Published Articles


SOMETIMES YOU'VE JUST GOTTA DO IT YOURSELF!

An article for Guns and Ammo magazine (1998)

by Wayne Anthony Ross

As a kid growing up in a suburb of Milwaukee, I didn't have much contact with guns. No one in our family hunted and the only guns in my then limited arsenal were toys. I grew up during the final days of the "B westerns" and after dad bought our first TV set, we kids would hurry home from school, strap on our cap guns, and hunker down to watch Hoppy, Roy, or Gene ride the range on the black and white screen.

Things were a lot simpler then. We knew who the bad guy was when he first appeared on the screen because bad guys invariably owned the saloon, always wore a black hat, and had a black mustache. In those days, we didn't care if the villain had not been loved as a kid. He was, simply, "the bad guy" and we didn't question the reasons behind his behavior. We wondered, from time to time, of course, why the bad guy wasn't smart enough to shave his mustache off or wear a different colored hat, so that it wouldn't be so obvious that he was a crook, but mostly we just enjoyed the story without such in-depth analysis.

My dad, unfortunately, had a black mustache and wore a black homburg hat. Consequently, most of my friends were afraid of him, thinking dad must have had criminal tendencies because of his appearance. I wasn't too sure of dad myself, especially when one day I happened to climb on a chair to look in his top dresser drawer. Under some handkerchiefs, I found a small black pistol, a Spanish .25 caliber "Bufalo". In my youthful ignorance nobody had small black pistols except the police and criminals, and I knew my dad wasn't a policeman. I also knew that dad had lived in Chicago during Prohibition while AI Capone lived there, and for a long time I wondered what dad had done in Chicago before I was born. (Years later I learned the story of the little black pistol and I wrote about it in an article, "The Little 'Bufalo'", that appeared in the 22 October 1982 issue of Gun Week.)

I suppose my interest in guns and the outdoors can be traced to those early years and especially to a traumatic incident that occurred in 7th grade.

I never was very proficient at athletics, though not for lack of trying. In 7th grade, I was a member of Fr. Nuedling's basketball team. The good father would let me play only when our team was so far ahead that I couldn't hurt the outcome when I'd get out on the floor. At the time, my older sister was dating the star center from the Marquette Hilltoppers and she invited this basketball celebrity to come to her little brother's game. I was petrified at having such an expert see me play but after I warmed the bench for quite a while, I began to relax. Finally, when our team was about forty points ahead, Fr. Nuedling said: "Ross! Get in there!" and I joined the game. I quickly got my hands on the ball, dribbling it skillfully down the court until J was underneath the basket. Taking careful aim, I made the basket on my first throw, and the crowd went wild! I was quite pleased with myself.

Unfortunately, I had made the basket on the wrong end of the court! That's why the crowd was yelling.

That embarrassing experience put an end to my attempts at organized athletics, and I turned to outdoor sports. I became quite a fisherman and later I took up hunting, becoming first an accumulator of guns and later a gun collector.

When hunting got too crowded in Wisconsin, I looked into Alaska's outdoor opportunities, spending the summer of 1967 here, and moving to Alaska permanently after law school in 1968. Thus, thanks to my "Wrong Way Corrigan " tendencies on a basketball court in 7th grade, I was able to enjoy hunting and fishing in Alaska rather than ending up a couch potato "Packer-backer" in Wisconsin.

I joined the NRA in 1964, became a life member in 1975, and a benefactor member in 1984. I was elected an NRA Director in 1980 and, other than one year, I have served as an NRA Director ever since, and I even held the position of NRA Vice President. I'm now Chairman of NRA Gun Collectors Committee.

When I began practicing law, I started getting firearms cases. One of the first involved an apartment tenant whose landlord announced that, henceforth, tenants would no longer be able to have firearms on the premises. When I wrote the landlord and asked him for the name of his insurance carrier so I could notify the carrier that the landlord had now undertaken to be solely responsible for the personal safety of his tenants, the landlord changed his mind about prohibiting tenants' firearms.

Later, in an assault case, I had gotten a good deal for my client but the State wanted his firearm forfeited. I always have clients assign the firearm to me as part of my fee in cases such as this, and so I protested to the judge and filed a pleading entitled "Motion For Writ Of Habeas Pistola". The good- humored judge granted my motion and issued an "Order Granting Writ Of Habeas Pistola", finding that it would be cruel and unusual punishment for the gun to be forfeited to the State. (See Shooting' Times, November 1990.)

In 1995, our current Governor, Tony Knowles, ended the State's practice of selling forfeited and surplus handguns to the public, deciding that such handguns would be destroyed instead. In a letter to the NRA, Governor Knowles wrote that Alaskans

" are concerned about violence. I believe they trust in me to try to reduce crime and make it harder for criminals to get their hand on weapons. Destroying surplus handguns is one way to do that. As for the money we'll lose by disposing of guns instead of selling them, I have no second thoughts."

