NRA's landmark event enlists 55,000
in the cause of firearms freedom. By NRA Staff
NRA President Sandy Froman
Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre
First Vice President John Sigler
Everyone who attends the NRA Annual Meetings & Exhibits
is touched by the experience and that surely includes all 54,335 NRA members, family
and friends who journeyed to Milwaukee, May 19-21, for the 135th reprise of NRA's
signature event. From every corner of our nation they trooped to the Wisconsin city,
united in purpose, drawn by the promise of a busy weekend featuring political activism
and inspiring messages, educational sessions, first-class entertainment, and more
than enough guns and gear to fascinate every shooter and hunter.
These good folks, including numerous members of our Armed
Forces and law enforcement who share the values of personal liberty and responsibility,
joined together to embody the theme for the 2006 Meetings, "Freedom's 2nd Army."
A Rousing Kick-Off
NRA officers opened the Annual Meetings & Exhibits on
Friday afternoon, welcoming eager recruits in Freedom's 2nd Army to the Badger State.
After entertainer/NRA director Ted Nugent got the energy flowing with a brief musical
warm-up, NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre called attention to National
Police Week and Armed Services Day by recognizing all active-duty and former police
officers and military personnel in the audience. The NRA leader then paid special
tribute to legendary local Police Chief Harold Breier who helped defeat Milwaukee's
citywide gun ban in 1994.
NRA-ILA Executive Director Chris W. Cox introduced Milwaukee
County Executive Scott Walker, a member of our association, who proceeded to welcome
everyone to his county. "I support the Second Amendment and the Right to Keep
and Bear Arms, " Walker announced. Cox returned to the dais to hammer Wisconsin
Gov. Jim Doyle's shameful record on Second Amendment rights, and then introduced
across America, nearly 55,000 members trooped to the Exhibit Hall in Milwaukee to
inspect all manner of guns and gear showcased by the shooting sports industry. John
Collins of Phoenixville, Pa., (above r.) checked out the Browning firearms line
with his son, Kevin, 13, and Kevin's cousin, Jack Castro, 10, of Milwaukee.
four-star Army general Tommy Franks (l.), former commander of coalition
forces in Iraq, was a terrific keynote speaker for the gala 135th Members Banquet,
his off-the-cuff, inimitable style, his role on the world stage and the all-American
prepared him for that mission.
Those unable to attend the Meetings
could follow broadcast proceedings by tuning in to NRA News on Sirius Satellite
Radio or on the World Wide Web. NRA EVP Wayne LaPierre stopped in to chat with NRA
News hosts Cam Edwards and Ginny Simone (above).
directly to the members, NRA Second Vice President Ron Schmeits (above.) offered
Director Chris Cox unveiled the "Dump Doyle" campaign to elect a pro-gun
governor in Wisconsin.
Shooters of all ages enjoyed their time at the airgun range.
gubernatorial candidate Mark Green, who welcomed NRA members to his home state via
a videotaped message from Washington, D.C., where he currently serves as a U.S.
NRA President Sandy Froman shared the courageous story of
Col. Jairo Paes deLira, the former Brazilian police chief who headed the "Campaign
of NO" in his country, successfully defeating a gun-ban campaign backed by
globalist gun-banners to strip private citizens of their rights.
Country-western artist Royal Wade Kimes closed the festivities,
connecting with an enthused crowd that not only liked his music, but also appreciated
a celebrity who proudly identified himself as an NRA member.
Members Flock to the Exhibit Hall
For thousands of NRA members and exhibitors, the Exhibit
Hall represents the world's biggest campfire. It's a place to share ideas, talk
shooting and hunting and peruse acres of firearms and related gear. It epitomizes
a free America, drawing proud folks from all walks of life who share a
love of country and the Second Amendment. With 300+ exhibits this year, there was
no shortage of patriotism, ideas and quality guns.
Former NRA President
Kayne Robinson, now Executive Director of General Operations, outlined NRA's plans
for dealing with threats to hunting in America during his address at the Members
guns on the showroom floor and later prepared to bid on them at the NRA Foundation
Women were recognized for gun-rights activism, including Peggy Bodner (l.) and Susan
Tabor (far r.), Marion P. Hammer Award honorees, and Peggy Tartaro (center), who
claimed the Sybil Ludington trophy, joined here by NRA Director Susan Howard.
U.S. Rep. James
Sensenbrenner (R-WI) received the NRA-ILA Defender of Freedom Award from Chris Cox.
make it a star-studded weekend. Clockwise from top r.: Comedian T. Bubba Bechtol
(center) traded lines with actor/NRA Director Tom Selleck and buckskin-clad gunsmith
Lee Hamill. Country music stars Miranda Lambert (below with band) and Royal Wade
Kimes (l.) hit the high notes during the Members Banquet and Opening Ceremonies.
