(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.
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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.
Put it to a plebescite and you will find most Americans will support some kind of gun control. There are way too many lives being lost because of lack of gun control. Those archaic laws that say you have the right to be armed are not designed for today's society. Those laws were made over a hundred years ago and they need to be brought up to today's standards regarding public safety.
The only bigotry and hate I see is directed towards the hundred million or so gun owners in this country who have never harmed anyone with a gun.
Why oh why are these people who want safer gun laws so bigoted against my opinion that they are safe enough? I don't need to listen to statistics or anything! It would be a hassle to go through a more rigorous background check! Why oh why don't you think of me? Me? MEEEE?
Let's face it, abortions have been around in our society since its existence and performed when there were republican Presidents and majorities in the House and Senate and they never took issue with abortions until President Obama was elected. The same is to be said of immigration reform. Furthermore, the majority of U.S. women who seek an abortion did so in their early stages of pregnancy and they seek abortions not because they did not take precaution but simply because the contraception failed and they werre not prepared to start a family while othet abortions are done for medical reasons.
More than 1 in 10 women having an abortion in the U.S. report a religious affiliation. Some 37% are Protestants, 28% Catholics, 25% other religious affiliations. The racial or ethnic background of U.S. women who have abortions: 36% white, 30% Hispanic and 25% Black. And by the way, the highest percentage of teenage pregnancy in the U.S. are in Apalachia or red states!
It's a curious thing, this paranoia that consumes the NRA and some of it's members. Extreme in both action and views, pressed on by fear mongering, a small group of beings become irrational to the point of threatening rebellion. Politicians prove their inadequacies by bowing down to the pressure. The GOP is on it's last legs, it would seem, and having lost the power of the religious right, now panders to the last vestige of extremism. This is not about patriotism. It is about power. Power over the gun owner by the very political group the gun owners embrace.
And meanwhile the gun manufacturers sit back and smile. Fear is good for business.
To what end, I wonder.
The NRA has become the most perverse organization imaginable: a cult that worships the Gun over country, humanity, and God.
PS: There is no hundreds of millions that number is bologna. There is no universal registry therefore the actual number of gun owners is unknown. There's less than 4 million NRA members though. Sooo... 4,000,000/300,000,000 = 1.3% of the population.
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.
The NRA and money owns them – NOT we the people
In addition their hatred of the President leads them to vote against issues they actually have supported in the past. The NRA supported backbround checks during the Clinton years. What has changed? Not so hard to figure out. Look at the increase in gun sales starting in 2009.
The NRA and the gunlaw that was voted down had nothing to do with newton. That gun law would not have stopped what happened at newton.
How so? The perpetrator was mentally ill and a thorough background check would have revealed that there was a stockpile of weapons in potential possession of a mentally ill individual.
If the well regulated militia is composed of US citizens who are Muslim, do you think that's ok?
Mark Kelly has no clue what he is talking about. If the NRA was simply interested in increasing profits for gun manufactures, the NRA would give money to Obama. Obama is responsible for the largest growth in the gun industry ever seen.
The convention is a celebration of the power of the American citizen against the power of the American government.
This has nothing to do a law abiding, decent, hard working citizen. The banning weapons are said to get the reaction that you and others are making right now. Back ground checks for criminal or people with mental issues, that's what it is about. The NRA is about their pocket, not your gun ownership or the second ammendment. Now If you are one of those people that have issues wityh background checks for criminals or is crazy, I understand why you are mad.
I'm afraid you have it all wrong Sir. The push by the President for background checks was not geared towards taking away any one's guns. In 1994 a ten year ban on assault weapons was passed by the Clinton administration and "NO" one's guns were taken away and "NEITHER" were there any reports of Americans being unable to defend themselves or property because President Clinton took their guns away.
