NRA First Vice President
Sandra S. Froman (later elected NRA President) welcomes members at the Opening Celebration
(l.); Below (l. to r.), a young shooter shows off her target; the best
seat in the house—Dad's lap; Hank Williams Jr. strikes up his fiddle.
Just as NRA brings out legions of voters who make freedom ring at the polls, unprecedented
crowds flock to the NRA Annual Meetings & Exhibits. On the heels of last year's
record turnout, nearly 60,000 NRA members, their families and friends converged
on the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston, Texas, April 15-17, for a proud
exercise of that freedom. Their reward included the largest exhibit hall to date
with 430 exhibitors displaying five acres of guns, gear and outfitters; first hand
messages from NRA leaders and key pro-gun allies; gala events with headline entertainers;
educational seminars; and more.
Let's Get This Party Started
A warm Texas welcome greeted NRA members from across the nation, including personal
messages from leaders of a state noted for its pro-gun culture. First up during
the 134th Members Banquet was U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, who vowed that Congress
would pass pro-gun initiatives this year, including a bill to stop frivolous lawsuits
against firearm manufacturers and the restoration of the rights of Washington, D.C.,
residents to own guns.
Rep. Tom DeLay (center) holds up an original Cecil Brooks/Lee Hamel flintlock rifle
presented to him by the NRA. Joining Rep. Delay (l. to r.) were: NRA Executive Vice
President Wayne LaPierre, NRA First Vice President Sandra Froman, Lee Hamel (Brooks'
apprentice), NRA Second Vice President John Sigler and NRA President Kayne Robinson.
NRA-ILA Executive Director Chris
. Cox takes the podium.
Her words were echoed by U.S. House Majority Leader Rep. Tom DeLay, who was introduced
by Wayne LaPierre as "... a true friend and tireless advocate for the Second Amendment."
Delay's unyielding support for gun owners has made him a lightning rod for the Left,
and in heartfelt opening remarks he said, "Being keynote speaker to NRA here in
my hometown is a true honor and humbling. It's just incredible to be in front of
NRA, the protectors of freedom." Mr. DeLay was answered by a thunderous ovation,
for which he expressed gratitude.
Citing the "Armed Citizen" column in NRA magazines, DeLay said, "These stories ...
show the importance of preserving our Second Amendment. These citizens prevented
what might have been horrible crimes because they had the right to protect themselves
and their families.
"Our Founding Fathers didn't consider the right to keep and bear arms a benefit
of living in a free country—they believed this right was necessary if a free country
was to long endure. Liberty could not be secure, they believed, if the people did
not have the right to defend themselves," said Delay.
George W. Bush greets attendees in a videotaped message at the annual Members Banquet
(above). A young member tries a new rifle on for size (below).
As is now a Members Banquet tradition, top-flight entertainers took to the stage
and kept the party going late into the night. T. Bubba Bechtol, NRA's "favorite
comedian," returned for a third Banquet appearance and warmed up the crowd for headliner
Hank Williams Jr. The incredible talent and showmanship of Williams and his band
stirred everyone, and as much as the crowd roared approval for his music, the show's
biggest hit came when Hank announced he was donating his famous father's Colt single-actions
to the National Firearms Museum.
Friends of NRA Extravaganza
"Going twice ... sold!" barked the auctioneer as he pointed to the winner of a one-of-a-kind
shadowbox displaying memorabilia from one of NRA's most recognizable Board members,
longtime Texas Ranger and recent author H. Joaquin Jackson. It was one of 150 items
auctioned during the sold-out Friends of NRA event at the Annual Meetings.
The auction proved to be the mother of all Friends events due to the attendance,
generosity and celebratory attitudes of the 1,000-plus NRA members and staff who
Board member and former U.S. Sen. Zell Miller (below, r.) is this year's recipient
of the Harlon B. Carter Legislative Award. Established in 1992, the award is a tribute
to Carter's lifetime of service to the NRA. Standing with Miller (l. to r.) are
fellow NRA Directors Sen. Larry Craig and Tom Selleck, and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison.
For those who have not attended one of the several hundred local Friends of NRA
events held across the country each year, it's a dinner followed by a raffle and
auction of guns, hunts, art and outdoor-related gear. Proceeds go to The NRA Foundation.
For information on upcoming Friends of NRA events in your region, see the Regional
Report section in your official NRA journal.
Celebrating NRA's Victories
The theme for the 2005 NRA Annual Meetings, "Restoring The Second Amendment," was
unveiled at the Opening Celebration, where NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre
set the tone by detailing the accomplishments of the NRA and its members over the
past 25 years. "[Y]ou can buy or shoot or restore or collect the guns of your choice
and be left alone while you do it!" he declared. "Because you restored the Second
Amendment, this freedom can be passed on to your children ... . This most precious
of birthrights can be conferred upon every infant whose first breath is drawn beneath
our American skies."
NRA First Vice President Sandra S. Froman then introduced "the man who won't apologize
for killing his own dinner—our very own Ted Nugent!"
