COLUMBUS — Republican vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan took a special-edition shotgun in hand Saturday night and immediately began to boast of its attributes.
“I’ve got some stands out in the woods, but they’re not going to see me this year,” he said.
Speaking before the Columbus-based U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance that is obviously in his corner, the Wisconsin congressman said he hunted Ohio lands while he was a student at Miami University in Oxford and proclaimed that Lake Erie’s walleye is the “best freshwater eating fish there is.”
“There are people, some of whom work in the federal government, that don’t believe in access to our public lands, who don’t agree with this heritage,” Mr. Ryan said. “Of all people who understand individual rights, of all people who understand exercising personal freedom, it is those of us who are gun owners who exercise our individual right of the Second Amendment to keep and bear arms.
“Sometimes when the President is speaking, he kind of reveals his thoughts. These little candidate moments,” he said. “Remember that video when he was talking to these donors in San Francisco, and he said people like us in the Midwest, we get bitter and we cling to our guns and our religion? Well, you know what I have to say is, this Catholic deer hunter is guilty as charged, and I’m proud of that fact.”
He was referring to then-U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, on the presidential campaign trail in 2008, when he described some people as bitter and who “cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”
But despite calls after the July shootings in a Colorado cinema for limits on ammunition purchases, there has been little movement either on the national stage or in Ohio to restrict gun rights, particularly in an election year.
Mr. Ryan made no assertion that Mr. Obama has attempted to restrict gun rights during his presidency, but instead argued attempts have been made to restrict hunters’ access to public lands.
“We are all taxpayers,” he said.
“That means we, as taxpayers, own public land. Hunters are the original conservationists. Bureaucrats more and more these days think that public lands have to be protected from hunters. … I think hunters need to be protected from the bureaucrats.”
However, before Mr. Ryan’s speech, Joe Crytser, a member of International Union of Painters and Allied Trades Local 1275 in Columbus and an avid hunter, said it was Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney and Mr. Ryan who would endanger public lands.
“They support the sale of public lands, rather than further conservation for future enjoyment and job creation, and they support less public access due to ill-considered budget cuts rather than investments in our parks and wilderness areas,” he said. “This would hurt local economies and cost jobs across Ohio and nationwide.”
Talking about the invasive Asian carp’s threat to native fisheries in Lake Erie, Mr. Ryan called on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to develop a plan to deal with it.
The alliance’s Save Our Heritage Rally, more of an auction and banquet than a rally, was organized to raise funds for its efforts to fight what it perceives as attacks on hunting and fishing rights by what they call animal-rights “extremists.”
Among the items auctioned off Saturday night was a special-edition shotgun created by the Ithaca Gun Co. of Upper Sandusky. It bore the Romney-Ryan logo and was signed by Mr. Ryan.
On his way to the sportsmen’s event, Mr. Ryan again stopped on the campus of Ohio State University to meet with Buckeye fans at the Varsity Club bar. He drank beer and watched part of the broadcast of the football team’s road game against Michigan State.
Mr. Ryan’s speech went on without interruption despite the presence of protesters who tried to carry a sign decrying corporate spending in politics that has resulted from the U.S. Supreme Court ruling opening the doors to such funding. Their sign was promptly confiscated and they were led out of the building.
“Essentially it’s an auction and not an election,” said Michael Tikili of Akron, who was among the protesters but not with the group carrying the sign. “We were really hoping to engage Congressman Ryan and hoping he would make a statement on this issue that he would overturn Citizens United and make an amendment to the Constitution.”
He said the group’s criticism was aimed as much at the Obama campaign as at Mr. Romney’s.