I know it's customary to begin public remarks with some humor. But personally -- I don't like political jokes. Because too often-- they get elected.
Let me tell you about myself. My name is Chris Cox. I'm the NRA's chief lobbyist. I grew up in Tennessee. I work for you. And I don't like to lose.
I took over as head of the Institute for Legislative Action, ILA, one year ago. But I'm not new to the NRA or to Washington politics. I started working on Capitol Hill 12 years ago.
My real baptism by fire came fighting on the front lines through all 8 agonizing Clinton/Gore/ Reno years ... under the command of my predecessor, one tough-as-nails son-of-a-gun named James Jay Baker.
I now work for another legendary ILA Director. The man who led the fight for passage of the most important pro-gun legislation of our time - the Volkmer McClure Firearm Owners Protection Act - and I think you know who I'm talking about -- Wayne LaPierre.
Our job at ILA -- is to protect your rights from politicians who want to get rid of them. Our approach is simple. We make 'em see the light. Or we make 'em feel the heat.
As Mr. Gore learned in 2000 ... and as we proved again in the 2002 elections ... you can sure generate a lot of heat.
It's been my honor to serve this great organization on Capitol Hill and across this country. But for me the highlight hasn't been meeting Presidents or working the halls of Congress.
For me the highlight has been traveling with Charlton Heston, Wayne LaPierre and Kayne Robinson and meeting freedom-loving people out on the campaign trail.
Let me tell you something. I was there. ...and if you ever think patriots won't make their voices heard .... if you ever think soccer moms won't drive five hundred miles to scream for freedom .... if you ever think union workers won't trade a vacation day to come say "keep up the good work" ...then all you have to do is show up at an NRA election rally. And you'll know-- without a doubt -- that they -- will.
Hunters, grandmothers, disabled veterans, firemen, cops, families, college students, soldiers in uniform ... red, white and blue ...yellow, black and tan, young and old ... all cheering and chanting "N-R-A! and VOTE-FREEDOM -FIRST!"
You can't stand in the path of such passion --without falling in love with freedom all over again.
Our campaign tour took us through a dozen states last fall. In fact, our last stop was a big rally in Pensacola. I was proud to be there for Charlton Heston's final campaign rally as our President.
Thanks to you and millions more who voted freedom first, we won 82 percent of our state races. At the federal level, we won 84 percent of our Senate races, and 94 percent of our House races. In fact, it was the best election cycle - in the history of the Institute. Now, I'd call that a winning team.
I'm pleased to report that you helped return control of the U.S. Senate to a pro-gun majority. But it's a majority as narrow as Chuck Schumer's mind.
Folks, you and I know that the anti-gunners never give up -- and they never go away. When we defeat them on Capitol Hill ...you know where they go? To the courts. They gang up with greedy trial lawyers and big-city politicians and file lawsuits against honest gun makers for the acts of criminals.
Consider this... Our law enforcement officers across the nation are putting their lives on the line everyday. But there are greedy trial lawyers and bureaucrats who won't stop until they break the back of the industry that arms those officers!
Right now, our armed forces have been fighting in a blistering hell to preserve our security and freedom. But those same lawyers and bureaucrats don't care. They won't stop until they cripple and kill the companies that arm our troops.
Let's think about this for a moment. They want to destroy the same companies that President Roosevelt called the great arsenal of our democracy ...
I guess they'd like our men and women in uniform to buy their guns from France!
It doesn't matter if these lawsuits ever go to trial. The bad guys win the moment they're filed -- because it forces gunmakers to hire an army of lawyers. And they have to defend themselves, suit after suit, year after year.
And how much has this cost so far? Over 100 million dollars. And guess who foots the bill through higher firearm and ammunition costs? You. And, as more and more companies go bankrupt, whose rights go out of business? Yours.
Your NRA is leading the fight to put an end to this - once and for all. Two weeks ago the United States House of Representatives passed legislation to stop these gutless lawsuits against honest gun makers! The bill passed by an overwhelming majority of better than 2 to 1.
Folks, if this were an election, they would've called it a landslide. President Bush supports this bill, and, we fully expect him to sign it into law when it reaches his desk.
But the fight's not over. The fight now goes to the United States Senate. We have more than 50 votes to win a majority in that chamber.
But, we'll need 60 votes to survive a filibuster because -- Dianne Feinstein will be standing first in line to block it. We're going to need the grassroots activism of each and every one of you in this room and gun owners across this country to win this battle in the Senate.
You know, the United States Senate could learn a thing or two from Florida. Two years ago Florida became the 26th state to protect firearm makers from all those bottom-feeders.
