NRA Annual Meetings & Exhibits underway today

[Editor's Note - several Buckeye Firearms Association leaders are on hand in Houston this week for the NRA meetings. If you see them, be sure to say "hi!".]

by Jim Shepherd

[Today begins] the one hundred and forty second edition of the NRA's Annual Meeting & Exhibitions. The booths are up, prepped and ready for a crowd anticipated to be larger than last year's 72,000+ in St. Louis.

It will be the equivalent of a three day love fest for firearms and the Second Amendment-on the inside.

Outside the convention center, the storm of controversy over firearms rights continues as the mainstream media has already started whipping their favorite target, the nameless, faceless National Rifle Association.

The realization that many of today's so-called journalists have taken the anti-gun movement's dogma as absolute truth makes it easier to understand why they are so quick to brand nearly five million fellow citizens as "the cause of the violence problem in America" while routinely giving passes to governors who make statements knowing they are patently false. They're equally quick to hop on any story that portrays gun owners as less-than-desirable citizens.

I don't know about you, but I really don't consider myself part of "America's problem" with anything except aging. And I'm certainly not buying their whining about not being able to pass anti-gun legislation when "90% of Americans want something done about guns."

There are several reasons why I'm more than skeptical at that claim, but it boils down to something I've learned after four decades of covering everything from Little League baseball to the United States Supreme Court, the White House and the United States Congress: ninety percent of Americans haven't agreed on anything in the past forty years that I've noticed.

Occasionally a national catastrophe brings us together, but we have amazingly short memories when it come to maintaining a lasting consensus on, well, anything.

Wednesday was the second anniversary of Navy SEALS catching up with -and eliminating - Osama bin Laden. While Americans danced in the streets at the news then, I heard a couple of media "experts" make the case this Wednesday that the action was "extreme" and "one of the many reasons Muslims hate America."

Seriously? That's just another reason why I believe any statistic saying 90 percent of us agree on anything is high-grade fertilizer and low-grade research.

Flying to Houston yesterday, I listened as one of the dozens of TV couples hosting hunting shows explained what they did for a living to their seat-mate. And I sat in the airport terminal virtually surrounded by people who work for gun companies, wholesalers, distributors and retailers. They didn't look, act nor talk differently from the hundreds of other people sharing the airport terminal with them.

Not once did I see anyone make a threatening move of any sort. In fact, it was exactly the opposite. They were a heckuva lot more pleasant to be around than any group of sports fans following their favorite team. In fact, some seemed almost reluctant to engage. I totally understand. It's one thing to say "I'm in media" -that leads to plenty of fun conversations. If I say "I'm in the outdoor media and sometimes write about guns and the Second Amendment" conversation sometimes stops right there.

That's one reason I purposely engage when given the opportunity. Instead of answering people directly, I offer a non-answer that allows us to talk in generalities. Before long, they're telling me how they're sick and tired of how their cities are being run, high taxes, and the feeling that things just aren't as good as they once were.

At that point, I agree with them, then ask their single greatest concern as a citizen.

They answer, then ask me the same question. I respond simply: the completely baseless demonization of gun owners and the simultaneous attacks on the Second Amendment.

Sometimes, conversation ends -right there. At other times, their next question is: "you shoot guns?"

And the point is made: gun owners are regular people. From that point forward, it's tough to refer to millions of us as "those people" or the NRA, NSSF, IDPA, USPSA or any of the other alphabet-intensive groups regularly characterized as evil single-celled entities.

Over the next three days, a toxic political climate, a wealth of bad legislation either under consideration or already passed will be discussed more than new products in the exhibit halls.

Some of the mainstream media in attendance will pull quotes from familiar conservative lightning rods like Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck and indirectly make everyone inside the convention center appear to be right-wing crazies, gun nuts, or anti-government extremists.

Others, looking to advance their careers, will parrot the snark, hoping to get noticed and use the NRA as their ticket to a better gig.

Outside the hall, cameramen will search for protesters their "reporters" will use lead to their stories. It generally starts with something to the effect of: "Inside, while the NRA celebrated the latest in assault rifles and high-capacity clips, Bob and Sarah (last name here) stood a silent vigil outside, peacefully holding signs asking 'what about Sandy Hook?' and 'Shame on you'. For them, the NRA meetings are a reminder of their own personal tragedy......"

You get the picture. Individuals used to demonize a group. An emotional tool that's proven itself time and again. Unfortunately, logic seldom trumps emotion.

And factual arguments don't lend themselves to snappy soundbites.

In a highly-competitive media climate that thrives on one-upmanship and controversy, not many reporters are willing to risk reporting that "thousands of average people who happen to own and shoot guns are getting together -peaceably- this weekend in Houston."

Nasty is the norm anymore. That's what everyone - on either side of "the gun issue" -should be ashamed of.

We have given away our right to demand unbiased reporting on any issue. That loss is reflected in a political and social climate where Jerry Springer and Judge Judy's cases are used as the model for social discourse.

Guns are neither the problem or the solution. People have to work to solve this one.

But this weekend is the NRA show, and an occasion when it is appropriate to celebrate gun rights.

Republished from The Outdoor Wire.

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