NRAAM Participation Trends

I really wish that the anti-gun groups would take an actual detailed account of how many participants they have their anti-NRA protests for annual meeting each year so we could compare. Somehow, I don’t think their graph would look like this one.

This is based on data I’ve been tracking since I attended my very first NRA Annual Meeting in 2004. (I just realized the error in the title with the years. I clearly forgot to update that, but the numbers include Atlanta in 2017, even though that also says 2016 at the bottom. Sorry! It’s fixed in the spreadsheet for next year…)

Other data points that I keep in the spreadsheet that aren’t in this chart is how much the NRA annual meeting has grown since that first one I attended way back when. It’s now 33.5% larger in terms of attendance compared to Pittsburgh 2004. Each time we revisit a city, the number of attendees has gone up between 14% and 44%.

It’s almost like the more that people learn about what NRA is really doing, the more they are on board.

NRA Legal Seminar Catches Press Attention

I suspect it’s a good thing when media that specifically serves the legal profession covers the NRA law seminar and the fact that it qualifies for CLE (continuing legal education) credit.

Even though many attendees were ready to open fire, if the need arose, the daylong event looked and sounded like most other CLEs.

I have to admit, it would be nice if they would have mentioned it’s an annual event that will be offered in Dallas next year. I’m sure there are plenty of pro-gun lawyers in Georgia who didn’t learn about it in time and would love to get out to the next one.

NRA Annual Meeting Attendance 2017

We have the figure, and it is the highest since Houston in 2013: 81,836. That beats Louisville last year which was 80,452. Houston will be a hard record to beat since it was the height of the post-Sandy Hook effort to attack the NRA.

Atlanta was a pretty good convention city. The only thing holding it back from being a great convention city being kind of pricy. But the food and drink were pretty good, and I don’t mind prices when you’re getting what you’re paying for. I don’t think I had one stingy pour when ordering a proper drink.

The convention center relies heavily on escalators, and I remembered what a shit show the escalator situation in Phoenix was. But the convention center people in Atlanta managed the situation much better than Phoenix did and everything went smoothly.

Also, Atlanta has a heaping amount of Southern Hospitality. Everyone is nice. Arriving at Hartsfield–Jackson, the airport had signage up welcoming NRA. You notice I didn’t do my traditional post about local media saying awful things about NRA and attendees? I didn’t notice anything. This is a sharp contrast to Charlotte, NC, which I use as the poster child for unwelcoming cities.

The last time my family were here, we burned the place to the ground. But I will happily leave Atlanta unmolested, and hope to return with NRA sometime in the future.

2017 NRA Board Election Results

As requested by readers, here’s a complete list of the NRA Board of Directors results:

Tom Selleck – 110,812
Peter J Printz – 91,410
R Lee Ermey – 89,540
William H Allen – 87,059
Ted W Carter – 87,025
Leroy Sisco – 84,136
Howard J Walter – 83,785
Patricia A Clark – 83,256
Melanie Pepper – 82,817
Thomas P Arvas – 82,500
Linda Walker – 81,874
Charles L Cotton – 80,779
Curtis S Jenkins – 80,529
Carl Rowan, Jr. – 79,104
Allan D Cors – 79,021
Todd J Rathner – 78,516
Lance Olson – 75,978
J Kenneth Blackwell – 74750
Steven C Schreiner – 73,406
Sean Maloney – 72,924
Heidi E Washington – 72,600
Clel Baudler – 72,576
Dan Boren – 69,829
Graham Hill – 68,672
Robert E Mansell – 68,492
Willes K Lee – 68,299
Kim Rhode Harryman – 67,906

Those who didn’t win a seat:

James S Gilmore III – 67,760
N Stephanie Spika – 67,097
David Carruth – 67,066
John L Cushman – 66,949
Richard L Kussman – 63,251
Robert A Unkovic – 62,946
Adam Kraut – 62,400
Stephen D Stamboulieh – 57,897
Eric Wright – 48,454

They also reported that since Roy Innis passed away after ballots were printed, he did earn 77,340 votes. However, everyone below him moved up one. The last two winners are fulfilling unexpired terms of previously sitting board members.

I know there were concerns over bylaws changes impacting one’s ability to run as a petition candidate for the board, so those numbers are as follows. There were 135,118 ballots cast in the board election. However, 4,558 were invalid. So that leaves 130,560 valid ballots cast in the board election. With the members overwhelmingly supporting the bylaws changes (92%-8%), that means 653 signatures will be needed for new petition candidates to make the ballot. Honestly, it’s not hard in the age of the internet to connect with other NRA members, and with anyone who has made any connections through NRA’s many volunteer opportunities that mostly draw NRA members – competitions, elections, and/or Friends dinners.

UPDATE: I forgot to link earlier a stat earlier that showed of 5 new members of the Board, 3 are women. That makes 13 female members of the NRA Board of the Directors, which is about the same percentage as Congress.