I quickly filed suit, seeking a temporary restraining order against the destruction of those firearms. The State's attorney told the court that the State was only going to destroy "sawed-off shotguns, assault rifles, and Saturday Night Specials". As a result, the judge declined to grant the restraining order and the next day some fifty guns were destroyed by burning with a welding torch. When I got to view the destroyed guns, I saw that a lovely little Colt Woodsman, an Air Force survival rifle in .22 Hornet, and a large number of like-new S&W .357 Magnum stainless steel revolvers had been cut up! The State's attorney had lied!

I immediately amended my court complaint to seek personal damages against the Governor "on behalf of the people of the State of Alaska for the willful destruction of State property". Shortly thereafter, the Governor put the destruction of firearms "on hold", later agreed that no more guns would be destroyed (instead they would be sold to licensed dealers), and paid my attorneys fees.

Then, earlier this year, I noticed the Governor's picture in the newspaper. He was shown shooting one of the brand new S&W pistols he had gotten for the Alaska State Troopers by trading in the State's surplus guns to a local dealer. The Governor was taking credit for saving the taxpayers money by utilizing the surplus guns to rearm the Troopers with newer arms! What a guy!

Governor Knowles, is very anti-gun and anti-hunting. He vetoed a bill to improve Alaska's concealed carry law. (Our Republican-controlled Legislature over-rode the veto.) He approved putting anti-hunting initiatives on the ballot, closed certain areas of the State to bear hunting, and sent hundreds of thousand of dollars of State funds to extremist environmental groups who oppose hunting and development of Alaska's resources.

Rather than following biologists' recommendations to kill some wolves to improve moose and caribou hunting, our Governor spent State funds to sterilize wolves while, simultaneously, vetoing a ban on partial birth abortions. Mr. Knowles apparently believes that wolves are more important than babies!

The Alaska Constitution provides that fish and game resources are held in public trust for all Alaskans. Several years ago, the Alaska Legislature enacted a law giving a preference in the taking of fish and game to rural residents. My law firm filed suit challenging that preference. The Alaska Supreme Court agreed with us, holding such a preference unconstitutional.

Under current Federal law (the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, Section VIII), Alaska now faces a takeover of fish and game management by the Federal Government because we refuse to provide a preference in the taking of fish and game by rural residents. No other State in the Union has such a threat hanging over the management of its own resources, and yet our current Governor refuses to challenge that federal law, claiming we should bow to Federal pressure and amend our State Constitution to give special hunting and fishing preferences to one group of Alaskans over another based on place of residence!

I'm a guy from Wisconsin who came here thirty years ago to raise a family, hunt, fish, and enjoy gun collecting and the shooting sports. In those thirty years I've had some great experiences. .

I've killed a charging brown bear at 11 steps. I've taken a musk ox, and a number of Sitka deer, with a LAR Grizzly .45 Win Mag. I've taken 2 moose and 3 caribou with .45 Long Colt revolvers. I've seen our oldest son, Greg, get his first caribou 'when he was thirteen years of age; our second son, Brian, get his first moose when he was nine; and our third son, Tim, get his first moose when he was eight. I've guided my wife, Barb, when she took her first moose, and our daughter, Amy, when she took her first moose, one week before Amy left for college.

I hold an Assistant Guide's license. I've chaired the Alaskan Land Use Council Advisors Committee, making recommendations on Alaska's land. I've served as an Assistant Attorney General, a Court Trustee, and a Family Court Master, for the State of Alaska. And I was Republican National Committeeman for Alaska for six years.

I've had some good legal and political fights in those thirty years, and won a lot of them.

But now Alaskans are facing a battle that will determine the hunting and fishing rights of future generations of both Alaskans, and of non residents who might want to hunt and fish here. That battle is against the Federal Government's wrongful attempt to control management of Alaskan resources.

We also face the same battles that other states are facing against those who would ignore our constitutional right to keep and bear arms. And that battle is against our own State Administration.

So what's a guy to do?

I've fought for years to protect constitutional rights and I've supported others running for election, expecting them to take over the reins of government and straighten things out, only to be disappointed when they didn't get elected, or if elected, failed to keep their campaign promises.

I've finally come to realize, however, what mom meant when she said: "Sometimes you've just gotta do it yourself if you want it done right!"

So I've thrown my hat in the ring and am running for Governor of Alaska. At least I know that when I'm Governor, the hunting and fishing rights of all Alaskans will be protected, and the right to keep and bear arms will not be infringed. It's a formidable task, running for Governor of a State that crosses four time zones and is twice the size of Texas. But with the help of like minded outdoor and firearms enthusiasts, I will be elected in November.

And to think this all started with Hoppy, Roy, and Gene, a "Bufalo", and a basket made on the wrong end of the court!

 


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