After several hours walking the exhibit hall last Saturday at the National Rifle Association’s annual convention in Dallas, Texas (which I attended as a member of the Association’s Board of Directors), I sat down to watch and read the news accounts of the event, which brought together some 88,000 men, women and children. Watching and reading many of the media’s description of the convention, I was struck by the vast disconnect between those commenting on the event from the outside, and those attending the event on the inside.
The convention itself was marked – as it is every year – by complete civility with not a hint of any violent or even unruly behavior. Convention goers came from across America, including from Florida where, just two months before a deranged criminal went on a murder spree at a Parkland high school. Attendees came to Dallas to socialize, to inspect the latest products offered by the firearms and hunting industries, to hear from political leaders, and generally to show support for our country and the Constitution.
Yet, if one were to believe many of the reports by outside interests, it would be easy to conclude that the 2018 NRA Convention was a gathering of irresponsible, murder-sympathizing automatons whose only goal in life is to squeeze the trigger of a machine gun and laugh fiendishly while doing so. That anti-NRA narrative has been voiced in recent years by groups such as the Bloomberg-financed “Everytown for Gun Safety” and the gun-hating “Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.”
This year, the ranks of the Blame-the-NRA-for-Everything movement has been joined by a cadre of high schoolers led by one David Hogg; whose profanity-laced rhetoric is matched only by his lack of understanding of, or concern for, facts or history. The mainstream media, of course, gleefully offers these post-Millennial adolescents a regular forum from which to criticize the NRA and its supporters.
Predictably, outside pundits criticized the speeches by the NRA leadership as over-the-top in terms of substance and style.
Make no mistake -- the speeches by the leaders of the NRA were a clarion call to the Association’s membership and supporters everywhere. Neither they nor President Trump (who attended, along with Vice President Pence) pulled any punches in calling out the distortions and prejudices regularly displayed by the mainstream media, Bloomberg’s forces, and liberal politicians when it comes to the Second Amendment.
If people think the NRA is overstating the challenges currently facing the Second Amendment and its supporters, think again. In a recent opinion piece that appeared in the New York Times, former Supreme Court Associate Justice John Paul Stevens argued for the outright repeal of the Second Amendment. The former Justice obviously still is smarting from the High Court’s 2008 opinion upholding the Second Amendment as guaranteeing the individual right to possess a firearm. Stevens’ dissent in that opinion reflects the view favored by countless other gun-control advocates, who long had hoped that the Court would adopt their interpretation of the Amendment as protecting some amorphous collective right to own a firearm.
Stevens’ sour-grapes editorial will, of course, be waved around by Bloomberg’s crowd and others who refuse to blame the real culprits for gun violence; factors that were on tragic display in the Parkland incident – poor police training, lack of physical security measures, failure to follow-up by federal law enforcement, poor parenting, and more. Notwithstanding Stevens’ wrong and already-rejected analysis of the Bill of Rights, the fact remains that no less a legal “expert” than a former Supreme Court Justice now has publicly advocated for the outright repeal of the Second Amendment. In this environment, it is hardly an “over-reaction” for the NRA and its supporters to pointedly and repeatedly voice concern.
In the final analysis, it is not Hogg and his young band that today concern the NRA and the tens of millions of Second Amendment advocates. The real adversaries are the heavily-financed, well-organized, and technologically-proficient purveyors of the false gun-crime narrative -- Michael Bloomberg, George Soros, and others. These false prophets will use whatever tools appear on their radar with which to further their anti-firearms agenda; but it is they who pull the strings.
It is crucial for the NRA to stay its charted course and not be drawn off track or off message. And there is no better person to lead that effort right now than Marine Lt. Col. Oliver North (ret.), the incoming President of the National Rifle Association of America.