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2002 NRA Annual Meeting Speech By Wayne LaPierre

Wednesday, May 1, 2002

This morning you`ve gotten an update on the programs and progress of your Association.

But for the first time in NRA`s history, this report of the Executive Vice President must necessarily extend beyond the traditional scope of gun rights. I`ll tell you why.

I`ve been a freedom fighter for 20 years. But I never thought I`d witness such a wholesale surrender of freedoms beyond the right to keep and bear arms, but also the right to privacy, the right to move about freely, the right to political free speech, and freedom from unwarranted search and seizure.

If you look around this room, you realize this is the largest gathering anywhere in the world of freedom fighters. The NRA is the largest organization on the planet of people who defend individual freedom. And win.

You are why Nevada is a right-to-carry state. You are why Al Gore isn`t in the White House.

You are why the gun-ban lobby ran for cover to regroup.

You are why Handgun Control, Inc. changed its name and cut 20 percent of its staff.

You are why The Million Mom March laid off 30 of its 35 employees. And why it missed the million mark at its second event by about 999,800 marchers.

In the 2000 elections we won a battle, but not the war. Because the gun-ban lobby was laying in wait for bad news - for an assassination, a school shooting, a deranged gunman, a celebrity murder to make bad news their good news.

In this respect, they used September 11th as a godsend. Within weeks, the ailing gun-ban lobby was back, marketing terrorism as the new reason to ban your guns. Led by Senators Dianne Feinstein, Charles Schumer, Dick Durbin and Barbara Boxer, even John McCain, these groups began painting a fictional picture of wild-eyed terrorists equipping rogue armies through small town gun shows in the heartland of America.

They want to license all firearms, tax firearm ownership, build a federal centralized gun registration database, eliminate all gun shows and repeal the 1986 federal prohibition on gun registration. Leading the pack is a new gun-ban group created by a former Handgun Control board member, dot-com billionaire Andrew McKelvey, called "Americans for Gun Safety."

Americans for Gun Safety?

Who`s kidding who?

They train no one in gun safety, know nothing about gun safety, and don`t care about gun safety. They just hijacked the word "safety" as camouflage for "gun bans." What fakes, frauds and liars! The real Americans for Gun Safety are the people in this room, the National Rifle Association of America!

Andrew McKelvey and Americans for Gun Safety represent a whole new kind of enemy. They`re just the visible side of a shadowy network of extremist social guerrillas fueled by anonymous wealth, sophisticated research, free media access and high-dollar consultants. You know, terrorism against freedom isn`t just practiced with bombs and box cutters. Anti-freedom elitists in academia, the media, rich foundations and government can do permanent damage to individual freedoms just as real as an insurrection or coup. Together they form a sort of Taliban, an intolerant coalition of fanatics that shelter the anti-freedom alliance so it can thrive and grow.

Don`t get me wrong. Americans can differ on many things, but not on the facts of freedom. The Bill of Rights doesn`t care about opinion polls. It doesn`t tolerate cherry-picking some parts but not others. It doesn`t kneel before opposing points of view. The Constitution is pristine and inviolate. And those who promote that we be less free are political terrorists.

If you consider the Constitution less relevant, if you ignore or distort the Second Amendment, if you conspire to make lawful firearms less accessible to lawful citizens, if you infiltrate school boards and churches and legislatures and foundations to advance an anti-freedom agenda of any kind - the fact that you were born on American soil won`t mask the fact that you`re an enemy of freedom and a political terrorist.

In fact, the way Andrew McKelvey`s network operates sounds a lot like Osama bin Laden and the Al-Queda. A billionaire with an extremist political agenda, subverting honest diplomacy, using personal wealth to train and deploy activists, looking for vulnerabilities to attack, fomenting fear for political gain, funding an ongoing campaign, to hijack your freedom and take a box cutter to the Constitution. That`s political terrorism, a far greater threat to your freedom than any foreign force.

So we know that the Second Amendment is going to take a direct hit. I think there`s a lesson here. America should`ve taken out Osama bin Laden when he blew up the first embassy, not the World Trade Center. We should`ve dismantled the Al-Queda, frozen their funding, cut off their access to our society, and shut them down. That would`ve made nine-eleven impossible.

But you know what else would`ve made nine-eleven impossible?

If the pilots in those four airplanes had the right to be armed. They should`ve been armed thirty years ago. It`s a no-brainer. It`s the quickest, cheapest, most thorough means to protect our skies.

And why not?

Airline pilots are among the most disciplined and screened professionals. More than half are former military officers. And don`t tell me the answer is Federal Air Marshals. To protect all domestic flights would take about 150,000 of them. So it`s very unlikely there`ll be a Federal Air Marshal on your next flight. But you can bet there`ll be pilots. And they should have the right to protect that cockpit with a firearm.

But on September 11th, they didn`t have that right.

That loss of liberty led to a terrible loss of life. And that led to a terrible loss of privacy in our nation`s airports.

Walk through any airport today and you see red-faced, teary-eyed women, singled out to endure security wands orbiting their breasts, while electronic squeals detect the metal in their underwire bras. You see grandmothers shaken down and stripped of their cuticle clippers and knitting needles. You see grandfathers, men who likely fought or lost loved ones for this country, in various stages of undress. You see innocent American citizens -- even pilots themselves -- dumping out pockets and purses, turning over tweezers and key chains ... subjected to humiliating physical indignities.

And for what?

No one is safer, and we all know it.

And when it doesn`t work, where will it stop? When we`re all boarding planes in airline-issued hospital smocks?

I guess it`s okay to wand-rape someone`s daughter in public. But no profiling! No, we don`t want to risk offending an Islamic ex-con with two aliases, no job and no luggage, paying cash for a one-way airline ticket, whose shoes are packed with plastic explosives.

