NRA gears up for big weekend
May 3rd, 2013
05:00 AM ET
12 months ago

NRA gears up for big weekend

(CNN) - The National Rifle Association's annual meeting will surely be in the spotlight this weekend, as it comes just weeks after the Senate voted down a controversial gun control measure–a major blow to the months-long push for tougher firearm laws in the wake of the Newtown elementary school massacre.

As thousands meet in Houston for the NRA gathering, anti-gun control advocates are poised to celebrate their victory over the legislation's recent defeat in Congress, while those fighting for tougher gun laws could target the event as a way to shed light on their cause.

Retired astronaut Mark Kelly–gun control advocate and husband of former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords–addressed the group in advance of the conference Wednesday. He penned an opinion piece for the Houston Chronicle, welcoming NRA members to the city but cautioning them against their group's leadership.

"The NRA used to be a great organization, and you can still get practical value out of it as a member – everything from insurance to gun safety courses," he wrote. "But those services are small potatoes compared to where the NRA's leadership makes the really big money. The NRA leadership's top priority is to make sure the corporations that make guns and ammunition continue to turn huge profits. Their top priority isn't you, the NRA member."

He pointed to the NRA's big fundraising months in the past year–both of which came after the shootings in Aurora, Colorado and Newtown, Connecticut. He singled out Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre and gun manufacturers, saying they "exploit people's fears" in return for a more profitable gun industry.

LaPierre also wrote an op-ed for the Chronicle last week, thanking NRA members for their commitment to the organization.

"If you're an NRA member, you deserve to be proud," he wrote, adding the group's followers were "doing the thankless and heroic work of standing up for freedom. And it's NRA members who are demanding proven solutions – instead of empty soundbites and slogans – that will make Americans safer."

Kelly and Giffords, who was wounded in a 2011 mass shooting in Tucson, have been vocal advocates in Washington for tougher gun laws following the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.

In an April 17 vote, the Senate voted against moving forward with a bipartisan compromise that would expand the background check system to cover private sales at gun shows and online. A ban on assault weapons also went down in defeat.

Opponents of the legislation argued it would infringe on Second Amendment rights, and the background check law would not have prevented a tragedy like the one in Newtown. The shooter, Adam Lanza, didn't get a background check for those weapons; they were legally purchased and registered to his mother, Nancy Lanza, who was his first victim.

James Holmes and Jared Loughner, the shooters in Aurora and Tucson, respectively, also passed background checks when they purchased guns.

Regardless, Erica Lafferty, daughter of slain Sandy Hook principal Dawn Hochsprung, still wants Washington to take action. She's traveling to Houston to try to reach out to NRA members and share her viewpoint.

"I just want to make my mom human to them instead of just another name on a list of people who were murdered. She was a person. She was a great person. They need to know that," she said on CNN's "Starting Point."

Asked if she was nervous about heading to a convention led by people who passionately disagree with her views on gun laws, Lafferty said "No."

"I mean, they are people too, and I am trusting that they are going to be respectful as I am," she said.

Earlier this week, Lafferty confronted Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire at a town hall, asking "why the burden of my mother being gunned down in the halls of her elementary school isn't as important" as inconveniencing gun sellers.

Ayotte was one of the 41 Republicans who voted against the background check measure.

Lafferty was sent to Ayotte's event by the organization Mayors Against Illegal Guns, one of several gun control groups using this week's Congressional recess to bring the gun control message to the states.

That group said Friday they would air an ad in the Houston market during the convention featuring a gun owner and NRA member whose sister was shot and killed by her husband, who should have been prohibited from buying guns but was able to purchase a firearm online without a background check.

A Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday indicated 71% of voters were either dissatisfied or angry that the Senate voted down the background check measure, which had wide public support heading into the vote. While 17% want President Barack Obama to continue pursuing background check legislation, 30% want him to move on to other issues. Fifty-one percent want him to do both.

Whether or not Lafferty will get much access to NRA members is unclear. The convention certainly has a tightly-packed schedule with multiple events and seminars taking place across the three-day event.

On this year's docket are classes on handgun retention, defensive shooting, competition shooting tips, firearm law, and wild game cooking. The schedule also includes concerts, a rally with Glenn Beck, a prayer breakfast and an antique guns show.

At last year's meeting in St. Louis, 81% of attendees were male, and 62% described themselves as hunters, according to an informal survey taken at the convention. Nearly eight in 10 said they participate in NRA activities six or more times a year, and two-thirds said they spend more than $500 a year on shooting/hunting equipment.

Just over half–53%–traveled more than 200 miles to attend the convention and see the exhibits.

LaPierre will be among the most closely-watched speakers Saturday. As the face of the organization, LaPierre is viewed as both a reviled and heralded figure in the gun lobby, depending on who you talk to.

One elephant in the room: Will he address recent controversial comments made by Republican Sen. Pat Toomey? The senator from Pennsylvania told a local newspaper this week that Republicans voted against the background check bill to prevent the president from winning a legislative victory.

"In the end, it didn't pass because we're so politicized. There were some on my side who did not want to be seen helping the president do something he wanted to get done, just because the president wanted to do it," Toomey said.

