NRA gears up for big weekend
May 3rd, 2013
05:00 AM ET
10 years 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.

[twitter-follow screen_name='politicalticker'] [twitter-follow screen_name='KilloughCNN']

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. Rossi

    Whom better to bring in as guest speaker at an NRA event other than Sarah Palin. I suppose the musical entertainment to be provided by Ted Nugent. Well, it isn't like it's a genius convention is it?

    May 3, 2013 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  2. MaryM

    The NRA and the gun manufactures they represent, have found there is a big profit to be made in firearms sales. Simple as that. The killings are simply collateral damage that they are willing to accept as a cost of doing business. And they have convinced a lot of American citizens that reasonable levels of Expanded Background checks is against their 2nd amendment rights. The NRA capitalizes on the fear they create. They will fight any kind of reasonable Expanded background checks for more money.

    May 3, 2013 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  3. Anonymous

    If you don't like guns, don't buy one. Don't try to deprive me of my 2nd Ammendment rights, you socialists! Taking away our guns is the next step. They already have the media in their pockets.
    So, would you say the same thing about abortions. Never seen such paranoid hypocrites – what has happened to our society??

    May 3, 2013 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  4. Legalhunter352

    I just don't understand how the government or anyone would think that more strickt gun laws would prevent gun violence. Crimes are commited by criminals, you know the people that obtain guns illegally or have them in their possesion and are not supposed to be. It is terrible when a major shooting happens and it gets national coverage but the only way to completely remove any threat of any more shootings is to confescate and destroy every single gun every produced. Now how practical is that? What the real problem is the dehumanizing of life. We see shows everyday of someone being killed and don't give it a second thought. The video games that not only kids watch and play but adults too that reward for killing and for "Style" of kills. What kind if message does this send? The large majority of responsible gun owners that learn the proper handling of guns and teach the same to their children do not have problems and should not suffer from the bad seeds out there. Don't get me wrong, I see no need for a citizen to own an assault rifle especially one that is full automatic. I also agree with back ground checks especially for hand guns. But to think that more gun control by the government will prevent more shootings is just not realistic! Sorry but it's not, period.

    May 3, 2013 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  5. columbus

    LaPierre said the NRA members are ""doing the thankless and heroic work of standing up for freedom", if you want to stand up for our freedoms then get down to your local recruiter and put your money where your mouth is. Most of these members wouldn't or couldn't hack it in the military. It's less about rights and more about qualification, do we let people drive a car because they have a right? Do we let a pilot fly a plane because they have a right to? The NRA used to be about gun education and safety, now the organizations leadership just wants to protect the industrial base from political fallout from legislation. There could be so much more positive outcomes and co-operation from the NRA as a responsible organization, instead LaPierre has turned it into a threat on our liberties and impassioned unwarranted fear from the very people we elect to serve us.

    May 3, 2013 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  6. Jay

    Some people who post here had better remember they have this right to post thanks to the American Revolution. Past generations have fought hard for our country, and yet, there are bleeding hearts who are so willing to throw what rights we have, away under the disguise of the common good. If you keep doubting/taking your rights for granted, then don't blame conservatives when down the road you wake up with a government paid employee telling you to get up, go find work to pay your tax.

    May 3, 2013 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  7. NCIC


    The manufacturers of pressure cookers are making big profits, but can't control whether someone uses them to kill people. Car manufacturers make profits from the sale of cars that can be used in vicious hit and runs. Manufacturers of kitchen knives..... You see where this leads? Yes, it means it's not the guns killing people, it's people killing people. If we outlaw guns, then you'll see an upswing in bombings, hit and runs, knife killings, cross bow killings, poisonings, etc.

    So what's the solution??? Let's quit training our kids to kill and be violent, by sitting them in front of the TV and video games. Let's see if we can't get parents to take some control of their children. I know this isn't the easier route, but if we curb the violent tendencies, murders by any means will decline.

    May 3, 2013 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  8. Twocanplay

    The AAA and the auto manufacturers they represent, have found there is a big profit to be made in auto sales. More than can be made with guns. Simple as that. The killings are simply collateral damage that they are willing to accept as a cost of doing business. And they have convinced a lot of Liberal Democrats that resonable levels of Expanded Background checks is against their 4th/5th Amendment rights. The AAA capitalizes on the fear they create. They will fight any kind of reasonable Expanded background checks for more money.

