NRA Impressions

May 7, 2018

The NRA’s 147th Annual Meeting & Exhibits in Dallas, Texas might go down in history as a record-setter. Not all those records are positive, but there’s not much doubt that it got more than its share of mainstream media attention. After all, it’s not every day both the President and the Vice President appear before the same group.

The Trump/Pence visit drove anti-gunners nuts, but helped erase at least some of the frustration pro-gunners have had with the president’s vacillation on “the gun issue”. There was very little equivocation in either the Trump or Pence speech when it came to reassuring the NRA’s membership the administration wouldn’t abandon them.

President Trump’s second appearance as a sitting president was also a record-setter. The NRA’s enthusiastic greeting was probably a welcome break from near-constant media criticism, despite Trump’s telling the crowd he “loved the fight.” NRA Photo with permission

The ongoing battle between the NRA and Yeti coolers was a frequent topic in many of the speeches offered, but it was the latest move by Dick’s Sporting Goods that captured everyone’s attention. The decision to stop selling MSRs and destroy their existing inventory irritated gun owners and manufacturers, but news that Dick’s had hired lobbyists for the expressed purpose of pushing “gun control legislation” proved to be the bridge too-far for the industry.

Springfield Armory quickly cut all ties, and on Friday morning the National Shooting Sports Foundation’s board voted unanimously to expel them from the Foundation. Several NSSF board members told me it was unlikely that Dick’s would renew their membership, but tossing them wasn’t an option because of their actions “contrary to the best interests of the industry.”

I spoke with the heads of several companies that do business with Dick’s and asked them if they would stop as well. Their responses brought home the fact that answering that question is harder than I’d imagined. “If I stop selling to them,” one ammunition exec asked me, “am I punishing them -or their customers?”

“If I sell to them,” another asked, “and use the money from those sales to help support the fight for our rights, am I not using their money against them?” A third asked another even more interesting question, “if I intentionally turn away business, am I violating my fiduciary responsibility to our owners?”

Simple answers, it seems, aren’t so simple in matters like this.

For most of the attendees, it was the latest-and-greatest new products that got their attention. Colt’s newest products drew a considerable amount of attention, especially the newest iterations of their 1911-style pistols and the “Night Cobra” their DLC coated SAO revolver designed for concealed carry. Jim Shepherd/OWDN photo.

Thankfully, the majority of members in attendance weren’t so concerned with those kinds of knotty questions. They were far more interested in hearing the speakers, seeing the latest new products and visiting with each other- and the industry celebrities in attendance.

Despite the stereotypical portrayal of the NRA membership and gun owners, not everyone enjoying the exhibits of new products is elderly. Some, like the little guy eyeing Brownell’s Dream Guns (above) were smaller than the guns they were admiring. Others like this group (below) were learning about the sacrifices necessary to preserve their freedom as Medal of Honor recipient Sgt. Sammy L. Davis explained the meaning of his medals to the wide-eyed youngsters. Jim Shepherd/OWDN photos.

As I’m boarding the flight to return home, the final numbers aren’t in, but it seems there’s not much doubt that the latest iteration of the NRA’s Annual Meetings & Exhibits was a success, despite the fact some Dallas politicians wishes to the contrary. And there’s no way to cover all the new products on display -but with editors Rich Grassi, Paul Erhardt and Tom McHale also roaming the aisles, we’ll have plenty of new product reports coming in the weeks ahead.

As always, we’ll keep you posted.

--Jim Shepherd