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Once Again, No Decision in Drake

Today the Supreme Court was releasing its decision on cert petitions, and Drake was high up there on the list of cases to watch. Unfortunately the Court has still not yet decided either way, and we do not have a decision. There are a lot of possibilities at work here, but it would amount to tea leaf reading and rank speculation, so I won’t engage in it. Drake v. Jerejian is the case challenging New Jersey’s restrictive permitting practices. The Court is running out of cases it can take to resolve the circuit split over the right to carry firearms outside the home.

Indy has the “Smell of Freedom”

Sebastian and I have been talking about how we rank Indianapolis on our list of host cities. Apparently, one man in the Smith & Wesson booth told a reporter that the city has the “smell of freedom.” Um, I’ll assume he’s not talking about the smell coming out of the grates near one corner of our hotel’s property because that’s sewage, not freedom.

Regardless of the one area that requires holding your breath for a bit as you walk by, Indy has been a pretty decent city for the convention. There are tons of hotels in walking distance, and the skywalk system meant that rain on Friday wasn’t an issue at all. However, the prices for food and beverage – mainly beverage – have been pretty outrageous. Every bar we’ve passed or been in around here has crappy beers for $5+ per glass. However, the food has been consistently excellent. We haven’t had one mediocre meal here.

I didn’t go between official events at the convention center and any other location beyond the JW Marriott, which is connected to the convention center, so I don’t know how the walk compared for those who did attend the multiple events. Generally, I really hate that set up, so it’s probably a good thing for my perception of the city that I didn’t attend those other events.

Other than Claddagh Irish Pub that put up a big sign telling gun owners who carry that they weren’t welcome, every other place had chalkboards and other signs posted welcoming NRA members. And based on how many people we saw sporting NRA & gun-related apparel, those welcoming joints were doing pretty well.

While I’ve had a pretty decent time in Indy, I would put it in the middle of the list of decent host cities. Considering that, according to Sandy Froman, NRA hasn’t held a convention here since 1976, it’s done very well in terms of getting people through the doors and onto the show floor. There’s a ton of parking around the area and many great places to stay.

Indy has been far better than cities like Charlotte, NC (too expensive), Pittsburgh, PA (terrible traffic management) and Louisville, KY (too spread out), but not quite as good as Phoenix, AZ (great layout) and Houston, TX (fantastic facilities). One big drawback to Indy that was also an issue in St. Louis is the presence of overly aggressive panhandlers. One person I know here posted on Facebook about the issue, and also included that he wasn’t so sure the person was that hard up when they pulled out a cell phone and started chatting up someone.

Overall, it was a good annual meeting. I hope that the numbers we hear later this morning show that others thought the same thing.

NRA Convention, Day 4

Sunday is usually the most relaxing day of the show because the crowds ease up from Saturday and there aren’t as many long events to squeeze in as Friday. But, let’s talk crowds at this year’s NRA Annual Meeting. Sebastian and I both observed that this year’s crowds were so much younger than previous years. We saw far more women, more tattoos, more unique piercings, and even more mohawks. This was not the old, white boring guy convention that the media would like to portray.

For us, Sunday meant spending well over an hour going up and down the collector aisles. Sebastian already covered highlights of this visit, but it is always the section we’re most excited to see these days.

FreeLobstersWalking out of the collector section, we did come across quite an interesting show special – free lobsters.

Sunday is also the day when many people who have been tied up in other events are finally able to make it to the floor. At one point, we stopped to talk to Sandy Froman, past NRA president. Even NRA presidents have the same issues we have as on the ground members – not enough time to shoot the guns we already own! After spending a little more time at the Smith & Wesson booth, Sebastian said hello to Molly Smith who he initially met years ago at Gun Blogger Rendezvous.

911RevolverFrameOff of the floor, we took some time to talk to Phil Schreier who is Senior Curator at the Firearms Museum which had a great set up in the NRA booth at Annual Meeting this year. It’s still amazing how the idea to put up a video about an old air rifle in their collection has resulted in 3.7 million views on YouTube.

We also finally caught up with David & Colleen Lawson, co-plaintiffs in McDonald v Chicago and now of Lawson Handgun Institute, and heard about the successful training programs they are now running in Chicago.

