Over 1,300 avid sportsmen and women attended the final evening banquet and auction at the Western Hunting and Conservation Expo (WHCE) held in Salt Lake City the last weekend in February, hosted by the Mule Deer Foundation (MDF) and Sportsmen for Fish & Wildlife (SFW). The National Rifle Association’s (NRA) CEO and Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre was slated to reveal a new advertising campaign confronting the consequences of universal background checks with regard to gun purchases and ownership.

Dozens of media personnel were on hand to record and transcribe the keynote speaker’s address, and the NRA posted a live stream of the event.

CNN covered LaPierre’s appearance, and their report posted online by Greg Botelho titled, “NRA promises new ads, blasts ‘real consequences’ of background checks,” was picked up by a number of other news agencies across the country, including KSAT in San Antonio, Texas, and Fox 31 out of Denver.

Botelho wrote, “As it turned out, LaPierre did not mention any new advertising in his remarks. But he did – as he has done passionately in the past – rail against President Barack Obama and other Democrats and the background checks that he said are ‘at the very heart of their anti-gun agenda.’”

The CNN report discussed at length the NRA ad campaigns and the money being spent to inform the public of their position. The report also included mention of a couple of organizations, opposing the NRA’s stance, that are pushing for stricter gun control.

CNN’s presentation of both sides of this issue garnered some 7,596 online comments!

Utah’s channel KSL ran several stories in print, on television and online. An online article by Sandra Yi titled, “NRA vice president urges gun owners to stand up for rights,” received over 80 comments.

In another article from KSL.com, posted by Alex Cabrero, MDF’s Chief Operating Officer Eric Tycksen was quoted as saying, “Wayne LaPierre coming to Salt Lake for the Hunt Expo is a big deal.” SFW’s Byron Bateman added, “It means this Show is a priority in the nation, and especially now with what’s going on within our nation with Second Amendment gun rights.”

The Salt Lake Tribune ran at least two articles reporting on LaPierre’s appearance at the WHCE, each with a mildly noticeable different viewpoint.

The Deseret News also posted an article, photos and video of the WHCE and the Saturday night banquet, garnering almost 50 comments.

The Daily Herald staff out of Provo, Utah, minced no words, writing, “National Rifle Association leader Wayne LaPierre says he thinks the federal government wants universal background checks on gun owners to make it easier for federal officials to seize firearms.”

Salon Media Group also covered LaPierre’s appearance, reporting to an online audience of 15 million.

Most reports gave space to both sides of this complex issue.

MDF’s Eric Tycksen concluded, “MDF members and the folks who attend the WHCE are hunters and outdoorsmen and women. We enjoy the shooting sports. It made sense to ask the National Rifle Association to speak to our constituency. Whether you agree with them or not, we are glad for the exposure for the Mule Deer Foundation and the Hunt Expo. Our ultimate goal, after all, is to raise money for the benefit of mule deer and their habitat, and to pass on our hunting heritage to our children. That is the message we want to get out.”

Image courtesy Mule Deer Foundation

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