If NRA's recently-concluded Annual Meetings are any indication of NRA members' resolve for the 2004 elections, we are on solid footing. However, it is now incumbent upon us to sustain that passion and momentum through Election Day 2004—November 2! Dubbed "Freedom's Steel," to recognize the unbending resolve of NRA members around the country, a record setting 61,319 champions of the Second Amendment gathered for the 2004 NRA Annual Meetings and Exhibits in Pittsburgh, Pa., April 16-18, shattering the previous record set in Charlotte in 2000 by almost 10,000!
On Friday, April 16, your NRA-ILA Grassroots Division kicked off its events with a Grassroots Workshop attended by 255 of your fellow NRA members. After greetings by NRA First Vice President Sandra Froman, NRA Second Vice President John Sigler, and NRA-ILA Executive Director Chris Cox, ILA's Grassroots staff got to work, discussing how we can expand our grassroots base of support, actively assist pro-gun candidates, register voters, and turn out our supporters on Election Day. As the election season progresses, keep your eyes open in future Grassroots Alerts for Workshops scheduled near you.
Later that day, ILA Grassroots staff met privately with 13 NRA-ILA Election Volunteer Coordinators (EVCs) to talk about the program and ensure that the leaders of our grassroots movement are well-equipped to meet the challenges that lay ahead. Joining the discussion was Chris Cox, who reinforced the importance of the EVCs and their volunteer networks to ILA's overall success. (Your EVC is a local NRA member who is working with the various pro-gun campaigns in his area to provide critically-needed volunteer support for a variety of activities and to promote NRA-ILA's legislative agenda. To identify and contact your EVC, visit www.NRAILA.org, and choose "Get Involved Locally." To learn more about the program, or to volunteer to serve as your district's EVC if there is a vacancy, contact your state's Grassroots Coordinator at (800) 392-8683.)
On Saturday, the thousands of members who poured into the convention center to attend the official business portion of the weekend—the Annual Meeting of Members—were treated to rousing speeches by NRA's officers, all of whom highlighted the many successes of NRA, and gave credit where credit is due—to NRA's four million members, the engine that drives our powerful machine.
ILA's Executive Director Chris Cox forcefully noted, "I will never, never sell out your rights for political compromise!" He then cautioned voters to beware of the "freedom BUTS"—those anti-gun politicians who profess to support the Second Amendment, BUT then cloak that support with a series of caveats and conditions on our freedom, e.g., "I believe in Second Amendment freedom, but we should ban semi-automatic firearms." And of course, Cox spared no ammunition in highlighting Senator Kerry's support for gun control and his close association with some of the elite members of the "gun hater's hall of shame"—Senators Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Cal.), and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), informing the body assembled that John Kerry "has voted against your gun rights more than 50 times." Cox then issued Senator Kerry this invitation, "stop dreaming about Hillary hunting ducks with a rifle and go back to Boston for you hair dye and Botox treatments, because...you will never be the candidate of the NRA!"
NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre predicted that the obituary for the Clinton gun ban would be written on September 14, noting, "...the sun will rise....It will be gone...and it will never again see the light of day." Noting the proven power of NRA members and gun owners as a voting bloc, Wayne continued, "Let every anti-gun U.S. Senator and candidate hear my voice; never go to bed unafraid of what this body can do to your career!"
NRA President Kayne Robinson clearly solidified NRA's position as the stalwart defender of America's hunting tradition. "[Hunting] is being erased from our country's culture. If we allow this assault to continue, we will lose 10 million hunters in America. This NRA will not stand idly by while ten million [law] abiding gun owners are driven out of our family! [NRA] must become the hunters' rights organization. [No other group can] preserve their rights."
First Vice President Froman highlighted the importance of this year's presidential election as it relates to Supreme Court appointments, stating, "The words of the Constitution are fixed. But the Supreme Court decides what those words mean....If John Kerry is elected President [we] might well see Charles Schumer or Hillary Clinton, or Janet Reno...wearing the black robes of the court."
Second Vice President Sigler invoked the anniversary of Paul Revere's famous ride in his remarks, urging NRA members to sound the alarm in the fight to protect freedom. "If Kerry and Kennedy had been around in 1775, America's Minuteman would have been forced to fight the Redcoats with rocks and sticks and pitchforks. When our friends are attacked for their pro-gun records, you must stand up and defend their votes because those votes are votes for freedom. [Every] race matters!"
That same evening, banquet attendees were treated to a speech by Vice President Dick Cheney, who opined to those assembled, "John Kerry's approach to the Second Amendment has been to regulate, regulate, and regulate some more." Cheney added, President Bush is the only one of the presidential candidates who "has shown you respect, earned your vote, and appreciates your support." Not surprisingly, Cheney's appearance was the most prominent in a series of events receiving media attention.
On Monday, NRA concluded its official business at its Board of Directors Meeting, where all of NRA's national officers were re-elected to their respective offices.
While the events in Pittsburgh were a tremendous start to election year 2004, they were only that—a start. We have much work in front of us this year, and much to accomplish. However, by laying a solid foundation for our endeavors at the Annual Meeting and Exhibits, we are clearly marching down the path to victory!