Jerry Lutz drove three hours from his hometown of Decatur,
Ill., to attend his first Annual Meetings in 34 years of NRA membership. The career
school teacher is an NRA Certified Instructor and Training Counselor. When he is
not shooting, Lutz works with kids and instructs about 1,000 Boy Scouts annually
in gun safety. "I really liked Remington's booth because I'm interested in
its youth shotguns for teaching the youngsters," said Lutz.
Bob Morrison, President and CEO of Taurus, hasn't missed
an Annual Meeting in 40 years. In addition to promoting Taurus' fine firearms, the
Exhibit Hall offers industry professionals like Bob a rare, direct line of contact
with the consumers that fuel the Second Amendment furnace. "Several organizations
provide services for manufacturers, but the NRA is the one that represents gun owners.
The NRA Annual Meetings & Exhibits gives us a chance to glean feedback from the final consumer—invaluable
information." In short, said Morrison, "I love this show!"
Smaller, yet equally innovative vendors add zest to
the show. David Krien, proprietor of Coyote Jakes portable shooting benches, remarked,
"This group—NRA members—is the friendliest I've ever met. And on top of meeting
new friends, we sold an incredible amount of product and made many business connections.
I'll be back every year."
Taking Care of Business
On Saturday, loyal NRA members gathered at Milwaukee's U.S.
Cellular Arena for the important Annual Meeting of Members. As has been long-standing
tradition, the assembly heard reports from officers, received results of the NRA
Board elections and conducted parliamentary proceedings related to several proposed
In his Executive Vice President's message, Wayne LaPierre
reminded the crowd that during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, civil authorities
in New Orleans confiscated citizens' guns when they needed them most. "The
NRA is asking every mayor and police chief in America to sign a pledge that says
they will never forcibly disarm the law-abiding citizens of their town or city,"
LaPierre said. "Mayors and police chiefs have already sworn to uphold the
U.S. Constitution in their oaths of office. The NRA is supporting new
state and federal legislation that makes it a crime to forcibly disarm law-abiding
citizens! That's how we're going to make the first time in New Orleans the last
time in America."
NRA President Sandy Froman painted an American portrait
with broader strokes, declaring, "Firearms still hold a cherished place in
our hearts. Hunting remains our proud tradition. Personal protection is our absolute
right. Target shooting is still just as fun, and terrific parents still teach their
kids to shoot. We still know right from wrong. We believe criminals ought to be
prosecuted and punished. We love our God, our Nation and our families. We haven't
changed. And at its core America hasn't changed ... freedom doesn't just happen.
It requires hard work and sacrifice. It takes courage and conviction. It takes an
NRA member. It takes you!"
Speaking directly to local members, NRA-ILA Executive Director
Chris W. Cox said,
"Wisconsin is one of only two states in America ... that denies its residents
any form of right-to-carry for personal protection." Then, rallying the crowd,
Cox announced, "Folks, it's time to get rid of politicians who play partisan
politics with your rights and with our life! So, if you want a Castle Doctrine in
Wisconsin ... Dump [Gov. Jim] Doyle! If you want lawsuit pre-emption in Wisconsin
... Dump Doyle! If you want worker protection in Wisconsin ... Dump Doyle! And if
you ever want a Personal Protection Act in Wisconsin ... Dump Doyle and replace
him with a true friend of the Second Amendment, Mark Green!"
Above: Military personnel and law enforcement officers were recognized for their
service during the Opening Ceremonies.
Guerin of Elmhurst, Ill., hit the jackpot during the National NRA Foundation Banquet,
with the winning ticket for the grand prize, a Kawasaki Brute Force 750 4x4.
Above: Benefactors Larry and Brenda Potterfield (owners of MidwayUSA) presented
a generous bequest to The NRA Foundation's Ben Case and Kim Furnish. NRA Publications
named 24 Golden Bullseye winners, recognizing the best new firearms, ammunition
and accessories for shooters and hunters.
All Eyes Forward!
Closing ranks with NRA's officers, Gen. Tommy Franks added
a commanding presence to the inspiration and pageantry of the 135th Members Banquet.
As keynote speaker, Franks delivered a speech that gripped everyone in attendance
and likely will be remembered by most for the rest of their lives. Right from the
start it was obvious a master communicator had claimed the room for his own. By
turns he was folksy and funny, solemn and principled, confident and complimentary
of yet another important force for freedom.