His comments seemed to suggest that many in the GOP actually favored an expanded background check system but voted against it for political purposes.

"The toughest thing to do in politics is to do the right thing when your supporters think the right thing is something else," he added.

If not LaPierre, perhaps other speakers may attempt to knock down Toomey's argument. Several potential contenders for the 2016 GOP nomination will take the stage, including Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

Former vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin will also speak Friday. The former Alaska governor is well known for her love of hunting and the outdoors. Delivering a rousing speech at a major conservative gathering in March, Palin shared an anecdote about her husband buying her a rifle rack for Christmas, while she bought him a gun.

"This go-around, he's got the rifle, I've got the rack," she joked.

Also on the schedule this weekend will be the installment of the group's new president. As part of its formal rotation, Alabama attorney Jim Porter will take the top spot beginning Monday, replacing current President David Keene, whose two-year term concludes at this weekend's gathering.

Porter has been serving as the NRA's first vice president, and before that he served as the group's second vice president. The presidency, an unpaid position, is the next stop in the NRA's leadership rotation.

– CNN's Todd Sperry, Kevin Liptak and Joe Johns contributed to this report.


Filed under: Uncategorized
soundoff (269 Responses)
  1. DMG2FUN

    "especially when the overwhelming majority of Americans and responsible gun owners support it."
    This is a lie from the leftist aka progressive socialist gun haters. All gun owners have never been asked about this. The company that did the poll for the leftist aka progressive socialist gun haters got the results they paid for.

    May 3, 2013 09:10 am at 9:10 am |
  2. movarth

    The people do not support unenforceable "universal" background checks that wouldn't have stopped the shootings, and even if they had been prevented from buying a gun who is to say they wouldn't have still done it?

    The so-called "universal" background check system is unenforceable without a gun registry.

    May 3, 2013 09:10 am at 9:10 am |
  3. BCW

    If people really want gun control and background check for gun sales, please remember to vote the senators who voted "NO" in the bi-partisan bill, out of the office. We need senators and house representatives who listen to their people's and on their side of the issue. Why put someone in the congress who does just the opposite of what the American people wants? They should be FIRED! Kick their butts with your voting power, people! Can't wait till mid-term election in 2014 to watch the GOPs running around in fear !

    May 3, 2013 09:11 am at 9:11 am |
  4. asfdffff

    The people do not support unenforceable "universal" background checks that wouldn't have stopped the shootings, and even if they had been prevented from buying a gun who is to say they wouldn't have still done it?

    The so-called "universal" background check system is unenforceable without a gun registry.

    Oh and to every rich snobby liberal who thinks this is a good idea, the people have spoken to their congressmen.
    You've lost.

    May 3, 2013 09:11 am at 9:11 am |
  5. Paul

    You need to check your facts on those senators. They are doing well in there state. Maybe not so much in the leftist states like New York or Maryland.

    May 3, 2013 09:13 am at 9:13 am |
  6. Peoples State of Illinois

    @movarth

    The people do not support unenforceable "universal" background checks that wouldn't have stopped the shootings, and even if they had been prevented from buying a gun who is to say they wouldn't have still done it?

    The so-called "universal" background check system is unenforceable without a gun registry.
    ----------------–
    And that "gun registry" is where the 90% the left touts as being for "background checks" drops to well below 50%.

    May 3, 2013 09:19 am at 9:19 am |
  7. roe

    We as humans are not perfect and most of us understand that, but most of us believe what makes us above animals is rational and sound judgement making. Guns serve a purpose at this point in time because us as humans have created the need for it with our unrational choices we have made. If we want to kill each other then so be it. We have saturated our entire world with them and they will never go away. We should be teaching people love and how to care for one another and how to be human even to your enemies. We are all here together trapped hanging in the fabric of space and time together. Not one of us asked to be born. And the people that commit these crimes are a product of us not caring about each other enough. Because once you find ur self some where you never thought you would be. Then you to can become a killer. When all you really need was some compassion.

    May 3, 2013 09:20 am at 9:20 am |
  8. MaryM

    Paul, I checked on the polls for those senators. Those senators approval ratings are dropping like a rock.

    May 3, 2013 09:20 am at 9:20 am |
  9. joeinalabama

    Show us the text of the bill that was voted down!

    May 3, 2013 09:20 am at 9:20 am |
  10. roe

    @ asfdffff

    IM not a rich snobby liberal. IM just a 25 year old black man that understands we should just be compassionate about each other and would want to teach each other and love each other so that one day people like yourself dont feel the need to protect yourself from a gun with a gun.

    May 3, 2013 09:23 am at 9:23 am |
  11. MaryM

    Thank you roe, excellent comment

    May 3, 2013 09:26 am at 9:26 am |
  12. Jinx9to88

    All the righty's are getting their tighty's in a bunch because they know 2014 alot of the NRA "senators" will be gone. The polls show it and the people know it, just like the polls said Obama would win relation, unless of course you watch faux news in which you live in side their bubble.

