Wrap-up of NRA Annual Meeting in Phoenix

Summary of the event, what I enjoyed, what I did not, along with a bit of criticism for one of Arizona’s laws.

This was my first time attending the NRA Annual Meeting (or anything quite like it).  While it was a lot of fun, it is also one of those type of events that can be over-whelming. There is far more to do than the time alotted. And far more to see than a mere pair of eyeballs can view in 4 days time.

I arrived Thursday around 9am in Phoenix.  Eric Shelton (Handgun Podcast) was kind enough to pick me up from the airport.  We headed to Glockmeister to pick up a few parts (large mag release and take down lever as well as a Glock tool). After that we visited Calvary Arms. Where Eric picked up a pretty sweet looking purple polymer AR lower.  After that it was a stop over at In & Out for a triple/triple.

We then checked in to our hotel and walked a few blocks until we reached the convention center and checked in with the NRA Press Room and Blog Bash.  And so it began…

You can view the prior posts for photos and such. Eric and I got an early view of the exhibit hall, much of it still being setup.  After that we went to a T.G.I Friday’s at the Diamondback’s stadium. It was a beautiful location and the first time I’ve seen a major league stadium while empty with the lights on. Kind of like those scenes you see in the movies. What was really cool was a surprise visit by Dick Heller. A sweet and kindly old gentlemen.

I saw through half of NRA-ILA Grassroots workshop. Which sat us in tables by our states. We got to see a number of NRA’s lead people speak, including former President John Sigler, Wayne LaPierre, Chris Cox of the NRA-ILA.  I wound up bailing out on this a little early in order to catch the big Ruger announcement. I would have liked to returned to catch the rest of the workshop. However, the American Celebration of Values forum was scheduled over the tail end of the workshop.

So I ventured to the forum, which was being held at a nearby civic center.  I was about 20 minutes early. Sitting in the press box as a brass band played patriotic music. However, as I was reviewing the list of speakers I noted that I had already heard or met ALL of the speakers I was interested in with the exception of a few who were unable to attend (ie: Palin, Marcus Lutrell, etc).  And that most of the others were either local Arizona politicians or what I would call the face of the moderate Republicans (Juan McCain, Mitt Romney, Michael Steele). None of whom did I have any interest in listening too.

This was probably one of my biggest disappointments with the NRA Annual Meeting. I am tired of politicians. Who speak one thing, and do another. Why pander to mediocre Republicans.  I’d rather have heard from the 65 Blue Dog Democrats who signed the letter opposing any new assault weapon ban legislation.

In the end I decided to depart the forum and to return to the exhibit hall. There was just so much to do in the four day weekend. I caught the tale end of Cam’s (NRA News) seminar for new media. Hung out with Michael Bane, blogger’s and more.

I caught a few more seminars. One on carrying concealed that I caught about half of. It was pretty good, but I had to miss the part I really wanted to see. Another was on state organizations featuring the local Arizona host organization, a California state organization and our own PAFOA (not the NRA officially sanctioned organization, but a very large web based organization and forum).  It was very insightful seeing the differences in the organizations.  The California organization while not large was seeing a resurgence in growth. It had partnered with CalGuns.net, an online organization somewhat similar to PAFOA (Pennsylvania Firearm Owners Association). PAFOA on the other hand, has thousands of members both in and ourside of Pennsylvania. PAFOA is more an online gathering ground building connections and resources for the cause. While it’s organizer intends to see it become more of an advocacy organization, he is taking it one step-at-a-time. And while many organizations struggle with finances, PAFOA has found itself fairly self-sufficient.  Meanwhile, the Arizona organization was rather shocking. With a mere 1,500-2,000 members and many of those aging.  Perhaps it’s the fact that the state is not a significant battle ground for the second amendment like it’s neighbor California.  From what I gathered much of the focus was more on ranges, shooting, competition and those sorts of things and less of a the political advocacy spectrum.  Still, I think it was somewhat concerning and frightening in that if numbers of such organizations dwindle until it is merely a bunch of elderly folk slowly going the way of the buffalo. Than we have a serious problem, because if we do not constantly replace (and grow) our numbers. We will become too small a minority to uphold our rights for future generations.

I think a large part of this issue is that fact that too many personal egos are involved. Especially in small sportsman’s clubs and ranges. People do not want their clubs to grow. They are worried that growth will lead to crowding and they won’t have the club all to themselves. Instead, they are damning the 2nd Amendment and shooters to extinction.  Eventually, such clubs will too small and under-populated to stand their ground when municipalities and county governments become interested in their lands or desire to eliminate the noise of what once was a rural gun club but now finds itself surrounded by suburbia.

The NRA Celebration of Values Banquet dinner was quite enjoyable. It started off a bit lonely, we had an issue with our seating. We weren’t in the section we expected nor were we grouped together. I found myself at a table with three individuals, the one nearest me an elderly gentlman. Who albeit friendly, barely could hear even with his hearing aid. Didn’t make for much conversation. Thankfully, a seat opened up at one of the nearby tables with a few members from the bash and I was able to move over there.

