My family has been members of the NRA for years. My parents are lifetime members and my household holds a multiple year membership. We have always taken advantage of the training and resources made available by the NRA, including gun safety training for my children and local chapter events, but none of us had ever attended an Annual Meeting. So being it was a scant three hour drive from my home, I decided to take full advantage of my membership and check it out.
While the event is run by the NRA, the impressions I took away were not simply about guns and gun rights. Far more fundamental than that, I took away impressions of love of freedom, family and respect.
I arrived mid-morning Friday to a beautifully clean downtown Nashville hosting approximately 78,000 attendees with a good portion of them purportedly exercising their right to carry concealed firearms. The Annual Meeting at Music City Center and was in full swing on my arrival and I was just in time to watch all of the potential GOP speakers at the Leadership Forum. Despite the political heavy weights that got up to speak, declare their undying love of the 2nd Amendment and stump their political views in advance of primary season, my favorite speech was given by S.E. Cupp.
As a female gun owner and a mom I both appreciated and identified with her comments. She was explicit about the right of women to protect themselves and their family and the media bias that exists regarding gun rights. She specifically noted that the media is often uniformed and incorrect regarding gun, gun violence and 2nd Amendment issues. She held the liberal media accountable for their mistaken and biased reporting in some of their worst mistakes.
Children could be seen everywhere from inside the exhibit halls to presentations and the outdoor air events. I ran into several families that had multiple generations in attendance that included mom, dad, grandma, grandpa and the grand kids. Mental note, next year my kids are coming.
Freedom was contained in so many different presentations but the one that struck me as symbolic was given by Scott and Tiffany Haugen and sponsored by Cabella’s. I attended their presentation on cooking game to improve my own skills, but it was so much more than that. What Tiffany and Scott explained was a lifestyle by which they use the natural game resources around them to the fullest extent in order to provide a more healthy lifestyle for themselves and their children. Yes, I learned the basics of butchering and how to render fat and why you should. I also learned this type of commitment to a lifestyle takes a lot of time and energy, but provides a freedom from the trappings of dependence on others that is enviable.
What I took away about respect was even more fundamental. Of course Mom’s Demand and their loony ring leader Shannon Watts showed up to protest. According to Bob Owens, Editor of Bearing Arms, their numbers barely covered a quarter of the green they occupied and they numbered about 150. While walking on Broadway for lunch on Saturday, I watched a group of them navigate the crowded street in their red shirts emblazoned with their logo. No one heckled, no one said a coarse word and in fact they received the same smiles and “Excuse me ma’am” that fellow Annual Meeting attendees could expect.
On Sunday, the theme of respect and responsibility continued as I left the Annual Meeting. Music City Center and the grounds around it were clean and orderly. Attendees were just as pleasant on their way away from the Annual Meeting as when they arrived. Simple question, how different are these pictures than the after event pictures of the Occupy Wall Street event?
Of course I came home to read some click bait press about the NRA Annual Meeting. Anita Wadhwani writing for the Tennessean just could resist linking the NRA and the words “sex trafficking” in the title of her article on Monday. All large conference events bring the potential for increased crime. However, NRA Conferences have demonstrated that for the same week year over year, crime stats are actually lower when they are in town. Perhaps tens of thousands of legal gun owners in one location deters criminals? Perhaps legal gun owners are more law abiding than the general population? Try both. Cam Edwards of NRA News and Bob Owens, Editor of Bearing Arms break it down on the daily broadcast from Monday.
The Annual Meeting was a great place for liberty and freedom loving Americans and their families. Louisville May 20th-22nd is already on my schedule for 2016. Looking forward to another fun, informative and safe event. Though I am not sure anything can top Nashville. This born and bred live music lover had a blast outside of the conference rooms as well.
*Note tomorrow’s post will focus on a very powerful NRAAM presentation by Colonel Dave Grossman.