    May 3, 2013 09:28 am at 9:28 am |
  13. TruthBeTold

    Clayton said I shouldn't be allowed to have a gun.. Too bad, I do and no one is taking them. Why is that Libs claim such strong defense of freedom of speech, but no the right to arms? Why not be consistent in support of all the bill of rights?

    Libs love freedom of speech, unless you are conservative and disagree
    Libs hate the second amendment
    Libs are wishy washy on the fourth, fifth, and sixth
    Libs hate the Tenth

    I'm not saying that Republicans are consistent in their defense of the bill of rights either, but we should all strive to defend all them in a consistent manner, regardless of party affiliation.

    May 3, 2013 09:30 am at 9:30 am |
  14. Bill

    The NRA is a joke, as are the people who are members. Get a life.

    May 3, 2013 09:30 am at 9:30 am |
  15. Dr F

    Across america, 250 people will shoot themselves in the head during the conference. Background checks are in the interest of paranoid skitzos to keep them safe from themselves.

    May 3, 2013 09:31 am at 9:31 am |
  16. sonny chapman

    The Army & Marines ought to set up recruitment booths nearby. Let's see how many of these "Patriots" want to play WAR for real. Probably a lot of Anti-Communist Repubs. in the crowd that somehow missed out on Vietnam, like Bush, Cheney, Mittens.

    May 3, 2013 09:35 am at 9:35 am |
  17. scott

    The gun control measures failed because the democratically control senate realized that most people were not supportive of the measures. In addition, the facts are that the current laws are not being enforced so why make more laws that will not be enforced? 15000 criminals illegally tried to purchase a firearm and 44 prosecutions? Enforce the current laws before creating more feel good laws that due nothing.

    May 3, 2013 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  18. Peoples State of Illinois

    @roe

    @ asfdffff

    IM not a rich snobby liberal. IM just a 25 year old black man that understands we should just be compassionate about each other and would want to teach each other and love each other so that one day people like yourself dont feel the need to protect yourself from a gun with a gun.
    ------------------–
    When society reaches that point and there are no more criminals, I'll give up my weapons. But when, even the police say by the time they can respond it is to late, thank you no, I'll keep my weapons. There are plenty of instances, mostly ignored by the main stream media, of a gun in the house forstalling a murder/crime. The only reports in the MSM are the comparatively few instances where accidents occured.

    May 3, 2013 09:47 am at 9:47 am |
  19. Peoples State of Illinois

    @sonny chapman

    The Army & Marines ought to set up recruitment booths nearby. Let's see how many of these "Patriots" want to play WAR for real. Probably a lot of Anti-Communist Repubs. in the crowd that somehow missed out on Vietnam, like Bush, Cheney, Mittens.
    -----------
    There will also be plenty, like myself, that have already served 20+ plus years defending your right to spout your hatred of everyone that disagrees with you.

    May 3, 2013 09:48 am at 9:48 am |
  20. Clayton

    Setting aside the fact that creating a national gun registry was expressly prohibited in the senate bill, can someone tell me why a registry would be required for universal background checks if it is not necessary the significant percentage of gun sales that go through a background check today?

    May 3, 2013 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  21. Ric

    The bottom line here is "expanded back ground checks." Gun owners fear Tyranny more now than any time in the last 100 years. If there was a law that expanded background checks but also by law didnt maintain that data in some collection somewhere, then perhaps you would get some agreement on it.

    But when that expanded check process becomes a regularly maintained and data mined resource is when the second amendment is compromised and a valuable confiscation resource is constructed.

    Gun owners concerned with Tyranny will not tolerate that no matter what you do to dress it up and put lipstick on it.

    May 3, 2013 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
  22. Peoples State of Illinois

    @Clayton

    Setting aside the fact that creating a national gun registry was expressly prohibited in the senate bill, can someone tell me why a registry would be required for universal background checks if it is not necessary the significant percentage of gun sales that go through a background check today?
    ----------–
    I would suggest you read the bill, specifically section 122, which would create a defacto gun registry, despite the portion that "prohibits the formation of a national gun registry."

    May 3, 2013 09:56 am at 9:56 am |
  23. pkrbkr3

    We who support the universal background check bill MUST make our voices heard.....at town meetings and at the ballot box! The NRA does NOT speak for 90% of us.....and we need to stifle their rhetoric!

    May 3, 2013 10:01 am at 10:01 am |
  24. roe

    @ Peoples State of Illinois

    More People die from your guns that you want produced in mass abundance so that law abbiding guys like you can have them mister illinois. People like you think people like me are in a fantasy but truth told is that you guys would rather have a gun than live peacefully. If you ones with your guns thought like me then we could reach the ones doing damge with guns.

    May 3, 2013 10:05 am at 10:05 am |
  25. roe

    Its like this simply. Just because guns had a purpose once doesnt mean they still need to serve one. People like violence. And even if we gave up our guns, there are a small few that will claim these are historical relics just to keep them around. Dont be full of excuses, just fight for change and humanity for once and not what you have been told. Thats the problem. If you never saw a gun and then finally did you wouldnt want one, but because culture passed it down to you then its ok. No the culture is sick and people cant take that.

    May 3, 2013 10:10 am at 10:10 am |
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