After the dimming of lights, the pledge and the national anthem, NRA chief lobbyist Chris Cox addresses the faithful. His drawl is relaxed, but his rhetorical guns are blazing.

"Every day a new attack on our values rears its ugly head," he warns those assembled, who now fill up the bulk of the field-level chairs and some of the stadium seats. "Most of these [attacks] seem to come from the Obama administration."

Cox then shows a seventeen-year-old video in which current attorney general Eric Holder (at the time the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia) expresses his desire "to make a part of every [school] day some kind of anti-violence, anti-gun message.... We have to really brainwash people into thinking about guns in a vastly different way."

Megan Gilliland

The crowd jeers.

"Let that sink in for a second," Cox continues. "Let's look at Webster's definition of brainwash: 'To force someone to give up their basic beliefs through indoctrination.' [It's] persuasion by propaganda. Not truth, not facts, not reality. Propaganda."

And Cox proclaims his belief that Obama and his henchman, Eric Holder, are conspiring to disarm the nation. He doesn't mention that the president has signed laws allowing guns into national parks and Amtrak trains.

(According to an essay penned last November by NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre, Obama has hatched "a sinister plot....behind closed doors, to launch a massive anti-gun onslaught when the time is right.")

"Let's state this in very clear terms," Cox announces. "President Obama needs to fire Eric Holder, and in November, we need to fire the president." The crowd leaps to its feet and roars approval.

And they're just getting warmed up. Waiting their turn behind the dais is a bevy of GOP A-listers, including House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and the presumptive 2012 Republican candidate for president, Mitt Romney.

Of all those names, Romney has perhaps the most complicated relationship with the NRA. In his unsucessful 1994 run for the U.S. Senate against Ted Kennedy, he supported the federal assault-weapons ban, as well as the Brady Bill that required background checks on gun sales. As recently as 2007 Romney reiterated to the late Tim Russert on Meet the Press his support for a ban of "unusually lethal" guns, adding: "I don't line up 100 percent with the NRA."

Nevertheless, the NRA — which can use its clout to make or break politicians of either party — seems to be heading toward a Romney endorsement.

"He's a life member of the NRA," Cox says of Romney during his introduction. A casual listener may interpret that as "life-long member," but would be mistaken: Romney only joined the NRA in 2007, before announcing his first candidacy for president. The term "life member" refers to the fact that he paid $1,000 to the organization and never again has to renew his dues.

In a dark suit and tie, Romney at last glides through the curtain's split to a standing ovation. In his 28-minute speech, he drills Obama but never gets specific on gun policy, promising only to "stand up for the rights of hunters, sportsmen and those seeking to protect their homes and their families."

If Obama-bashing endears Romney to the NRA members, he declines to take a swing at another plump NRA piñata: the national news media.

Leave that, though, for NRA leader Wayne LaPierre.

"For decades, the media and the political elites have lied about us, demonized us and attempted to marginalize our Second Amendment," says LaPierre during his time on the podium. "They've called us everything from extremists to wingnuts to wackos.... [But] we've stared those anti-gun elitists straight in the eye, and we've stared 'em down year after year!"

What LaPierre omits is that these are, in fact, triumphant times for the 141-year-old nonprofit. In short, they're winning the battle of ideas. Most Americans have soured on stricter gun-control laws and would prefer better enforcement of those already on the books, according to Gallup polls from last October.

Further, surveys show most Americans now believe in a person's Second Amendment right to own a weapon for self-defense. Perhaps in a nod to this public consensus, the Supreme Court has issued a pair of rulings since 2007 confirming that right, thereby upending the blanket gun bans of Washington, D.C., and Chicago.

But LaPierre isn't leaving anything to chance. His job is to fire up the base, and at the close of his speech, he hits all the right spots. The distortions of elites, he says, "won't stop us, because we are standing up today for who we really are. We are Americans. We are patriots. We love our country. And in this election, to defend freedom, we are — by God — all in!"

Some people just like blasting a big gun.

The bestseller over at the Barrett booth is its new M107A1 .50-caliber rifle with a 29-inch barrel and ten-round magazine.

Erin Kennedy, the company's spokeswoman, says Barrett will sell the weapon to the military and law enforcement. But for now demand springs from hobbyists, long-range sporting shooters and former soldiers.

« Previous Page
Next Page »