By Chris W. Cox
NRA-ILA Executive Director
I always get a big boost out of our Annual Meetings. It’s always rewarding to be among 70-80,000 like-minded folks, enjoying our common interests, shared values and a profound sense of community.
One of our honored guests was attending his first Annual Meetings, and he shared the similarity of his experience at a reception. Sheriff David A. Clarke of Milwaukee, Wis., has been pilloried in the press for telling the residents of his city that they should be prepared to defend themselves against criminal attack. “Calling 911 and waiting is no longer your best option,” he said in public service announcements that quickly drew national attention. A career officer of the department who spent nine years as a patrol officer before rising through the ranks, the sheriff is an outspoken supporter of the Second Amendment who faced down his own mayor on national television. Milwaukee’s mayor, Tom Barrett, is a zealous anti-gun politician who has been defeated in three separate bids for governor.
Sheriff Clarke told the audience that he came to the Annual Meetings not knowing what to expect. His plan was to blend in and observe, but many of our members already knew him by reputation. He said he had met people from all over the country and been warmly received by all. In concluding, he said he felt like he had looked into the eyes and soul of America, and was pleased and reassured by what he saw.
Meanwhile, a few blocks away, a handful of angry and accusatory protesters had gathered in strident opposition. Unlike Sheriff Clarke, they did not come to the meetings withholding judgment, but instead came to impose it. Sponsored by anti-gun billionaire Mike Bloomberg, the protesters had come to release a report with the title “Not Your Grandparents NRA: How the Leadership of the NRA Puts Americans at Risk.” A Bloomberg spokeswoman told the Houston Chronicle that the report was intended to illustrate “how the NRA leadership evolved over the last few decades from a sportsman’s organization to an extremist one.”
The vast majority of the nearly 80,000 NRA supporters had no idea the protest was even taking place, but the media gave it fawning attention without ever noting the contrast in the number of people attending. Nor did they give any study to the contrast in attitude between a handful of accusatory protesters versus the tens of thousands of folks who gladly mingled together among nine acres of guns and gear—many carrying their own firearms as well.
One anti-gun reporter did take the time to observe the crowds in person. He filed a report for the anti-gun website The Daily Beast, and said, “As I walked past a row of AR-15s mounted on the wall on my right, I noticed a J. Crewed-out family that might have come from Bethesda or Greenwich—two parents and their son, 12 or so—checking out the action on the wall. I looked around for more like them and started to notice that while in the minority, they were definitely there wandering the halls looking at the merchandise. It is for them that the NRA runs a terror campaign, pure and simple. …”
The meager protest was over, but the character assassination had just begun. With the help of a compliant and anti-gun mainstream media, the leaders of the protest amplified their claims that the NRA and its millions of members are “extreme” because we fight to protect our fundamental rights. But the truth is that we trust our fellow citizens because we know that the vast majority of Americans, especially legal gun owners, are good, law-abiding people who pose no threat to anyone. Our opponents, on the other hand, see monsters lurking in every household and assume that every gun owner is a ticking time bomb. It is an absurd view that is proven false by every measure available.
One protestor at least learned the truth. The Indianapolis Star reported on a man searching “without luck for a public protest to join.” He carried a sign saying “Ban Guns Kill NRA.” And the story ends by quoting him saying, “I decided I was way outnumbered.”
James W. Porter II, PRESIDENT
Allan Cors, FIRST VICE PRESIDENT
Pete Brownell, SECOND VICE PRESIDENT
Wayne LaPierre, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT
Edward J. Land Jr., SECRETARY
Wilson H. Phillips Jr., TREASURER
Kyle Weaver, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, GENERAL OPERATIONS
Christopher W. Cox, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, INSTITUTE FOR LEGISLATIVE ACTION