We Protest What We Do Not Understand

Thanks to Miguel for bringing this ignorance to the public light:

Posted by Gail Pepin on Saturday, April 29, 2017

NRA Member Engagement with the Ballot

However many paid activists Shannon Watts flew in doesn’t even begin to compare to the number of NRA members who engage with their association by voting in our group elections.

It’s a reminder that we’re a real, authentic grassroots movement of gun owners who can hold our leaders accountable. “Members” of Bloomberg’s various groups can just unsubscribe from their emails at best.

I’ve already added this year’s numbers to my magic spreadsheet of voting data that goes back to 2006.

It’s not the lowest voting participation rate that I’ve ever documented, but it’s definitely close. However, it’s probably not a complete surprise since the number of ballots mailed in elections has increased 42% in that time. (And that even takes into account the year I think they cleaned up the mailing list since the number dropped to an oddly perfectly even number.)

That said, I do think it would be nice to get more members voting. However, if that comes at the expense of experienced activists who work with NRA members on the ground to more celebrity candidates, then I’d be more hesitant to endorse that idea. Even today, I saw people advocating on social media for people to go vote for 76th director hours after polls closed for the entire session, so clearly voter education is an issue.

The rate of errors that resulted in invalid ballots went up this year (3.4%) compared to last (2.8%), but it’s far below 2013’s error rate (8.7%). This year’s top mistake is the same as last year – too many votes. Count, people. After that, the biggest mistake that kept nearly 1,000 ballots from being counted is the lack of a signature on the envelope’s authentication portion. Were you one of those people? If so, pay attention to your envelope. And somehow 24 people managed to find a ballot from a previous year and vote. Who are you people?? It’s not just that you kept them, but you actually found them and managed to cast them during the right time period. That’s special effort right there.

Perhaps the most interesting stat of the 2017 election year is the fact that I’ve never recorded such a close vote tally between the “last winner” and “first loser” – just 146 votes between the two. That’s less than half the votes of the previous closest amount, 356 in 2012.

It’s no surprise that Tom Selleck is the top vote getter this year. About 85% of voters included him on their ballot. He was nearly 20,000 votes higher than the next one in line, Peter Printz who even beat out R. Lee Ermey. The “last winner” is my favorite Olympian, Kim Rhode Harryman. She’ll actually be on the ballot next year because she was elected to finish an unexpired term.

I am a bit PO’d that they ran out of “I Voted” buttons this year. I was trying to start a collection, NRA! Now you Atlanta conference planners have ruined my plans to express my grassroots-iness. Excuse me while I go drown my sorrows over my ruined conference in a glass of wine.

“Oh Say Can You 501(c)”

Massad Ayoob was the last presenter before the lunch break, and he’s a difficult guy to summarize. He’s a very good presenter, and I was more interested in listening than writing about it. So sorry about that. I can see why he’s sought after by defense attorneys.

The first post-lunch topic is relevant to running shooting clubs, and since I’m an officer at mine, it’s relevant. My club is a 501(c)(7), but she covers all the tax exempt options. I didn’t really know that gun clubs could be organized under 501(c)(3) using an educational mission. I’m not sure I’d want to organize under that, because it changes how you’d have to run a club. I think it would be difficult for most clubs to manage without getting themselves in trouble. 501(c)(4) seems a more realistic subsection to organize under, but even that has the issue that the purpose of the organization has to be a public one. That means the club would have to be very open to members of the public. Neither 501(c)(3) or 501(c)(4) allow an organization to have a private benefit.

If you’re a gun club, I think 501(c)(7) is the best non-profit structure around which to organize. I’m learning a whole lot about how to manage (c)(7)s.

Responsibility for Criminal Firearms Violence

The second panel is by James B. Vogts. He is the attorney defending Remington in the case in Connecticut where the plaintiffs argued that selling AR-15s to civilians amounted to negligent entrustment. His talk is almost exclusively on the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA).

I was not aware that PLCAA history goes back to Kelly v. R.G Industries, Inc. in Maryland in 1985. In this case R.G. industries made a cheap revolver, a so-called “Saturday Night Special.” R.G. industries was found strictly liable for a criminal’s use of the firearm. I didn’t become aware of this issue until cases in the 1990s, when Hamilton v. Beretta USA Corp before Judge Weinstein. Weinstein was the one federal judge willing to assign liability to manufacturers for criminal misuse of their product.

There’s some background on Soto v. Bushmaster, which was the beginning of the case after Sandy Hook arguing several things under the PLCAA exceptions, including that selling AR-15s to civilians is negligent entrustment, which is excepted from PLCAA. So far PLCAA has held, but the plaintiffs are appealing their loss to the Connecticut Supreme Court.

Overall, PLCAA has generally worked effectively. There have been some disagreement between courts about whether PLCAA preempts ordinary negligence claims. These problematic courts have allowed all claims against a manufacturer to proceed if only one of the claims was not a “qualified civil liability action” that is preempted.

20th Annual Firearms Seminar

Here we are in Atlanta for the 20th Annual Firearms Seminar. As usual, we’ll be live blogging a summary of the panels. It’s taking me a bit to get used to the humidity. The last time my family was here, we burned the place to the ground.

