If gun control arguments were true, then the NRA Annual Meetings & Exhibits (NRA AM) would be the most dangerous place on the face of the earth for a terrifying 72 straight hours. Yet, year after year, it proves to be the safest and most respectful crowd just about anywhere, even though a huge percentage of attendees are carrying handguns. What was that saying about an armed society being a polite society? Apparently, it’s true.
The 2016 event in Louisville, Kentucky, drew 80,452 of the more than 5,000,000 National Rifle Association members for 3 days of exhibits, manufacturer demonstrations, educational seminars and speeches by various national figures.
Not even counting the seminar and speech events, you can’t think of the NRA AM as a gun show. Yes, there are manufacturers there – a whopping 800 of them. But we’re not talking tabletop exhibits like the ones you see at the local fairgrounds. This year, the Kentucky Exposition Center opened up 500,000 square feet to exhibitors and attendees. Filling that space were exhibitor booths the size of small city blocks and miles of aisles.
The NRA AM is also a “must do” stop on the campaign trail during election years and even those in between ballot races. This year, presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump made an appearance shortly after receiving an official endorsement from the NRA. (Click here to see highlights from his speech.)
Rather than comment on the speech of one of the most non-traditional presidential candidates ever, I’ll let him speak for himself.
On Hillary Clinton: “Hillary Clinton wants to abolish the Second Amendment. Just remember that. We’re not talking about changing it. She wants to abolish the Second Amendment. We’re not gonna let that happen, I can tell you that right now. We’re going to preserve it. We’re going to cherish it. We’re going to take care of it.”
On guns and terrorism: “We talk about Paris or we talk about San Bernardino, and nobody there had guns. Paris is probably the toughest place in the world to have a gun, France in general, but Paris in particular. If you look at Paris, 130 people were killed and hundreds of people are still in the hospital horribly wounded. They’ll never be the same – and these guys just came in and stood there and shot everybody. No guns on the other side. If a couple of people had guns, like a couple of the folks in here, I promise there wouldn’t have been 130 people killed and hundreds of people lying in the hospital to this day. It might not have happened at all.”
On gun free zones: “Gun free zones – we’re getting rid of them.”
On teleprompters: “You never get yourself in trouble when you use a teleprompter. You know the problem is that it’s too easy. We have a president who uses teleprompters. Teleprompters are too easy. We should have non-teleprompter speeches for people running for president. It’s the only way you really find out about people. The other way you don’t find out about anybody.”
On the assault on gun rights: “The Second Amendment is under threat like never before. Crooked Hillary Clinton is the most anti-gun, anti-Second Amendment candidate ever to run for office.”
On the National Rifle Association: “The NRA has led the fight, time and time again, to protect our fundamental freedoms. This is an amazing group.”
On the Supreme Court situation: “We’re going in with one opening. You’ll probably have three, possibly four, it could even be five judges, and we’re talking about a 4-year period, although we’re planning to be there for 8 years. If Hillary gets to appoint her judges, she will, I believe, abolish the Second Amendment.”
On self-defense rights: “Hillary wants to disarm vulnerable Americans in high crime neighborhoods, whether it’s a young single mom in Florida or a grandmother in Ohio, Hillary wants them defenseless. She wants to take away any chance they have of survival.”
On his recent list of Supreme Court potential nominees: “Before the Republican convention, we’ll be releasing names of more potential Supreme Court candidates, and I think you’ll like them. Now, I’d like to call for Hillary Clinton to put together a list also. OK? Let her put together a list. Because I’d like to see what that list consists of and you will see its day and night, and it won’t be good for the people in this room, and it will not be good for the people in this country.”
On the benefits of gun ownership: “Americans use guns to protect against violent crime more than a million times a year, and they want to take guns away. Heartless hypocrites like the Clintons want to take them away, yet they have bodyguards that have guns. So I think that in addition to calling for them to name judges well also call for them to let their bodyguards immediately disarm. They should immediately disarm. Let’s see how they do. Let see how they feel walking around.”
