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National Firearms Law Seminar

If you’re an attorney or just interested in firearms laws, then you shouldn’t miss the National Firearms Law Seminar at the NRA annual meeting.

I have to say that this year’s program really stands out for the combination of nationally known speakers, as well as the practical topics covered a bit more in-depth by some of the lawyers working on Second Amendment issues you may not have heard about yet.

For one, the lunch speaker is Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit fame. Having heard him speak before, I can say that he always delivers a really good presentation that informative as well as entertaining. The program notes that his lunch speech will look at “the transformation of the Second Amendment from an ‘embarrassing’ outlier to the Bill of Rights, to a provision that, like other parts of the Bill of Rights, protects identifiable individual rights in court.” Massad Ayoob will be giving a presentation on armed self-defense, highlighting mistakes “by the shooter at the scene, and by defense counsel in court.” That should be quite interesting, even for the non-attorney.

In my opinion one of the most interesting topics looks like it could end up being the session on the Brady Campaign’s recent litigation strategy against individual FFLs. The description of this talk by Cord Byrd notes that they have been “utilizing state laws including negligent entrustment, negligence per se and public nuisance to circumvent the protections afforded by the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act.” Then you have the always wonderful Sarah Gervase who packs so much practical information for attorneys into her topics each year talking about civil rights actions in firearms cases for this year’s Nashville seminar.

Registration is online, and there are discounts for various folks – law students, those who only want to attend the lunch speech by Glenn Reynolds, just a half day, and even for non-attorneys. There’s pretty much no way that you won’t walk out of the sessions learning something new if you choose to attend.

Even as someone who isn’t a practicing attorney and who doesn’t do the legal analysis for the blog, there’s usually something I pick up that gives me so much more context and understanding about the cases we hear about during the next year. More importantly, as I’ve met many people who maybe had a little minor offense, often nothing related to firearms at all, when they were 18 who are still paying a penalty with their firearms rights when they are 68 over the years, I’ve realized how invaluable it is that defense attorneys should know at least something about this area of law and how it impacts their clients.

NRA Convention vs. CPAC

Charles C. W. Cooke of National Review did this interview with a Philadelphia radio station yesterday, and I loved a comment that he made about the size of CPAC – a general right-of-center, every issue you can imagine convention – versus the NRA annual meeting which is largely single issue.

“And this is going to sound ungrateful, but it’s small because I’m used to the NRA convention which is Madison Square Garden-sized.”

This is the argument I used for years with people in the conservative movement when pointing out that they need to look more to what the NRA has done over the years. It seemed like the gun issue was so often overlooked, yet the NRA consistently turned out more people to participate than anything that was happening in DC circles. So it’s kind of funny to hear Cooke mention the vast difference in size for an event that wants to represent an entire “side” of the political aisle and the many different issues that come along with it.

Besides, the NRA convention is more fun in my experience. I was sick of CPAC by the time I went for the fourth time. Most of my friends felt the same way when I was in DC. But I still look forward to the NRA convention. While I’ve shifted what events I tend to visit at the convention, there’s still something interesting going on each day. I like that it’s a chance to dig deep into the issue – whether it’s connecting with other people passionate about grassroots, the law, or just getting out to shoot.

Anyway, go listen to the interview since I think it’s a really good one beyond the NRA comparison. I’ll have to add Cooke’s new book, The Conservatarian Manifesto: Libertarians, Conservatives, and the Fight for the Right’s Future, to my wish list now.

NRA’s Upwards Trends

It was reported last month that NRA Annual Meeting was one of the fastest growing conventions or trade shows in the country, but I wanted to provide longer term trend information. Unfortunately, I found I had a gap in my reports since I started attending NRA’s Annual Meeting and had to wait on the numbers to present an accurate report. I just received those numbers and made a pretty little chart for you all to see how we’ve been trending.


Keep in mind that that the bottom line in this chart is 40,000 people, and the lowest attendance documented here is still more than 54,000. While the number of attendees from Houston to Indianapolis dropped, the end of the 10-year span is still reflective of a 23% increase in members coming out. Even within the same city, both repeat cities have seen double digit increases in turnout. That’s pretty impressive.

