NRA gears up for big weekend
May 3rd, 2013
05:00 AM ET
9 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.

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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.

Filed under: Uncategorized
soundoff (269 Responses)
  1. Grinning Libber

    Yeah – just cordon them off and arrest them all

    May 3, 2013 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  2. Sal

    I can see that some people still just don't get it! 

    May 3, 2013 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |

    The liberals crying here really make my day. I love the second Amendment and I'm amazed at how bitter the liberals have become! 🙂

    May 3, 2013 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  4. Anonymous

    @Lynn – MaryM if you poll people in NYC about the senator of Texas then yes his approval rating is crappie. This is how these polls work and how the government lies to you about what support they have to get laws passed that otherwise would not even be considered. And its not just about guns, they use these same polls to lie to you for everything.

    You mean like the polls that said Romney was going to win!!

    May 3, 2013 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  5. Sal

    wah, wah, mommy, the government wants to take my guns away.....wah wah boo hoo

    May 3, 2013 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  6. scarf


    Our family have owned guns for years, but we were never members of the NRA. Of course that's all changed. We're all members now and will be for a very long time.


    Sounds like someone who listens to NPR but never pledges.

    May 3, 2013 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  7. Anonymous

    @jboh – The Senate passed the bill 54-46. Minority rule is tyranny. TEA/GOP are the real tyrants in America. Flush the TEA pot.
    Isn't that the truth! You can bet that if the Repubs ever take back the Senate (God forbid!) that the first thing they'll do is change the 60 vote rule. I blame Harry Reid for not doing so.

    May 3, 2013 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  8. libsridiots

    Tell me how more background checks would have helped Sandy Hook victims

    May 3, 2013 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  9. RandyF

    Everyone there will be loaded with the safety off.

    May 3, 2013 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  10. scarf


    "The NRA and gun manfactures celebrate every time gun violence strikes because the demand for their products goes thru the roof. These animals have no morals and could care less about the impact their product has on society, just the profits made from their customers blood"

    We could same the same for Planned Parenthood and their abortion mills


    Oh, please. I haven't heard of an increased demand by women to have abortions just because Gossell is on trial.....

    May 3, 2013 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  11. MaryM

    NRA meeting in Houston this week. Featured GOP speakers are Palin, Santorum, Jindal, Cruz, Hannity and of course Glen Beck and ted nugent. The cream of the crop of the GOP. The NRA is telling Americans that the government will take away their guns, That is a lie and they know it. How can you believe anything the NRA leadership says. The NRA leadership represents the gun manufacturers and all they want is to sell more guns. That is why they are against the Expanded background check bill.

    May 3, 2013 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  12. Shawn

    @darnell we "liberals" also find it amazing that you will defend the second amendment all day long, but care little as the gov you fear so much eats away at the most important amendment, the 1st amendment. When your rights are gone for saying what you want, and the gov sends a drone to shoot you from 20,000 ft, I hope all those guns are comforting for you. Until enough of us from any side realize we are being played, and we come together to solve problems in a real way, nothing will change for the better, it will all continue to get worse.

    May 3, 2013 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  13. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    I once had a neighbor who bought a very large imtimidating Doberman to protect his property. On evenings he'd walk the dog around the neighborhood and brag that his dog would scare any burglar who attempt to break into his house. Then one day a prisoner who had escaped from a local jail had jumped into my neighbor's yard not knowing that the dog was in the yard. Suddenly we heard the dog barked then silenced. When my neighbor looked out his rear window, he saw the prisoner hiding in the dog's kennel. Come to find out, the dog got so scared, he jumped the other neighbor's fenced and ran away for several days. Sure, the brave NRA GOPT/D gun lobbyists would stand up and fight against an assailant with a gun. COWARDS!

    May 3, 2013 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |

    CNN liberals may want to take note... Sandy Hook was done with STOLEN GUNS and background checks would do NOTHING TO STOP ANYONE in that scenario.

    May 3, 2013 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  15. Themotorick

    I'm proud to be a member of today's NRA and I especially proud of its leadership. Just ask the average NRA'er what they think of Mark Kelly.

    May 3, 2013 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  16. Jeb

    92% of Americans are for background checks on all gun purchases.

    Gun manufacturers and the GOP are against them.

    Guess who the GOP works for?

    Hint: it's not the American people.

    May 3, 2013 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  17. JerryT

    The media is trying to make it appear that there is a backlash going on against the senators who voted the gun bill down, nothing could be further from the truth. The very vocal knee jerk opponents of gun ownership should stop and realize the consequences of giving up any freedoms that made this country great. Once the ball of restrictions begins to roll it will only gain more speed.

    May 3, 2013 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  18. FLBob

    Wayne Lapierre is still the biggest unpatriotic, unAmerican, draft dodging coward in America. I can't believe that sensible Americans listen to his pro gun manufacturer BS and give him so much power in their lives.

    May 3, 2013 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  19. Peoples State of Illinois



    "The NRA and gun manfactures celebrate every time gun violence strikes because the demand for their products goes thru the roof. These animals have no morals and could care less about the impact their product has on society, just the profits made from their customers blood"

    We could same the same for Planned Parenthood and their abortion mills


    Oh, please. I haven't heard of an increased demand by women to have abortions just because Gossell is on trial.....
    You hear almost nothing on the news about the Gossell trial.

    May 3, 2013 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  20. J. Alexander

    Right left center I'm independent and last time I checked both sides are Americans and both sides have EQUAL rights and in this country Majority rules and the majority want some form of gun control and so do I. This week 3 children killed 2 kids and 1 Adult instead of trying to figure out some solutions name calling rage and hate followed on these comments sections and nothing followed. The gun lobby is losing support among the American people and don't think the 2nd Amendment can't be changed by the will of the people, are tired of hearing about the rash of mass killing and the lame old excuse guns don't kill people, people do.

    May 3, 2013 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  21. Patriot

    Fight for your rights America, democrats wont. Illegals and criminals have more rights than citizens, shameful.

    May 3, 2013 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  22. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer


    That's the same think David Korach said before the FBI raided his Branch Davidian compound in Waco TX a few years back. be careful what you wish for fool!

    May 3, 2013 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  23. Anonymous

    @GW Hamer – I guess that's why I don't understand the cry to outlaw weapons
    You don't have to understand because no one is calling for banning all weapons. You can still have your little guns, for heaven's sakes. How anyone can argue that a background check for purchasing something that kills is a bad idea is beyond me.

    May 3, 2013 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  24. Jeb

    The only thing the NRA/GOP are interested in protecting is gun industry profits.

    May 3, 2013 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  25. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer


    CNN conservatives might want to take note...the proposed background check would have prevented the Sandy Hook shooting simply because it would have prevented a mentally ill woman from buying assault weapons for her mentally ill son!

    May 3, 2013 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
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