On lawful concealed carry: “There are 13 million concealed carry holders in the United States – I happen to be one of them. These are among the most law-abiding folks statistically. In fact, they’re like at the top of the list. In Florida, for example, they’ve issued more than 3 million concealed carry permits in the past 30 years. Only 168 have been revoked. That’s .006 percent. There’s very little difficulty. Hillary wants to go in the opposite direction. She says that President Obama didn’t go far enough with his Executive Orders. He’s gone too far. We’re going to stop it. We’re going to un-sign those orders. They’re going to be un-signed so fast. They’ll be un-signed the first hour I’m in office. The first hour.”
Closing thoughts: “The Second Amendment is on the ballot in November. The only way to save our Second Amendment is to vote for a person you all know named Donald Trump. I will never let you down. I will protect our Second Amendment. I will protect our country.”
And there you have it, straight from the apprentice-maker. But Trump was not the only public figure to give a speech at the leadership forum. Another crowd pleaser was Sheriff David A. Clarke, Jr. Currently serving his fourth full elected term as sheriff of Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, Clarke opened with a salute to the crowd. According to Clark, “I get asked often why I salute the audience before I speak before them. You see, I’m old school. In our representative democracy, elected officials are not sovereign. You, the people are sovereign. And in keeping with military courtesy, it is incumbent on the subordinate officer to salute and render that salute first to the superior officer. So I see myself as an elected representative as the subordinate officer, and when I come out to address a group, I salute you because you are in charge, not the political class.”
Clarke’s careful choice of words, speaking “before” the audience as opposed to “to” them was telling of his deep sense of respect for others, his job, and his country. Clark continued to deliver a speech focused on not just gun issues, but core principles of our constitutional republic. As Clarke explained, “As sheriff I took an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution – all of it.”
And Clarke is serious when it comes to the what he sees as the real reason underlying persistent gun control policies. “Very few topics in our human discourse spark as much emotion, passion or vilification as the subject of guns in America. Now ask yourselves why. Why is the Second Amendment treated like the bastard child of the Bill of Rights by academia, the mainstream media and the liberal side of the political establishment. It’s not about reducing mass murders or suicides or street level violence. Heck, it isn’t even really about gun control folks. It’s about power, political power. It’s all about government control over our lives.”
For Clarke, the struggle for rights is personal. “Folks, my ancestors fought hard and shed blood for the right to keep and bear arms for self-defense and I am not going to cede that right back to the federal government or any level of government and neither should you.”
Sheriff Clarke has become a nationally recognized figure for his bold stances on the issues of violent crime and the individual right to self-defense. He explained to the crowd, “You are the first line in your personal defense, not law enforcement. You always have been. But for the last 30 or so years, you have been conditioned away from that duty by having people simply tell you to dial 911. That might not be your best option. Don’t ever let anybody tell you to outsource your safety to the government. Folks, defend yourselves in ways more advantageous to you and then dial 911. Your life may depend on it.”
In closing, Sheriff Clarke called for Congress to pass concealed carry reciprocity nationwide with the passage of House of Representatives Bill 923 and Senate Bill 498 – the Constitutional Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2014. “Just like a driver’s license from one state is valid in every state, and a marriage license is recognized in every state, so must your concealed carry permit be valid across state lines. Think about this for a second. No other constitutional protection ends at the border of one’s state of residence.” He continued, “It is unconstitutional and unreasonable for someone to have to know the intricacies of concealed carry laws in different states. This is insane, and it has to be fixed now. Call or email your congress member now and demand passage now, so your right to keep and bear arms is recognized in all 50 states just as the 14th amendment did for newly freed slaves.”
Next year, the 2017 NRA Annual Meetings & Exhibits takes place in Atlanta, Georgia, April 27-30, 2017. The event’s venue, The Georgia World Congress Center, boasts 1.4 million square feet of exhibit space. Who knows? Maybe we’ll fill it.
Image by Tom McHale