After thanking his fellow "brothers in arms," rocker and activist Nugent regaled
the audience with a rousing rendition of the national anthem on his red, white and
blue guitar. Switching the focus from rock to country, John Sigler, NRA Second
Vice President, introduced Charlie Daniels, the master of ceremonies for the afternoon's
Daniels presented a tribute to past and present legislators and NRA leaders who
were instrumental in a 25-year battle to restore the Second Amendment through significant
reform of federal and state gun laws. Those honored included the late Harlon B.
Carter, the first Executive Director of the Institute for Legislative Action (represented
by his widow, Maryann Carter), former NRA Presidents James Reinke, Howard Pollock,
Dick Riley, Bob Corbin, Marion Hammer, the late Joe Foss (represented by his widow,
DiDi), and outgoing President Kayne Robinson. Former President Charlton Heston was
not present, but was commended for his service and remembered with thunderous applause.
The Honorable Harold Volkmer, co-author of the Firearms Owners' Protection Act,
was recognized, along with Sens. Larry Craig (R-Idaho) and Zell Miller (D-Ga.).
Representatives John Dingell (D-Mich.), Bob Barr (R-Ga.) and Don Young (R-Alaska),
NRA EVP Wayne LaPierre, and former ILA chief James Jay Baker were also honored.
NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre (above) recognizes
25 years of NRA's legislative victories; (below, r. to l.) Ted Nugent plays our
national anthem; setting the stage for freedom; NRA members come in all sizes.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry was then welcomed to the stage by NRA-ILA Executive Director
Chris W. Cox. Perry thanked the membership for the work NRA does to protect
our right to keep and bear arms and lamented that he doesn't get to exercise that
right often, especially when the legislature is in session.
"Right now there are some south Texas turkeys that think they've got a pardon from
the governor, but that will change soon enough," pronounced Perry to appreciative
laughter. Texas Rep. Henry Bonilla then addressed the members, saying that the NRA
must remain strong and relentless, as the battles will never end.
"I will fight every day to defend our Second Amendment rights, the Constitution,
and this great way of life ... ." Bonilla said. The Charlie Daniels Band wrapped
up the afternoon by entertaining the enthusiastic crowd with a medley of their hit
Members had numerous informative special sessions to choose
from this year, including: Should You Hunt Africa; NRA and The Media (above); Methods
of Concealed Carry; Women, Personal Protection and Power
Politics; Ted Nugent's God, Guns and Rock and Roll; Gun Collectors session with
R. Lee Ermey (r.); Hunt Texas and U.S. Military Arms of World War II (below). The
special sessions topics vary from year to year, but they always feature interesting
expert speakers and are well-attended.
Ladies and Gentlemen: Start Your Bidding
Two new events premiered at the Houston meetings—the NRA Sportsmen's Luncheon and
Auction (sponsored by Brunton) and the NRA Ladies Luncheon & Auction (sponsored
by Brownells), yielding excitement on both floors as authentic Texas auctioneers
with their "Western rap" elicited top dollar for the dozens of sporting items and
hunts donated for the auction block.
Two-hundred-fifty sportsmen were present as the "Second Amendment Chopper," built
and donated by Big Daddy Choppers, was announced "Sold!" to Michael Sucher of Century
Int'l Arms Inc., of Boca Raton, Fla., for $70,000. The bid goes down as the highest
for any one item at any national NRA auction. "This chopper is a symbol of a commitment
that Century and the National Rifle Association have in protecting and defending
the Second Amendment ... . A huge debt is owed to NRA by millions of proud Americans,"
said Sucher, who also submitted a winning $4,000 bid for a 10-day African safari
donated by Africa Sport Safari.
More than 120 NRA women at the Ladies' Auction proved their purse strings were also
loose when it came time to bid on various guns, grips, jewelry, wine and accessories,
but it was Coral Bergman of Warner Springs, Calif., who was told she could pack
her bags for the Dark Continent after raising her hand with the high-auction bid
of $5,000 for a 10-day safari donated by Africa Sport Safari. Proceeds from both
auctions go directly to The NRA Foundation, to be dispensed in the form of grants
to eligible educational programs.
And the Golden Bullseye Goes To ...
The NRA Publications Division honored the shooting industry's most innovative and
interesting new guns and accessories of 2004 with its third annual presentation
of the Golden Bullseye Awards, one of the industry's most prestigious product awards.
"The Golden Bullseye Awards are our way of saluting the ingenuity of today's entrepreneurs
who are maintaining the vitality of one of our nation's oldest industries," said
Joe H. Graham, Executive Director of NRA Publications.
Getting Down To Business
After an enthusiastic crowd of NRA members took their seats for the 134th Annual
Meeting of Members, they were treated to an inspiring video about the struggle of
NRA leaders and allies, including Charlton Heston, Ronald Reagan and Marion Hammer,
to restore the Second Amendment liberties severed by The Gun Control Act of 1968.
The film complemented the personal tribute given to these leaders during the opening
ceremony the previous day.