Jim Porter is kicking things off this year. The first panel is Steve Halbrook and Nelson Lund. I’m always happy when they put Steve early. He’s one of the leading experts on this topic, but he has a very mellow, southern gentlemanly voice that is good when the coffee is working at its peak.

Second Amendment Litigation: Ongoing Challenges
Steven P. Halbrook

Steve Halbrook recounts how Heller came about. It’s been so long I had almost forgotten what it was like. Everyone believed the case would be 5-4, but no one was sure which way it would go. It was unknown which side Kennedy would come down on until he questioned the D.C. attorneys “Weren’t the founders pioneers, who needed guns to protect themselves from criminals, Indians and grizzly bears?,” which effectively took everyone off the edge of their seats. It looked like we had Kennedy. Heller was delivered the last day of the Court’s session. Everyone was on the edge of their seats again when it was announced Justice Stevens would read the summary of the Opinion of the Court. That would have meant a loss, but it turned out to be a different case. When it was announced Justice Scalia would be read the summary for the very last case, we all knew it was a win.

Interesting trivia about DC gun registration: DC argued in Court that their registration system was important because it allowed police officers to check to see if a gun was present on the scene if they were responding to a call. In fact, DC police never checked the registration system before calls. Why didn’t they? They were actually forbidden from accessing DC’s registry. The Court ended up upholding registration anyway, because of course they did. Though, they did throw out the need to re-register.

Halbrook reviews several other absurdities from the lower courts, such as “arguing that civilianized semi-automatic firearms that are used by no military in the world may be banned because they are weapons of war only suited to military use.”

Halbrook believes that cert will be sought in the case of Kolbe v. Hogan, where the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Maryland’s assault weapons ban via some absolutely atrocious reasoning. I know there have been more than a few people who have asked about that.

The Right to Bear Arms and the Philosophy of Freedom
Nelson Lund

I am a fan of Professor Lund, because he wrote a law review article about having to look at police use when making determinations about protected arms. His talk today is more broad. He is speaking critically of Scalia’s Heller opinion. I guess we can do this now that he’s dead :) His essential criticism is that while parts of Scalia’s opinion is generally regarded as a great work of originalism, on the core issues relevant to today’s debates it is a weak opinion.

The 5-4 decisions in Heller and McDonald could prove to be little more than abortive attempts to begin developing a robust Second Amendment jurisprudence. The Supreme Court has disinterred the Second Amendment, but it has yet to give it meaningful life.

Lund speaks about this being an issue of elites v. the common citizenry. This is a topic I planned to write more about soon:

When it comes to gun control, it is hard to see much personal benefit for our elites beyond the sheer joy of exercising the will to power over people they regard as intellectually and morally backward.

I wish I could say his outlook on the Second Amendment is optimistic, but it isn’t. I wish I could come up with reasons to disagree with this outlook.

There’s some spare time for Q&A on the first panel. As many of you know if you’ve been around this issue for a while, Q&A means “my chance to be heard before a captive audience.”

2017 Gun Law Seminar

Have you planned out your days for the NRA annual meeting yet? I’m just sitting down to do it now, and it’s worth reminding people about one of the best hidden gems of the massive convention. The NRA Foundation’s law seminar is an experience that shouldn’t be missed if you have any interest in gun laws at all. Even if you’re not an attorney, you’ll get something out of it – besides a good time with good and interesting company.

This year’s line-up is, as always, an interesting cross section of areas of gun law that will likely give me something new to chew on. You don’t have to be an attorney to get something out of the seminar. Massad Ayoob will present on avoiding unjust verdicts in self-defense shootings. If you’re a member of a gun club at all, there will be a topic on 501(c) issues related to your activities. Looking at legal issues impacting the industry, one topic will be on defending manufacturers and retailers when they are sued for caused by the criminal misuse of firearms by others. You’ve got broader Second Amendment updates from Stephen Halbrook and Nelson Lund to look forward to as well.

Last year’s topic by Chris Zealand (a Senior Research Attorney at NRA) on the Social Security gun grab was incredibly useful for me as a political activist. The details he gave for the process and what types of issues Social Security lists as mental disability codes were eye-opening and gave great fodder for me to make an informed argument to those who were just reading newspaper headlines about the topic. If, like me (and Sebastian), you’re not an attorney, but want to be informed and serious activists, you should consider attending the legal seminar.

If you are an attorney, then there’s no question you should absolutely attend. If you’re a law student, there’s a discount.

You get breakfast, lunch, and a cocktail reception along with your day of legal education. Not to mention, it’s usually very interesting to talk with others at lunch and during breaks about the issues they are facing at home or the type of work they are seeing come up.

Though neither one of us has ever visited Atlanta, Sebastian’s family has been there before years ago. I’ve made Sebastian promise not to behave like the last time they visited the lovely city. However, if any readers have any suggestions for places we must eat or visit while we’re there, please do share. Local eats are a huge factor in having a solid convention experience.