INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (April 26, 2014) — Attendees to the annual meeting at the NRA’s 143rd convention and trade show in Indianapolis were reminded that their 2nd Amendment rights are in jeopardy and they are the bulwark against government-led tyranny.
NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre and Executive Director Chris Cox, in speeches interrupted by videos, commercials and standing ovations, told members that their organization won’t be intimidated by the recent announcement by former New York City mayor and media billionaire Michael Bloomberg that he is prepared to spend $50 million of his fortune in supporting political candidates who endorse what supporters call “common sense gun laws.”
Cox, the man who steers the NRA’s $20 million lobbying campaign, told the crowd that Bloomberg’s goal is to, “take away our guns.”
“He thinks he can buy the hearts and minds of America,” said Cox. “I believe that God gave us this freedom and He’s not going to let Michael Bloomberg take it away. Not now. Not ever.”
A large billboard erected across an Indiana Convention Center wall features the photograph of a young woman and the words, “Bloomberg is one guy with millions. We’re millions with our 25 bucks.”
Annual meeting attendees were also treated to a 40-second long television spot featuring the same message and concluding with several actors or purported NRA members announcing, “I’ve got $25,” referring to the organization’s annual dues.
Earlier in the day, near the War Memorial on North Meridian Street, about one hundred members of “Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America” rallied and heard from several women including those whose lives have been touched by gun violence.
“Our issue is not really with the members of the NRA, 74% of whom believe there should be background checks on every gun purchase,” said Shannon Watts of Zionsville who founded the group on-line after the Sandy Hook school tragedy and has joined forces with Bloomberg to form the “Everytown for Gun Safety” campaign. “We’re not anti-gun. We support the second amendment. Many of our moms are gun owners.”
“Our issue is with the NRA leadership who has become so extremist that they are allowing and even promoting laws that put guns in the hands of dangerous people.”
Watts’ description of her group and its members was a far cry from the characterization Cox made to the NRA faithful.
“Our opponents want to make it socially unacceptable for anyone to own a gun for any reason,” warned Cox. “They push an agenda of fear and hatred.”
Cox claimed that gun free zones, like those previously enjoyed by Indiana schools, “encourage criminals and psychopaths.”
“We have the truth on our side,” said the lobbyist.
Cox was preceded to the podium by LaPierre, the national organization’s longtime chief spokesman.
“We will be there at the polls in November,” he said, “and we won’t rest…until we’ve stood up as America’s good guys and taken back the White House.
“We will help lead this nation through the dark night to the dawn of an America renewed in truth, justice, opportunity, hope and individual liberty for all.
“We will stand and we will fight!”
LaPierre’s comments echoed a grassroots organizers strategy session hosted by NRA operatives at the convention center Friday morning.
“I’m a single issue voter,” announced Coordinator Susannah Warner Kipke, leaving no doubt among her audience what that issue was. Warner Kipke, in comments repeated a day later by LaPierre, claimed media and lawmakers intentionally distort the truth in the gun law debate.
“The best lies are called ‘spin,'” said LaPierre, “and the buck never stops.
“We are the good guys who will not stand idly by as the dishonest political and media elites strip our values away.
“For what I’ve just said, the political elites and media elites will mock us.
“You know what I mean.
“We are Americans.”
Watts indicated her grassroots group has learned the lessons of observing the NRA’s operations.
“We are going to get at least one million people to vote on this issue in the mid-term elections.
“Women vote on three things: abortion, health care and jobs. We want one of those things to be gun violence prevention and this is about educating people and turning them out at the polls just like the NRA does.
“We are going to be rating candidates that are running for Congress and we’re going to educate mothers about where they stand on gun sense, this idea that we can do more to protect our families and children from gun violence, and then we are going to get out and get people to vote for the right candidates. It doesn’t matter if you are republican or a democrat. If you don’t support gun sense, we won’t support you.”
The NRA claims 83% of the candidates it endorsed in 2013 were elected.
On the floor of the convention center, in the midst of 600 exhibitors featuring guns and ammunition and gear and self-defense training techniques, families and fatigue-wearing friends jostled to inspect and buy while seeking autographs of Indiana NRA supporters like Congressional Medal of Honor Recipient Sgt. Sammy L. Davis of Mooresville and Indianapolis Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri, a South Dakota native who describes himself as an avid hunter.
Opponents claim the gun industry is a huge supporter of the NRA and its reported quarter of a billion dollars in revenue in 2012.
“The NRA is made up of gun manufacturers,” said Watts. “Gun manufacturers actually sit on the NRA Board, so they take in millions and millions of dollars to promote the sale of guns. Mayor Bloomberg has given us $50 million to help save American lives.”
Jennifer Ressett brought her three children and a niece to the Indiana Convention Center to wander among the exhibits and educate themselves about responsible gun ownership.
“We’ve talked about gun violence in schools and how gun violence affects them,” she said. “We’ve also talked about how it’s not the gun’s fault. It’s the individual who’s doing it.”
Ressett admitted her heart breaks every time she sees a story about gun violence in a school, and she wasn’t sure Governor Pence made the right call for the safety of Indiana’s children when he signed the law permitting guns in vehicles on school parking lots.
“I got mixed emotions about it,” said Ressett who also said she was willing to consider compromises offered by the opposing mother’s group when it came to issues like background checks.
Ressett also said she is sometimes uncomfortable with the staunch “no compromise” stance taken by the NRA leadership.
“I think they go too far. I think so,” she said, “but, if somebody wants to buy drugs or get a gun illegally, they’re going to do it.”
Several blocks away, far enough away that they would never be spotted by any of the estimated 70,000 NRA supporters expected to walk through the convention center during the four-day convention, mothers pushed strollers in a small but growing opposition to the NRA’s dominance over America’s gun debate.
Inside the convention center, boys in hunting gear, under the patient guidance of fathers, eyed and sighted in their first potential shotguns and thought about their roles in carrying on an American family tradition.