Come to think of it, you Floridians are doing a lot of things right. You've got preemption. You've got reciprocity. You've got right to carry. You have gun rights protected in your state constitution.
You elected a pro-gun Attorney General named Charlie Crist. Congratulations. And, since the Agriculture Commissioner issues your right to carry permits, thank God you re-elected, Charles Bronson. He's gonna help Governor Jeb Bush preserve those freedoms.
Not to mention your governor is the brother of the President that YOU put in the White House!
What is it about you Floridians? Is it the water down here? Why is Florida a bastion of liberty and freedom? I know one reason.
Thirty years of dedication to the cause by a great lady from Tallahassee ... the executive director of the Unified Sportsmen of Florida ... a current NRA Executive Council member ... and the first-ever female president of the NRA ... let's give a nice round of applause for Marion Hammer!
Other states are following Florida's lead. I'm pleased to report that Colorado recently became the 33rd state to grant law-abiding citizens the right to carry firearms for personal protection. And New Mexico just became the 34th. Thanks to you and your NRA, more than half of your fellow Americans now live in a right-to-carry state -- and guess what? Crime keeps going down.
Here's another way of saying that: You've made more than half the population safer from violent crime. How? By giving them back a God-given, constitutionally protected right they never should've taken away in the first place.
We won another victory last fall when President Bush signed legislation that got what America's wanted since 9-11.... and I'm pleased to report that RIGHT NOW there are American pilots carrying firearms to defend their cockpits!
We continue to work to undo the damage done by 8 long years of the gun-hating Clinton-Gore administration. But we're still stuck with Bill Clinton's stain ... on the judiciary.
Like that clown in a black robe in California. This is the guy who wants to take "under God" out of the Pledge of Allegiance. This same judge thinks the "right of the people to keep and bear arms" doesn't apply "to the people." Well, we're here to say "Objection, your honor!" We-the-people will fight in any court to defend our freedoms.
Speaking of objectionable - how about this so-called "campaign finance reform" law. It bans political free speech for you, me, and everyone else -- oh yeah -- except the media and the politicians. Well, within hours of McCain-Feingold becoming law, your NRA was on the courthouse steps filing a federal lawsuit to stop it.
We've written briefs. We've made our arguments, and we expect an opinion any day now. And we will fight until the United States Supreme Court fully restores free speech to all Americans -- including gun owners!
For all our recent victories, don't forget we lost one back in 1994 when Bill Clinton strong armed a bunch of Congressmen into banning some semi-autos.
Why? Because the anti-gunners didn't like the way they looked. Well, thanks to you a lot of those Congressmen aren't in Washington anymore. And, thankfully, neither is Bill Clinton. But, the semi-auto ban will soon be up for renewal ... and Chuck Schumer and Dianne Feinstein want to extend it and expand it to ban even more guns.
You know, the gun ban crowd had ten long years to produce one single shred of evidence that banning guns has any effect on reducing crime. And there's not one. Folks, that law is a fraud. Congress will have a chance to do something about it.
And with your help, Congress will see the light, or Congress will feel the heat!
When you think about it, no matter what labels and lies the anti-freedom crowd has attacked us with, we've got an amazing winning record. We burned them on their one-gun-a-month scheme, on phony ballistic fingerprinting, on a federal gun owner database, and on a national waiting period.
No matter what poll-tested sound-byte they came up with ...we didn't let them get away with it. They called them "junk guns" ... but we didn't let them ban affordable handguns.
They said you and your firearms should be registered and licensed -- just like cars ... but we challenged them to show us the word "automobile" in the Bill of Rights.
They said it's "where terrorists get their guns" ... but we didn't let them ban your gun shows.
They said they're "too deadly at long range" ... but we didn't let them ban your rifle.
They said they're "too deadly at short range" .... but we didn't let them ban your shotgun.
They called you gun nuts ... but you didn't let them put Al Gore in the White House!
If Lady Liberty is keeping score, that's a winning record we should all be proud of.
Because, I don't consider these my victories or ILA's victories.
These are battles won only with the infinite breadth and strength of this amazing organization called NRA. The only assembly in history composed of millions of people --like you -- who voluntarily gather in freedom's name.
Your Institute for Legislative Action will continue to work hard and win smart ... from the county courthouse to the White House. Fighting with the finesse and cunning of modern politics ... but never forgetting the tireless resolve of our founding fathers when they spoke of eternal vigilance.
On behalf of everyone at ILA, thank you for your trust and confidence. We understand the duty we've been given, and we pledge to use it wisely in service to the goals we share and the Association we love.
As for the enemies of freedom, they will see the light.
Or - trust me - they will feel the heat.