At some point, we crashed before dinner at St. Elmo’s Steak House which we had recommended to us many, many times. Since we also saw other NRA Annual Meeting attendees posting about their visit the place during the weekend, we figured we should check it out.

IndyWelcomeSpeaking of food, I forgot to mention another highlight from the previous day. We caught a quick bite to eat with our Grassroots Coordinator at NRA for our election volunteer efforts, and the grub at Pearl Street Pizzeria & Pub was definitely delicious. I had a small pizza with pear, gorgonzola, arugula, and balsamic vinegar that was delicious. We didn’t see any kind of postings, though they didn’t have any signs greeting NRA members, either. Granted, they are also located in an alley, so it’s not like there’s much room. Regardless, it was worth mentioning because we haven’t had anything bad here in Indy. The drinks are pretty pricey at most places ($5 even for beers that might as well be water, much more for anything better), but the food has been great.

Unfortunately, there was kind of a downer to the evening with local tv news revising estimates for attendance down to 50,000 people – a number that I don’t think has ever been an estimate for any year I’ve been attending (since 2004). I hope that was a mistake report, but things in our hotel aren’t looking good. Both bars advertised that they were supposed to be open until midnight this evening, but they both appear to have closed up early due to lack of business. It’s tough to use that as a judge though since there are sooooo many places to eat and drink within a short walking distance, which isn’t that common in many convention towns.

I suppose we’ll have an idea of the overall impact of this year’s Annual Meeting tomorrow at the board meeting. Keep an eye out on Twitter for our up to the minute reports of the numbers.

From the Show Floor: 18th Century Assault Weapons & Machine Guns!

These days I don’t spend a whole lot of time checking out the latest and greatest, but I always enjoy the collector section. If that were thrice the size, I wouldn’t complain. I was pleased to see a booth of World War I machine guns, including the Cheauchat. I asked the collector whether the Chauchau lives up to it’s reputation and he responded (paraphrasing) “Yep. It’s a total piece of junk. They didn’t even round any of the edges when they machined it, so it’s almost impossible to clean without cutting yourself. In fact, if you can clean it without cutting yourself, that’s a great accomplishment.” There was also a collection of Vickers Machine Guns. The big silver bowl went to the Revolutionary War collection. We also paid a visit to the Miniature Arms Society’s booth, but we’ll do that as a separate post, since it’s our recurring favorite booth that we visit and write about every year.

Everytown Protest of the NRA Annual Meeting

I didn’t manage to get over to the big public square to check out the Mom’s Demand rally, because we were too busy having fun at the main event. Rumor has it that the protest was bused in, and their number was just about exactly what they had pulled the permit for, which was around 100 persons. Bob Owens managed to get over there, and took a great panorama shot of the crowd, something you will definitely not see from the Main Stream Media.

Dana Loesch also managed to get over there and confronted Shannon Watts directly. Apparently she was whisked away in a car with New York tags.

UPDATE: Thirdpower has more.

NRA Convention, Day 39817485729

The days are definitely starting to run together now. I just need to drag myself out of be early enough to hit the floor before the big crowds for more pictures. The main event today was the actual NRA Meeting of Members which I already live blogged.

I’m not the only person who thought that Wayne LaPierre’s Dylan Thomas paraphrase sounded very familiar. So, to whoever wrote that line of Wayne’s speech while watching Independence Day the movie, I’m just glad that you knew to cut it off before the lines about the world uniting on our Independence Day.

BirchwoodCaseyGroundhogAfter the meeting let out, we finally set out to roam the convention hall where you can find every shooting need you might ever have filled. For example, I checked in with Sig about my pesky night sights that I’ve never been satisfied with on my P239. (Answer: I need new sights and so I should just call them.) I also discovered a need for a radioactive prairie dog target. (At least, I assume the prairie dog is supposed to be radioactive since it’s glowing bright yellow.) Those of you who have discovered the need for this crazy little target along with me can get it online – radioactive glowing prairie dogs for sale by mail!

CynergyIn addition, I had to visit the Browning booth to drool over my true love in the shotgun world, the Cynergy. I love the Cynergy because it’s just soooooo pretty. To make it worse for Sebastian, he thinks it’s horrible that I love it even more in composite.