Well, I`ll fight for freedom!

The first target in homeland security shouldn`t be the people of the homeland. It should be finding people who are not citizens of our homeland, who don`t belong in our Homeland along with aliens on work visas, or green-cards, or student passes. They are the ones that should get the extra wandings and random searches!

Homeland security should focus on the logical travelers selection and scrutiny of non-homeland potential terrorists. Not a pointless search-and -annoy mission to humiliate Americans.

This loss of privacy in our airports is leading to the loss of your right to move about freely without being scanned, scrutinized, photographed and documented.

You know, I`m amazed when some gun owners tell me they wouldn`t mind, oh, say, metal detectors at all public buildings. But think what that does to the right to carry. Sure, you still have the right to carry - in your back yard!

The most fundamental form of exercising Second Amendment freedom would disappear overnight and forever. Maybe you haven`t thought about that. Trust me, the gun banners have.

That`s why they`re promoting a national ID card. The federal government is already working with the states to develop driver`s licenses that can electronically store information, like fingerprints. Plus your retinal scan, voiceprint, hand geometry or DNA. Maybe your credit history, your residential information, your banking history, your medical and mental health records, your marital status, your ATM withdrawals, turnpike use, library checkouts, movie rentals, pharmacy prescriptions, phone call records --- and you can bet, the serial number, make and model of every firearm you own.

All that information and more can be encrypted in a hologram on your national ID card. But it`s a hologram you can`t read. Only higher authorities can read it. Of course, they`ll want to scan your ID at checkpoints and transactions everywhere. Government buildings, sports events, office buildings, theaters, malls, hotels, turnpike gates.

That`s when your freedom to move about freely, privately, without surveillance, is gone.

You heard about the cameras and software that captured every fan`s face at last year`s Super Bowl in Tampa. Washington, D.C. is installing a new system of surveillance cameras right now. They`re following England`s lead, where over two million surveillance cameras track movements of British citizens, each photographed about 300 times a day. But then, they`ve always been subjects of the crown. But I`m not, and you`re not. Because we had a little party called the revolution.

I`m not surprised the media isn`t covering the loss of all these rights. They don`t care about any of them including free speech because that is what`s next under so called "campaign finance reform."

We don`t put people in jail for free speech in the United States of America. But that`s exactly what the McCain-Feingold bill does.

It outlaws political speech by groups like the NRA for two months before a general election. Political free speech is outlawed for everyone ... everyone except politicians and the big media conglomerates.

I mean General Electric, NBC, CBS, ABC, Viacom, AOL-Time Warner, the Washington Post, New York Times, these multi-billion-dollar media conglomerates and the hundreds of companies they own, they can say whatever they want. But not you and me.

Where does the Constitution say they`re freer than we are?

In civics class we learned that if you see something you don`t like in America, you join a group, get active, speak up, and the worst thing that can happen is you lose.

Under this new law, you speak up and the worst that can happen is you go to federal prison for 5 years and pay a $25,000 fine. You`d think the press would be outraged. You`d think that self-righteous congregation of free speech worshippers would challenge any erosion of First Amendment freedom.

But they`re silent. Because the media will happily grow more powerful at the expense of the American people.

That`s how much patriotism resides at the New York Times.

But the media won`t talk about the gag order, and the politicians won`t talk about the gag order, because they`re exempt from the gag order.

King George threw colonists in jail for pamphleteering against the crown.

You tell me, what`s the difference?

Well, I`ll fight for freedom!

I will not be silenced!

In fact, your NRA was first in line to file the lawsuit that will take this issue all the way to the Supreme Court. If we have to, we`ll launch the Good Ship NRA and drop anchor in international waters just off the coast and broadcast the truth from our own TV towers!

We`ll tie a radio antenna to a hot air balloon, let `er go a few miles up and we`ll broadcast the truth on our own Radio Free America!

I began by saying there`s no other organization on earth with four million members who actively defend personal freedom.

My friends, if anybody`s going to stop all this, it`s us.

To do that, we must grow stronger and larger and tougher. We must expand our mission to shelter all freedoms. We must move the front lines of our fight beyond the Second Amendment ... to guard the First, and the Fourth, all of them. We must declare that there are no shades of gray in American freedom.

It`s black and white, all or nothing, you`re with us or against us. There are not flavors of freedom. You can`t like yours, but not mine. There are not classes of freedom. You can`t have more, or less, than me. And there is no temporary suspension of freedom. Once on loan, you never get it back.

Americans who think freedom is negotiable or malleable are, by our Founding Fathers` standards, not Americans.

Our Constitution is the product of their steel-gut, iron-jaw, unflinching devotion to human rights that created something the world had never seen.

That`s the freedom I`m asking you to fight for. Nobody has the right to take it away from you.

Democrat or Republican, local, state or federal, Andrew McKelvey or Tom Ridge or John McCain or Dianne Feinstein.

Nobody has the right to take away your freedoms of speech or press or religion or privacy or to keep and bear arms.

But you know what?

You do not have the right to give away your rights. They are not yours to give away.

American freedom already belongs, in full measure, to your children and to their children. You cannot give away their precious inheritance.

Freedom is ours to possess, and protect, and pass on. Pure, whole and intact. Neither our Creator nor the Constitution gives us authority to do anything less than that.

So when they ask you to sign over some rights, you say this:

The quality of freedom my ancestors bought with their blood is not mine to squander. It`s mine to preserve. You just watch me.

You tell them:

I`m the NRA, and I`ll fight for freedom.

Thank you.

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Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the "lobbying" arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.