COLUMBUS -- Republican vice presidential contender 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 pike 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 who, during the presidential campaign in 2008, said that when some voters get "bitter, they 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, following 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 that there have been attempts 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 by 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."
The alliance's Save Our Heritage Rally was designed to raise funds for its efforts to fight what it perceives as attacks on hunting and fishing rights by animal-rights "extremists."
The Block News Alliance consists of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and The Blade of Toledo, Ohio. Jim Provance is a reporter for The Blade.