Sebastian also checked out several other booths where I was only dragged along as photographer, so I’ll leave those posts/product reviews up to him. Regardless, we definitely hit just about every corner of the show. Tomorrow is a chance to go back to a few targeted booths and then make sure we actually hit every corner of the show.

We also had a chance to crash a conversation with Bob Owens of BearingArms.com and Charles C. W. Cooke of National Review, as well as catching a second with Rick from Legally Armed in Detroit.

Finally, the item probably of use to some of you, is the tweet I sent earlier with the list of cities for upcoming NRA Annual Meetings.

Beyond that, it was a little casual conversation on grassroots-related topics with the NRA grassroots staff and then wrapping the evening up with drinks with scholars and lawyers who sometimes just like to talk about guns seen on the show floor. Oh, and Ed Friedman, Editor of Shooting Illustrated, joined us for a bit and informed me that my shotgun crush on the Cynergy is totally worth it.

How Did Our Supported Board Members Do?

During the NRA Board of Directors election, we posted some recommendations, and those had mixed results. As mentioned during the Member Meeting live blog, Tom Selleck, unsurprisingly was the top of winner list with 108,837 votes. He had more than 14,000 more votes than the next highest vote getter, Peter J. Printz.

Those who we suggested who made it include: William H Dailey, Dan Boren, Patricia A Clark, Linda L Walker, Todd J Rathner, and Allan D Cors. Unfortunately, Joel Friedman and Antonio Hernandez didn’t make it. However, I’ve seen support for Joel for 76th Director, so he may still be on the board.

NRA Member Meeting

I have to say that I haven’t been perfectly great about actually doing the live blogging because the opening the actual Meeting of Members has been one of the best I’ve ever seen. It was funny and sweet, and really reminded me of the great PEOPLE that make up our real grassroots movement.

Amazingly, Wayne did not screw up the the Youngest NRA Life Member contest. There were lots of folks standing when he started at those who were born in 2004 or later, but it went into 2014 and enough people were still standing that Wayne joke, “we’re going to need the delivery room here.” The youngest life member has been a member for 5 days and was born in February. The family is from Spring, Texas, and based on the cheers, it seems there’s quite the contingent from Texas here today.

MemberMeetingThe Oldest Life Member is from Richmond, Indiana and was born in 1927. He advised the audience that the best thing a man can acquire is “a great wife” and insisted his wife be recognized. He said that he went hunting in Africa as recently as September 2013, and he never goes on a hunt unless his wife can go with him. Of course, you don’t get that age without getting at least a little ornery, so he did put up a fight with Wayne’s assistant Millie, insisting that he couldn’t possibly be the oldest man here. :)

It’s a reasonably full hall this year, though the rest of the convention center isn’t quite as full as last year. Then again, I’m not sure it’s realistic to expect the same crowds from last year. (I can’t get up to the front for a picture so that crowd shot is only about half of the hall.)

NRAMomPinsNRA President Jim Porter is talking about the political landscape, noting that we haven’t won every battle, but we’ve certainly improved the gun law situation on many fronts. He also notes we’re not done fighting, and we need to do it come November. Jim is remembering his father, a former NRA president, and getting a bit choked up over it. He’s also mentioning the infamous “Cincinnati Revolt” and noting that it’s a great thing they got political instead of just being a form of national hunt club. He notes that the NRA didn’t even have a single lobbyist at the time, so not a single lawmaker was really reached about the problems of the law.

Porter comes back around to the people of the issue. He talks about the fastest growing segment of the organization and shooting community – women. He is also dedicating part of his speech to Otis McDonald, whose funeral he recently attended. He noted that even the Chicago media even had to take note of Otis McDonald’s fight for freedom and motivation:

In an interview with the Tribune after winning the suit, Mr. McDonald said the journey had been a lesson in history. He had come to understand more about his ancestors and the “slave codes” enacted in Southern states during the Civil War that prohibited slaves from owning guns. After slavery was abolished, states adopted “black codes” that kept guns out of the hands of freed blacks.

