AN AMATEUR SHOOTER WHO OFTEN IS JOINED BY MY WIFE AT THE TARGET RANGE, I ALSO KNOW THAT THE PROPER USE OF FIREARMS IS A LEGITIMATE FORM OF RECREATION.

 

 

     I COME BEFORE YOU TODAY WITH TWO GOALS.  FIRST, I SEEK A FORMAL ACKNOWLEDGEMENT FROM THE CONFERENCE THAT SPORT OR RECREATIONAL SHOOTING IS A LEGITIMATE USE OF FIREARMS THAT IS NOT CONTRIBUTING TO THE INTERNATIONAL CRISIS YOU ARE GATHERED TO ADDRESS.  SECOND, I ASK THAT YOU ADOPT A DEFINITION OF “SMALL ARMS” THAT REFLECTS YOUR ACKNOWLEDGEMENT OF THAT LEGITIMACY.

 

     ONE NEED LOOK NO FURTHER THAN THE OLYMPICS TO REALIZE THAT SPORT SHOOTING IS A LEGITIMATE USE OF FIREARMS. THE FIRST MODERN OLYMPICS IN 1896, THE CONTAINED 2 RIFLE AND 3 PISTOL EVENTS.  17 SHOOTING EVENTS WILL BE CONTESTED AT THE 2004 ATHENS GAMES. 

 

     LIKE MANY OF THE COUNTRIES THAT PARTICIPATE IN OLYMPIC SHOOTING, THE UNITED STATES HAS A CULTURAL TRADITION OF HUNTING AND SPORT SHOOTING.  LAST YEAR OVER 19 MILLION AMERICANS WENT HUNTING WITH FIREARMS.  OVER 15 MILLION AMERICANS PARTICIPATED IN TARGET SHOOTING, AND 25% OF THEM WERE FEMALES.  BY COMPARISON 16 MILLION AMERICANS PLAYED BASEBALL, 13 MILLION PLAYED SOCCER OR FOOTBALL AND 10 MILLION PLAYED TENNIS.

 

    SHOOTING SPORTS PUMP $30 BILLION THRU OUR NATIONAL ECONOMY ANNUALLY.  THAT’S MORE THAN THE ANNUAL SALES OF WORLD GIANTS COCA-COLA AND MICROSOFT.  PROPOSALS TO CONTROL SMALL ARMS MUST TAKE INTO ACCOUNT SUCH DIFFERENCES IN NATIONAL PERSPECTIVES.  YOU MUST RESIST THE TEMPTATION TO REMAKE OUR NATIONAL PERSPECTIVE SO THAT IT CONFORMS TO YOUR OWN.

 

     SOME NGOS AND OTHERS ARE USING THE CONFERENCE TO PROMOTE AN AGENDA AIMED AT TOTALLY BANNING CIVILIAN POSSESSION OF FIREARMS.  EXPANDING YOUR AGENDA BEYOND ILLEGAL MILITARY WEAPONS OF WAR IS COUNTERPRODUCTIVE BECAUSE IT WILL PREVENT A CONSENSUS ON A PROBLEM THAT DRASTICALLY NEEDS ACTION.

 

     “SMALL ARMS” SHOULD BE DEFINED AS “MILITARY WEAPONS OF WAR THAT ARE DESIGNED FOR FULL AUTOMATIC FIRE”.  THIS DEFINITION IS CONSISTENT WITH FUNDAMENTAL CHARACTERISTICS OF THE WEAPONS THAT ARE CAUSING HAVOC IN THE AREAS OF CONFLICT. 

 

    IN CONTRAST, SPORTING OR CIVILIAN ARMS ARE PRIMARILY DESIGNED AND USED FOR RECREATIONAL, SELF-DEFENSE OR COLLECTING PURPOSES

     IF THE CONFERENCE RETAINS ITS FOCUS ON THE ILLEGAL MILITARY WEAPONS OF WAR THAT ARE DESIGNED FOR FULL AUTOMATIC FIRE, MOST OF THE NGO’S FROM THE SPORT SHOOTING COMMUNITY WILL SUPPORT YOUR EFFORTS TO REACH A TRUE INTERNATIONAL CONSENSUS.  BY SIMPLY DEFINING “SMALL ARMS” AS “MILITARY WEAPONS OF WAR THAT ARE DESIGNED FOR FULL AUTOMATIC FIRE”, YOU WILL HAVE TAKEN A GIANT STEP TOWARD INTERNATIONAL CONSENSUS. 

     THANK YOU.

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