"You folks, NRA, are patriots and intellectually gifted. You know
the difference between criminals and citizens. You are the people who applaud those
men and women who serve in our Armed Forces and law enforcement, who are not ashamed
to say, 'One country under God.'"
Most encouraging was the general's vision for America and
how NRA must persevere and
succeed to help ensure that vision holds true. "I thank NRA for all it's done
for our country. But we're not near done. We have to secure the Constitution.
"I know that because of you we have a great country.
Because of NRA, we have[Americans] who have read the Constitution. Thanks to all
of you for getting up every day and loving this country."
As has been the custom for more than a half-century, Franks
was presented a work-of-art
Brooks/Hamill flintlock rifle by NRA President Sandy Froman, and one got the distinct
impression that for him it would always be more than merely a finely crafted wallhanger.
On that high note, the evening's entertainment ramped up
with an encore from comedian T.
Bubba Bechtol. The marquee act was rising country singer Miranda Lambert, a Texas-born
and bred hunter and shooter from an NRA family whose powerful voice capped an evening
that will go down in NRA annals as one of the best.
The weekend offered fun opportunities for members to attend
fundraising dinners and live
auctions for The NRA Foundation. The 800 guests at the jam-packed National NRA Foundation
Banquet on Thursday enjoyed trying to outbid one another on everything from guns
and gear to framed wildlife art and outfitted hunts.
Auction action continued on Friday with two more events.
The 300 members present for the NRA Sportsmen's Luncheon & Auction also cast
bids for quality sporting merchandise with proceeds going to support all types of
shooting, hunting and firearm education programs.
At the NRA Ladies' Luncheon & Auction, women who attended
had their eyes on items from jewelry and wildlife collectibles to guns and hunting
trips while enjoying a fashion show by a unique women's clothing company, Foxy Huntress.
NRA President Sandy
Froman officially welcomed members during the Opening Ceremonies.
sessions continue to be an Annual Meetings highlight. Offering tips on concealed
carry (above l) was Blackhawk's Tom Marx. Attendees at "Women, Personal Protection
and Power Politics" rose to applaud pro-gun radio commentator Vicki McKenna
A variety of educational seminars and sessions challenged
attendees to broaden their knowledge in key areas of interest.
Attorneys and Second Amendment scholars from across
the country came to attend the 9th annual National Firearms Law Seminar. In addition
to panels on constitutional law, tort liability and ethical views from the bench,
BATFE presented a special panel on licensing and regulation procedures.
Members interested in bringing networking skills back
to their local groups gathered for the Clubs and Associations and the NRA-ILA Grassroots
workshops. Topics this year included mobilizing club members, website and publication
communication and electing pro-Second Amendment candidates.
The "Methods of Concealed Carry" session,
always a crowd pleaser, featured noted shooter and instructor Tom Marx from Blackhawk
A standing-room-only audience for the "Women, Personal
Protection and Power Politics" session listened attentively to personal accounts
from NRA President Sandy Froman, Rep. Samantha Kerkman and Vicki McKenna, a radio
talk show host and Right-To-Carry advocate, all explaining why they choose to carry.
Supporting the ladies' inspiring testimonials, Greenfield, Wis., Police Chief Francis
Springbob addressed Right-To-Carry legislation in the host state.
A pair of special sessions made the trip especially
meaningful for gun collectors and history buffs. An attentive throng filled the
room Friday afternoon to learn more about "Garand: U.S. Rifle Cal. 30 M1,"
a discussion moderated by American Rifleman Editor-in-Chief Mark Keefe. Helping
him explore the history of the American military's favorite rifle were Martin Morgan,
curator of the U.S.
D-Day Museum and Walter Kuleck, author The M1 Garand Complete Assembly Guide. Equally
well attended was the 46th annual Gun Collectors Awards presentation, the most prestigious
awards program of its kind. Moderator Wayne Anthony Ross presided and presented
featured speaker Joaquin Jackson, a 27-year veteran of the Texas Rangers. Both men
are NRA Directors.
On Sunday morning, sportsmen were treated to "Guaranteed
Whitetail Tactics," sponsored by Yamaha Outdoors. Ray Eye, one of America's
best-known hunting broadcasters, and bowhunting superstar Greg Miller dispensed
expert advice and deer-hunting tips garnered from lifetimes in the woods.
A great crowd of 200 Second Amendment activists turned
out for the "NRA and the Media—A Forum for Straight Shooters" panel discussion,
moderated by NRA Director Susan Howard. Expert speakers included Vicki McKenna,
a radio talk show host, journalism professor Brian Patrick and Cam Edwards, host