“There was a wrong done a long time ago that dates back to slavery time,” he said in the interview. “I could feel the spirit of those people running through me as I sat in the Supreme Court.”

Wayne’s speech is a bit more culture war, but not full on SoCo by any means. He is just noting a loss of community where we’re more disconnected, there’s less civility, and the notion that there’s a perception that average, decent Americans don’t have a fair shot even before the rule of law because power is so regularly abused by elites. If he can stay away from the “good guy with a gun” line, I think I might actually like this speech a bit better than most. However, the anti-media theme is getting really old. (Apparently, the anti-media rhetoric was really over the top yesterday, according to folks I followed on Twitter.) I know that many members of the MSM are hostile, but there’s only so much you can blame on other people. We need to turn that message into something more positive – encourage these average American NRA members to participate in the “horizontal interpretive communities,” as Prof. Brian Anse Patrick calls them, or self-created communication circles (online and offline) as we know them.

The Ack-Mac videos that Wayne has debuted are going over extremely well with the members. I’ll post them when I’m not working off of my cell phone data plan. :)

Okay, humor moment for me in Wayne’s speech. Whoever wrote his speech decided to try and paraphrase Dylan Thomas, but ended up putting in an exact quote from Independence Day’s president played by Bill Pullman, “We will not go quietly into the night!” I have to say, Pullman gave it more growl and feeling in his delivery.

Alan Cors is talking about the successes of ILA under Chris Cox’s leadership. He is noting that even with major court successes, those were possible with the election strategies to elect people who would appoint pro-Second Amendment justices and Senators who would confirm them.

Chris Cox is up and highlighting the obnoxious school cases like the pop tart case and the many t-shirt cases. Now, on to Bloomberg and his “heaven” quote. “I actually don’t know which is bigger, [Bloomberg’s] bank account, his arrogance, or his hypocrisy.” Chris’s speech is highlighting Bloomberg’s Illegal Mayors. That’s messaging that came straight from the pro-gun blogosphere and grassroots.

ChrisCoxMore importantly, in my opinion, is highlighting the work of actual grassroots activists like Sarah Merkle and Shyanne Roberts, both of whom are here and received a long standing ovation. Then he started introducing many of the Colorado recall activists who received another long standing ovation. Those guys deserve to be stopped for a handshake by every NRA member on the floor.

One of the best lines from Chris’s speech is something that I think most of us want to identify with, “We’re Republican, Democrat, Independent, and most days, none of the above.” In fact, to be honest, the crowd responded more to Chris’s speech than Wayne’s. I hope that it means people here really are fired up to go home and do some traditional political activism to win some elections in November.

The report of the election committee is up, so I’ll do a quick summary here with a detailed post to follow. More than 1.8 million ballots were mailed out. The top vote getter is Tom Selleck, followed by Peter Printz who beat out R. Lee Emery. My quick calculations show that there are more than 145,000 MORE life members or have been members for 5 or more years consecutively over last year. However, participation in the NRA board election has dropped a bit with only 6.8% of voting members returning a ballot.

One resolution was introduced from a New Jersey benefactor member. It seems to be some kind of complaint about Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s comments during hearings that are perceived to be anti-veteran, as well as anti-gun. I understand the feeling behind it, but there’s not really a point. I think that Feinstein knows well enough that we don’t like her. It’s something that makes him feel good. Since it makes folks feel good, it’s passing overwhelmingly. Peter Printz supported it at the mic, bringing a little humor the event.

There was a hiccup with last year’s resolution to recognize non-citizen members of the NRA who support the right to bear arms, and that was taken care of with a quick point of order at the end.

And that’s it for 2014.

NRA Convention, Day 2

In theory, I sleep sometime during the NRA convention, but it never feels like enough. That is probably why I, as a non-coffee drinker, regularly down multiple cups a day at the NRA Annual Meeting.

DaveKopelFriday is pretty much dedicated to the NRA Foundation Annual Law Seminar at the show. With the dramatic increase in the number of potentially important cases coming up, it’s so much harder to keep track of which cases are dealing with which laws in which states and where they stand. The good news that I learned today is that people who are much smarter than I am also have to stop and think about these various cases for a moment before talking about them.