    See – although we have licensing and registration, NO BACKGROUND "CHECK" is done for those that want to purchase a deadly car (all of them are deadly). Illegal use of cars kill more times than illegal use of guns. Yet, after all these years of road-way slaughterings, we STILL DO NOT HAVE A BACKGROUND CHECK FOR CAR SALES. What do you think these "checks" would uncover? Someone's intent to DUI? Someone's future intent to traffic drugs with their car? Someone's future intent to willfully text-drive and SMASH A FAMILY TO DEATH????

    May 3, 2013 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  9. Brad

    "especially when the overwhelming majority of Americans and responsible gun owners support it."

    I don't know where CNN gets their facts. Here is a fact for CNN. New York state passed the SAFE act which is one of the toughest gun laws in the country. Another fact: EVERY SINGLE COUNTY IN NY STATE EXCEPT 2 have passed resolutions asking for the repeal of this law. Coumo in 2016? I think not, I myself am a DEM and will never vote for this tyrant. I don't know where CNN gets their "90%" statistic, but it seems a grossly inflated percentage to me.

    May 3, 2013 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  10. Thomas

    How do background checks infringe on constitutional rights?

    May 3, 2013 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  11. MaryM

    and @twocanplay

    The manufacturers of pressure cookers are making big profits, but can't control whether someone uses them to kill people. Car manufacturers make profits from the sale of cars that can be used in vicious hit and runs. Manufacturers of kitchen knives..... You see where this leads? Yes, it means it's not the guns killing people, it's people killing people. If we outlaw guns, then you'll see an upswing in bombings, hit and runs, knife killings, cross bow killings, poisonings, etc.
    pressure cookers and made for cooking. Cars are made for driving and are licensed and registered and insured, Guns are made for killing. Its as simple as that

    May 3, 2013 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  12. MaryM

    and @twocanplay

    No one wants to take away your precious weapons.

    May 3, 2013 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  13. don in albuquerque

    If the NRA is sooooooooo concerned about the rights of the people in this country, wouldn't they be fighting against voter supression? I mean it's very clear where that is headed. Fact, they could care less about your rights, only their rights to continue to make money from gun proliferation, and buy a whole congress.

    May 3, 2013 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  14. JIrwin

    would it make you feel any better if the murderers would have used a homemade bow and arrow?

    May 3, 2013 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  15. mountainlady

    The format for these blogs is never consistent so I'll just comment rather than reply to other posters.... I have no interest in depriving hunters of their sport or depriving handguns from people who are apparently afraid to live without them. I do not believe that an AR-15 is necessary to any competent hunter or that they need a 30 round magazine. I also refuse to believe that a few rational limitations on gun proliferation and universal background checks infringe on any honest citizens' rights. The paranoia and 2nd Amendment mania that the NRA generates to keep their gun manufacturing buddies in high profits is ridiculous and I'm very sad that so many otherwise intelligent Americans are buying it.

    May 3, 2013 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  16. ellid

    @Jirwin –

    They certainly wouldn't have produced the same number of casualties with a bow and arrow.

    May 3, 2013 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  17. James

    Cars kill more people than guns. Lets outlaw cars and give everyone a New Motorcycle,–This proposed gun law absolutely Sucks and is a bad idea at best–Just creates another bureau with anonymous people making arbitrary decisions. Somewhat like the Airport Gestapo. With absolutely no positive result except harassment.

    May 3, 2013 06:06 pm at 6:06 pm |
  18. Stuart

    The NRA has again demonstrated that they are a domestic terrorist organization. Their political policies allow the killing of thousands of Americans, far more than 811. They are not telling the truth about gun checks which allows illegal guns being sold to criminals and illegal foreign trade of guns to Mexico causing their major violence in the Mexican population.

    May 3, 2013 06:19 pm at 6:19 pm |
  19. sosowhat

    I hear the comment, "Guns are made for killing." That's obvious to us all (save for target sport). Even still, and even with "licenses/registration" cars still kill more often. It's very obvious cars kill more innocent people, and to say they aren't "designed" for killing is to utterly dismiss the massive needless carnage cars create, as though those lives do not matter.

    Back to guns. Guns kill and that is a good thing. It's what keeps other countries from invading. It's what keeps people compliant and not violent with police. It's what protects our President and my family while we are at home. I'm glad would-be violent criminals know guns kill – it helps keep them guessing if a home is protected by guns. Nonetheless, we do not "BACKGROUND CHECK" car purchasers deadly as cars have proven to be to innocent families, because of the illegal use of cars, you would think "concerned" Democrats/Liberals would call for BACKGROUND checks.....

    May 3, 2013 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11