Brian Anse Patrick on the NRA Annual Meeting

Brian Anse Patrick is the author of two books that I think are required reading for any Second Amendment activists, and that I think every new NRA employee should read as part of their orientation. Brian Anse Patrick was the speaker at the lunch portion of the law seminar, and I had the opportunity to speak with him at the reception. He seemed surprised when I mentioned I had read both of his books, and was a really nice guy. He’s working on a new book about the zombie phenomena.

Today, he released a post on his blog (which I didn’t know about before now) taking aim at Anna Marie Cox’s hit pieces in the Guardian just after the convention:

Noting another significant myth perpetuated by the column, NRA is not “the gun lobby.” Among many other functions, too many to list here but which include safety training and civil rights legal defense issues, NRA does indeed lobby on behalf of gun owners. But the gun manufacturers have their own exclusive trade associations and lobbies. NRA represents the interests of a people, not an industry.  These members pay the dues that support NRA’s manifold operations; no shadowy corporations front the money. As such, NRA members assemble in voluntary association; they converse among themselves and with others by means of various print, broadcast and computer-based media; and they peaceably petition government entities.  When the NRA does all this, organs such as The Guardian and The New York Times call it “lobbying,” but more accurately, it should be described as a principled application of the First Amendment. Such “lobbying” is merely the First Amendment put into practice.

I would encourage folks to head over and read the whole thing.

The Real Grassroots of Gun Culture

In light of yesterday’s post from Sebastian about concerns over messaging from NRA, and combined with the effort I’ve noted from Mother Jones to try and divide and conquer, the left-wing magazine is now trying to promote the notion that NRA doesn’t really have much in the way of grassroots and that everyone is just a paid shill of the evil gun lobby.

Their argument is that the NRA News commentators are paid, so therefore they aren’t really the grassroots of the gun culture. There’s just one big glaring problem with their story: the evidence doesn’t support it. Sure, the NRA News team and the commentators themselves have confirmed they are paid now, but Mother Jones ignores the fact that these people only got picked up because they were already actively part of the grassroots gun culture.

For example, they say this about Colion Noir:

Team member Noir recently confirmed in the Los Angeles Times that he was approached by the NRA and agreed to a deal, but also declined to discuss his compensation.

It makes it sound like NRA went out and to just find a black guy and offer him money to spit out pro-gun talking points. What Mother Jones leaves out is that Noir was brought on as staff in March 2013, but he already built a successful Twitter/Facebook/YouTube/Instagram following long before that in 2011 (or 2012, in the case of Instagram). He was approached to come on as staff because he was particularly successful as part of the grassroots gun culture.

For another commentator, Billy Johnson, he came onto NRA’s radar because he decided to make a video about real gun violence statistics at the end of 2012. That single video has more than 1.2 million views. Think about that. A video about statistics posted during the holidays has pulled in more than 1.2 million views. Billy Johnson told followers that NRA News didn’t contact him until the summer of that year. In other words, they found him only because he was already successful as a grassroots commentator speaking to Second Amendment issues.

The other commentators have similar stories, but slightly different backgrounds in the grassroots gun culture. None of those pesky little facts about the history of involvement that each of these men and women had in the grassroots gun culture is ever mentioned, and I suspect that is on purpose. It wouldn’t help their cause to remind politicians that while these people are currently paid staff of NRA News, their backgrounds in the issue before they were paid represent hundreds of thousands of people all involved in promoting the Second Amendment and the shooting sports.

Of course, I would also say that NRA needs to remember this lesson as well. Sure, Ackerman McQueen may have put some of the better grassroots spokesmen on the payroll to roll out a few decent videos, but those spokesmen aren’t NRA’s power. NRA’s power lies in the millions who vote their gun rights, organize their shooting leagues, and bring the message of the Second Amendment to their family and friends. One reason I’m concerned that some in Fairfax may be forgetting this is because I only heard one speech that actually acknowledged this real power of our movement.

Even the Grassroots Seminar this year wasn’t promoted very much. It was left out of the event app, is nearly impossible to find on the Annual Meeting website and schedule, and was smaller as a result of the missed opportunities for promotion. An annual election volunteer coordinator event was cut this year, though Sebastian & I still reached out to Grassroots staff to have a chat on strategies and organizing in the movement. Granted, one factor in participation is likely a feeling of a little burnout because the movement has had to be “on” constantly for at least two years now, but NRA just needs to remember that a snazzy video channel and fancy posters don’t replace the rest of the field of grassroots activists.