To kick things off, Stephen Halbrook started with an overview of the recent challenges to New York & Connecticut’s gun laws. He had many good points in his analysis of the decisions, including his reasons why the district court erred in applying intermediate scrutiny in NYSRPA v Cuomo. One that stuck out in my mind as a non-lawyer was this:

The third reason given by the district court to apply intermediate scrutiny was that the prohibition here “is akin to a time, place, and manner restriction” such as may be found in First Amendment jurisprudence. … But the Act does not regulat the time, place and manner in which the subject firearms may be possessed, but bans them every time, place, and manner.

Dave Kopel kicked things off with themes from his paper, The First Amendment Guide to the Second Amendment and then gave some great insight into the trial for the Colorado challenges. The item in his speech that attracted the most response from the audience was when he mentioned that it seems the judge knows how guns actually operate. Rather than making many of the arguments in the preliminary injunction phase, Kopel decided to forego that and bring the meat of the issues to trial. Apparently, Massad Ayoob deserves a lot of credit for making testimony so thorough that the defense declined to cross examine him. After that, there was discussion of the new Illinois carry laws from Joel Ostrander that was quite amusingly titled, “Porcine Aviation Arrives in Illinois,” covering the numerous details of Illinois new shall-issue carry law.

NickJohnsonThen there was Prof. Nicholas Johnson’s presentation that also highlighted many of the themes in his recent book, Negroes and the Gun: The Black Tradition of Arms. I’ve purchased the book, but haven’t sat down to read it yet. In the meantime, here is just one point from his law review article, “Firearms Policy and the Black Community: An Assessment of the Modern Orthodoxy” that I think stood out as food for thought on state failure to protect the lives of African Americans historically vs in the 21st century:

Even if it is true that Blacks no longer have to worry about racist violence and malevolent governments (or more contestably their agents), the objection ignores that the Black self-defense tradition is fundamentally a response to the failure and limitations of government. It is true that the Black self-defense tradition emerged in a context where much of the reason for this failure was overt hostility and official neglect. But it is a mistake to presume that the reason for failure of government is pivotal. From the perspective of people at risk, the reason is secondary. The central thing is that they face a physical threat within a window of state failure.

For lunch, we heard from Prof. Brian Anse Patrick who talked about, as he prefers to call it, propaganda and the horizontal communities gun owners have formed to community with each other in a way that has been able to bypass the mainstream media. His book, The National Rifle Association and the Media: The Motivating Force of Negative Coverage, is actually available for free to borrow for Amazon Prime customers.

SarahGervaseThere was much more, including a very informative and practical presentation on gun trusts from Sarah Gervase of NRA’s General Counsel’s office. Sarah is really great at getting to the meat of the issue in a way that keeps your attention focused on the speech and materials, and I’m not even a lawyer dealing in these professional issues! She also sprinkles in enough jokes and random historical facts to keep non-professionals like me really interested. For example, when she covered the topic of suppressors, she noted that there’s actually no mention of why Congress decided to include them into the NFA in the Congressional Record at all, so no one seems to know exactly why they were included – it’s mere speculation.

After that, there was a very good presentation by Andrew Branca who is know more in the blogosphere as the primary contributor on many self defense cases for Legal Insurrection, as well as on Twitter as @LawSelfDefense. Things wrapped up with a quick reception, and then people flocked to other events.

LoughmillersBothAs the evening wore on, we went to dinner with Dave Hardy where topics from Waco to Civil War records were discussed. I swear, that man forgets more history in a week than I’ll ever learn. But, perhaps of more interest to readers of this blog, we had another opportunity to “research” the issue of bars and restaurants downtown posting by checking out another joint that was recommended on Yelp that was wonderfully close to our hotel so I could change out of my heels. As opposed to the joint that posted against guns last night, the attached photos were the signs greeting us at Loughmiller’s Pub, just across from the convention center. So, contrary to what the manager told our reader, there definitely does not appear to be any sign that the police department requested last night’s (attempted) dinner joint to post.

NRA Annual Law Seminar

Biggest crowd I’ve ever seen at the law seminar. The room is ginormous.

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Also good to see Pennsylvania State Senator Richard Alloway in the audience today.

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