"We lost some battles, but ... sometimes defeat is a necessary prelude to victory.
The key is to never give up. And you never gave up!" said NRA Executive Vice President
Wayne LaPierre after the film. "It took 25 years, but you restored the Second Amendment."
NRA-ILA Executive Director Chris Cox stressed the need to erase Bill Clinton's anti-gun
legacy and continue to defeat "Clinton-clone" candidates. "Now, if laws could talk
... Bill Clinton's 1994 gun ban would sue for libel ... . To claim that those guns
are crime guns is a bigger load of bull than you'll find at the Houston stockyards,"
Cox quipped to the crowd's delight.
While LaPierre and Cox focused on the legislative and executive branches of government,
new NRA President Sandra Froman warned against allowing activist federal judges
to reach the bench. "... [I]t's clear that a single federal judge could have more
power than all 535 members of the House of Representatives, the Senate and the president
combined," she cautioned.
Bringing Houston To Your Living Room
NRA members unable to make the trip to Houston had the opportunity to experience
the 2005 Annual Meetings through the popular radio/Internet news program "Cam and
Company" on NRANews.com and Sirius Radio. A variety of special events were covered,
including the Opening Celebration, and host Cam Edwards interviewed such gun-rights
champions as NRA President Sandra Froman, former Georgia Sen. and NRA Board member
Zell Miller, television personality R. Lee Ermey, Idaho Sen. and NRA Board member
Larry Craig, former NRA President Marion Hammer, NRA Executive Vice President Wayne
LaPierre, NRA-ILA Executive Director Chris Cox, Oliver North, NRA First Vice President
John Sigler and Reps. Gene Green (D-TX) and Harold Volkmer (D-MO). Just in case
you missed the exceptional coverage, a selection of interviews and footage of events
is available for online viewing at NRANews.com.
Calling Out To God In The Desert
The annual Sportsmen's Prayer Breakfast inspired a crowd of hundreds with music,
dramatic readings and a keynote address by Thomas Hamill, the American truck convoy
commander kidnapped in Iraq and miraculously delivered from his captors' grasp back
to U.S. forces.
The soft-spoken Hamill relayed a tale of terror that began when his convoy was attacked
outside Baghdad. As the vehicles moved through a "kill zone," an Iraqi armed with
an AK-47 jumped onto his truck and began firing, seriously wounding Hamill in the
arm. After killing five of Hamill's associates, the insurgents forced him into a
car. Hamill's Iraqi captors confined him to a small building in the blistering desert
heat. During a 24-day imprisonment he cried out to God to take away his pain.
Toward the end, Hamill said he heard the sounds of "angels outside his cell," U.S.
soldiers moving in a convoy only a short distance away. "I put all my faith and
all my trust in God," he said, as he slipped away toward his rescuers.
Airgun Range Attracts Nearly 1,500
The airgun range's strategic location in the main exhibit hall attracted the attention
of a lot of shooters. Fewer shooting lanes than usual, and airgun velocities limited
to 550 f.p.s. did little to thwart enthusiasm, as a total of 1,498 five-shot tickets
Youngsters and many adults who were interested in getting into airgun shooting or
who had never shot before took advantage of the range, according to John Venskoske,
NRA assistant manager of the Airgun Program. Participants chose from a wide variety
of air rifles and pistols on loan from Daisy and Crosman, and put five rounds downrange
for every dollar they spent.
Next door, new or renewing NRA junior members could have their pictures taken and
instantly placed on a souvenir front cover of NRA InSights magazine.
New Officers And Board Members Elected
For only the second time in its 134-year history, a woman was elected as NRA President.
Sandra S. Froman, of Tucson, Ariz., is a graduate of Harvard Law School, and has
practiced law for 30 years. NRA's First Vice President, John C. Sigler, is a retired
City of Dover, Del., Police Dept. captain and now practices law in Delaware and
Maryland as corporate in-house counsel. NRA's Second Vice President, Ronald L. Schmeits
of Raton, N.M., is a member of the Board of Trustees and executive committee of
the NRA Whittington Center and is a bank president and financier. The NRA Board
of Directors also welcomed several new members to its ranks, including renowned
actor and NRA supporter Tom Selleck. His career includes starring in or producing
more than 30 films and television programs. Zell Miller, former governor and senator
from the state of Georgia, is this year's recipient of the Harlon B. Carter Award.
James Gilmore, III, served as the governor of Virginia from 1998-2002. Det. Lt.
Dennis Willing of Michigan is a Vietnam veteran and highly successful competitive
shooter. Joel Friedman has been a tireless defender of the Second Amendment in California.
And finally, Don Turner of Nevada is well respected for his efforts to ensure that
sportsmen and shooters have access to proper shooting facilities and have the right
to exercise their Second Amendment freedom.
Tune In Next Year
Nearly 60,000 NRA members enjoyed the camaraderie of the meetings in Houston, Texas.
If you missed out on the fun this year, mark your calendars for next year's Annual
Meetings and Exhibits in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on May 19-21, 2006.