Andrew Branca’s Presentation to Law Seminar

The audio isn’t all that great, but here’s defense attorney Andrew Branca’s presentation at the 2014 Firearms Law Seminar for anyone interested:

You can read about his appearance over at Legal Insurrection, as well as see his Hitler parody. Also note that he has a book out on self-defense.

Women & Camaraderie in the NRA

Here are two of my favorite press highlights from the NRA Annual Meeting.

One paper discovers that there are (gasp!) women on the floor of the convention just as into firearms and self-defense as men. This year’s event was definitely one of the most diverse events ever, and one way that was reflected was in gender. I also can’t tell you how many strollers I had to navigate around in Indy. It was a good thing the convention hall had such wide aisles.

In this story, NPR discovers that NRA members are both human and reasonably social creatures who have friends and family who often enjoy similar pastimes.

Stopping Active Shooters

Cam Edwards interviewed Dr. Eric Dietz, director of Purdue University’s Homeland Security Institute, who studied various responses to active shooters in schools. According to the research, the presence of a school resource officer improved response time by 80 percent over waiting for police, and they found that casualties could be cut by 2/3 if a school resource officer had access to a firearm during an active shooter situation.

Along these lines, NRA is actually putting up cash to help schools deal with safety concerns. Kyle Weaver, director of General Operations, announced that the School Shield program distributed over $200,000 in grants around the country this year. He said that these grant recipients and their projects would be featured on NRA News over the coming year.

The Requisite Pearl Clutching Over #NRAAM

Bitter and I arrived back late last night, and had to return the rental car early this morning. So things are running a bit behind. I have some more thoughts on NRA that have been developing since Annual Meeting, but it’ll take a bit to figure out exactly what I want to say. Indy was a good convention. But it seems that no NRA Annual Meeting can be complete without the requisite article by a pearl clutching reporter who is shocked, shocked, about what’s going on behind those doors. This year’s award has to go to Cliff Schecter, Bloomberg stooge, and all around vile human being.

I’m pretty certain the only one who is terrified of the NRA Annual Meeting is Cliff Schecter and his fellow travelers. It seems odd that NRA would credential media known to be hostile, but as anyone who’s read Brian Anse Patrick’s book on NRA media coverage can tell you, NRA feeds off this kind of hate. If anything, NRA is better off leaving friendly media to their own, and giving hostile media the “Right this way Mr. Schecter. We’ve prepared a tour of the floor for you that we sincerely hope will fulfill your every prejudice and stereotype about NRA members, and make the hate flow from your fingers with ease!,” treatment.

As I walked past a row of AR-15s mounted on the wall on my right, I noticed a J.Crewed-out family who might have come from Bethesda or Greenwich—two parents and their son, 12 or so—checking out the action on the wall. I looked around for more like them and started to notice that while in the minority, they were definitely there, wandering the halls looking at the merchandise. For a moment it was comforting, but it suddenly occurred to me that their nonchalance about taking their kids to an arms bazaar might be even more eerie than the shaved-headed, ZZ Top-bearded guys who smelled like month-old cheese and looked like they’d been locked in their bunkers the past week making love to their antique Lugers.

The condescension there is so thick you could plant a flagpole in it. First is the surprise that people who looked “J.Crewed-out” would be in some third world backwater like Indianapolis, which can’t even support a proper art gallery! And not only does it seem Indianapolis has cultured and upper-middle-class looking people, but they bring their kids to NRA Annual Meeting. Sacrebleu!

Of course, as much as Mr. Schecter might want to think we’re the short bus rejects, I’d just like to point out that one thing I did not do this weekend was wander around the show floor sniffing other men’s beards, and I’m pretty certain that was the case for probably all of the 75,200+ other attendees. Talk about weird.

NRA Annual Meeting Number for 2014

Total attendance? 75,267. That didn’t beat our phenomenal record last year in Houston, at the height of the anti-gun hysteria, of 86,228, but if you took Houston out, it would have beat the St. Louis figure of 73,740, which was the record up until Houston.  We did not get the details as we did last year, due to the fact that NRA no longer allows cell phones or other electronic devices in the Board Meeting. When Bitter came out to let me know, she missed the rest of the numbers.

The Internets go to Robb Allen, who noted:

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