The problem is that you gun advocates do "NOT" know the work compromise or sensible gun reform. Let's face it Sir, the proposed gun legislation struck down by the Senate was geared towards safeguarding Americans, not so much in their homes but rather at safeguarding vulnerable and un-armed Americans in public places like Tucson, Aurora, Oak Creek and Sandy Hook. Furthermore, while you have the option of defending or safeguarding yourself in the home either with a weapon or by hiding in your attic, basement or some other room in your home or even the option of sliding out a side door, people in public places do NOT have that option. Please try to be reasonable.
I'm going to go out to the range and fire off a few hundred rounds today. It's a beautiful day out and a beautiful day to exercise my Constitutional rights.
Question: How does the NRA 'gear up' for a big weekend? Answer: Put a bigger clip in their assault rifle.
I don't think NRA members are "crazies," and I don't think liberals are Obama-worshipping zombies who love big government. It's impossible to have a debate when each side creates an extreme parody of the other.
I also don't think banning weapons is an appropriate response to gun violence – a musket can be as deadly as semi automatic weapon. Similarly, I think all the criticism of Gun Free Zones is a red herring. People have been killed in schools and on shooting ranges.
In my opinion, the problem is our regulatory system that allows you to buy a weapon with no background check, no paper trial, and no mental health screen. How are we supposed to stop guns from getting into the hands of criminals if we don't even know who is selling the guns?
Shuffler, I think you mean Newtown. Perhaps not, but it may have stopped Aurora, and Phoenix. I am a responsible gun owner, I keep them locked up. i teach my kids from day one.."treat every gun as if it is loaded". I reengage every few years in hunter safety courses to keep up to speed on any new changes. I also don't think a machine gun is any more persuasive at some deranged nut, than my double barrel 20 gauge break action shotgun. And Thomase, I think there is a bit of that bigotry going around towards the millions of Muslims in the country. I don't put any one group in a large pigeon hole due to a few sickos.
"How so? The perpetrator was mentally ill and a thorough background check would have revealed that there was a stockpile of weapons in potential possession of a mentally ill individual"
His mother wasn't mentally ill. She could have purchased what-ever she wanted.
If NRA members want to pay their dues knowing the NRA top brass gets the most profit, then that's their right. Mark Kelly is pointing out WHAT exactly? He almost sounds like an occupy Wall Street type, only toned down a bit. Aside from that, NRA members make up a very, very low percentage of gun owners in the US. So why the fanfare coverage?
La Pierre, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and quitter Sarah Palin. Let's get them to play a friendly game of football and dub this thing the "Toilet Bowl"
The discussion on here is rarely based on fact. Or when they are they are twisted to support the arguer. Best ones so far:
There is no hundreds of millions that number is bologna. There is no universal registry therefore the actual number of gun owners is unknown. There's less than 4 million NRA members though. Sooo... 4,000,000/300,000,000 = 1.3% of the population.
I own firearms and dont belong to the NRA. In fact, everyone in my family owns firearms and none of us are in the NRA. How do you know the "hundreds of millions" thing is BS?
Put it to a plebescite and you will find most Americans will support some kind of gun control. There are way too many lives being lost because of lack of gun control
Says YOU – so it HAS to be right? Any sources, fact, references, anything?
The more they congratulate each other, the less their message resonates.
The 14th Amendment to teh Constitution holds that "all persons born or naturalized in the United States and subjected to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein the reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the united States, nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."
However, in 2010, Arizona republican Governor Janet Brewer and State legislature passed SB 1070, violating the 14th Amendment and deprieving the citizens of Arizona of their unalienable rights and protection, subjecting them to unwarranted searches, seisures, harrsaament and arrest without a warrant and without probable cause. And though parts of the law was struck down by the Supreme Court a year later, republicans in congress all applauded Gov. Brewer for passage of that legislation and many republicans argued that SB1070 should be a model for the rest of the nation. But reasonable background checks geared at preventing mass shootings are an intrusion of the second Amendment? Please!
Get the deadbeat GOP out of our politics..vote these guys out!! They aren't even embarassed taking a paycheck for never passing anything or never being in Washington. The county is watching!!