The speakers included Sigler, LaPierre and others including co-host of 20/20, John Stossel. Now I had not heard of John Stossel before and I nearly cringed after hearing he was co-host of 20/20. (Thanks to 20/20’s recent show filled with fraudulent portrayals of the effect of armed citizens.) But he turned out to be a pretty good speaker.  Lastly we had Olliver North. I had never heard him speak, and was somewhat suspect. (I find his movies to be a bit far-fetched.) But he was actually a very adept speaker in real life.

One gripe I had was with Arizona’s laws prohibiting carry in places that serve alcohol.  I broke this law twice, choosing to carry my LCP and be judged by 12 rather than carried by 6. The reason being that on the wait back from my hotel on one occasion we were confronted by two homeless men.  They seeing our media pass assumed that were were a television crew or something. One of them became extremely billigerent demanding to know why we didn’t cover the young girls being raped down the street, or the crack dealers on the corner of such and such streets.  While nothing serious came of the incident it was somewhat unnerving.  So when it came time for a couple of the happy hour events, I was quite happy that I had brought the Ruger LCP. Coming from Pennsylvania where you can carry at a bar the Arizona law comes across as quite restrictive and inconvenient.

In order to address this, the NRA had the convention center’s permit temporarily suspended for the duration of the conference.  However, the exception was for the banquet and the preceeding cocktail. Now originally I had heard something about a firearm check in. But I didn’t see anything posted. So I hired a bicycle cab to take me to the hotel and back again in order to secure my sidearm.  When I arrived back at the convention center I realized that when I decided not to carry my backpack during the banquet I had also inadvertently left my ticket at the hotel.  So I had to hire a second cab to rush me to the hotel and back – $5 wasted this time.  I pretty much missed the cocktail hour though it did not seem all that impressive. I then moved on to the banquet, for which they never checked for my ticket.  (Which was a tad annoying after going through all the effort and expenditure.)

After the banquet a group of us went to a small outside alcove of a bar and enjoyed a nice misting. I was getting really tired at this point, but waited until someone else was heading back to the hotel. Not wanting to walk back with $4,000 of camera equipment by myself unarmed.  We wound up taking a wrong turn and walking through the club district.

I was just minding my business when this little punk lunged in my face.  I’m a flincher, and that’s what I did. He kept walking, and so did we…but I was very unnerved and angry. First off, it may be harsh…but I believe a punk like that should be locked up.  Anyone who preys upon or terrorizes random strangers shows me that they have an inherently fundamental social flaw. And a predator/criminal tendency. I was also very angry with myself. Because while I was trying to maintain condition yellow, I was also extremely exhausted and I knew reactions and observations were dampered.  But I was more pissed that we have a society that panders to such soon-to-be criminals. And at the same time Arizona’s laws forbid me to be armed.  If I am just minding my own business, leave me the !@#$% alone!

Then again on Sunday Arizona’s laws struck again. The group of us wanted to have lunch. Once again we found ourselves in a predictement as nearly every restaurant downtown serves alcohol. It was either quietyly break the law and carry concealed or not eat.  Arizona’s law accomplishes very little in the reduction of crime, and yet endangers people’s lives. There is talk of revising the law to allow carry in restaurants. At the very most, Arizona should merely mandate that if you are carrying then you cannot drink. Rather than forbid entry.  This way I could have attended every function and simply drank a ginger ale. Instead, I had my well being endangered and/or was forced to break the law, on top of all the inconveniences involved.

While I wouldn’t mind the NRA Annual Meeting returning to Phoenix. There is talk of returning in 2015. It is my hope that the meeting does NOT return until Arizona fixes it’s broken law.

And yes, I will be writing to the legislature of Arizona to let them know how I feel. Otherwise, I found my stay in Phoenix to be quite pleasurable. Although quite hot, often exceeding a 100 degrees. The dry heat affected me significantly less than the northeast’s humid summer weather.

I also caught the end of Ted Nugent’s show. I must confess I’ve got little interest in Ted, never really listened to any of his music. But I must confess it was hard not to get a knot in my stomach and have tears well up when he brought a number of former U.S. soldiers who had lost limbs in Iraq.  It was the first time I’d seen such in person. And it does bring it much closer to home than TV.

All in all I had a great time and am definitely looking forward to next year’s meeting in Charlotte, NC.

Published in: on May 25, 2009 at 7:12 pm  Comments (6)  
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Phoenix here I come…!!!

Tomorrow morning I depart to Phoenix for the NRA’s Annual Meeting and the 2nd Amendment Blog Bash.

Quite excited, I’ve never been to such an event.  It’s an opportunity to make connections, learn, see new products, guns, and accessories. Now I am even more excited by the fact that Friday Ruger is going to announce a new product. And I’ll hopefully be able to blog about it live!

When I think about the massive exhibit floor filled with guns, I can’t help but quote Neo in the Matrix “Guns, lots of guns!”

I’ll try to bring back lots of pictures for all of those who wanted to make it, but were unable to.


PS – For the Twitter freaks, you can follow Blog Bash, just search for the tag #2ABB.

Published in: on May 13, 2009 at 8:38 pm  Leave a Comment  
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