NRAAM Wraps Up Busy Sessions

May 23, 2016>>
Donald Trump addressed the NRA faithful with a speech that was mild compared to other anti-Hillary Clinton comments from NRA officials. CNN found the endorsement significant enough to carry it live and had a staff writer from CNN Money onsite after the political team had moved on.
The National Rifle Association didn't surprise many attendees in Louisville, Kentucky with their endorsement of presumptive Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. Pro-Trump shirts, hats and stickers worn by the NRA members in attendance left little doubt who their selection would be. Others, sporting shirts supporting "Hillary for Prison on 2016" left little doubt how they feel about his likely opponent.

The NRA's Annual Meeting & Exhibits is normally the time when Second Amendment supporting members get together to celebrate all things firearms-related in a relaxed atmosphere. But this year's presidential campaign seemed to have put an extra element of urgency in everything: from the rush of attendees buying the latest-and-greatest in accessories and gear to constant reminders that Trump has already done something significant- forcing the normally shifty Clinton campaign to take irrefutable anti-gun stands.

His constant characterizations of Clinton as "crooked Hillary" resonated with the NRA faithful and those responses seemed to add further steam to the Trump team in attendance.

But Louisville wasn't without its "challenges." A Kentucky native, I'm always glad to show off my home state. But there's one unfortunate, but inarguable fact about this year's annual meeting: the Kentucky Fair and Exposition Center is large enough to handle the crowds that blasted through the anticipated 75,000 totals, but the roads simply were not.

Horror stories of 2, 3 or even 4-hour traffic tie-ups were common on Friday and Saturday as a combination of heavy traffic and bad weather made the outside of the KFEC look more like a natural disaster than an event.>
The lines waiting to get inside the exhibition halls were only exceeded by the multi-mile traffic backup of those trying to get to the event. Jim Shepherd/OWDN photo.
Louisville loves hosting the NRA, but it may well be that the NRA may remove the River City from future consideration simply because of traffic problems that kept many from being able to get to the Kentucky Fair and Exposition Center before activities ended for the day.

Those who did get inside happily clogged the more than six acres of aisles for all three days.With only an hour remaining in the exhibits yesterday, shoppers were still lining up to buy products as exhibitors were trying to get a jump on the teardown process.

So what were some of the takeaways from this year's meetings?

A somber realization that most NRA members, officers and officials truly feel the upcoming election is the most important one in our generations. Several NRA members from the northeast characterized November as "the beginning of the end of private firearms ownership if we lose."

From a product perspective, It looked some companies had intentionally held product introductions until this event. Smith & Wesson, Nighthawk Custom and many others introduced significant new guns or line expansions. Others, like crowd favorite Magpul, introduced entire product lines.>
Magpul introduced their new line of "soft goods" featuring affordable performance fabrics and special features (above) as other companies gave shooting celebrities like Chris, Michelle and Colton Cerino (below) opportunities to meet and greet fans.>
Why wait until nearly six months into the year? Because the NRA Show isn't an industry-only show, it's an affinity show for an organization whose membership fills the sweet spot when it comes to model consumers.

Show attendees are enthusiastic about guns, consume the products, and stand in ridiculously long lines for the chance to have a few words with outdoor and shooting celebrities.

It's simpler to create "buzz" for products- and simultaneously get them into the hands of consumers.

As the show was winding down, handloaders were standing in the Freedom Munitions booth waiting to buy bulk packs of bullets. Further down the aisles, case manufacturers were discounting their show samples rather than incur the expense of shipping them home. And customers were lining up to help them out.

One footsore NRA member smiled when I asked if he was ready for the whole thing to end, but responded simply that "it's an event that I look forward to every year. But if we don't all work together and do something to win the elections in November, it will disappear."

That seemed to sum up the overall mood of attendees this year. The NRA Annual Meetings & Exhibits may have been around for 140-plus years, but longevity in today's political climate doesn't assure long-term security.

As always, we'll keep you posted.

--Jim Shepherd