HOUSTON — National Rifle Association leaders told members Saturday that the fight against gun control legislation is far from over, with battles yet to come in Congress and next year’s midterm elections, but they vowed that none in the organization will ever have to surrender their weapons.
Proponents of gun control also asserted that they are in their fight for the long haul and have not been disheartened by last month’s defeat of a bill that would have expanded background checks for gun sales.
The debate over gun control legislation has reached a fever pitch in the wake of December’s mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in which 20 first-graders and six educators were killed. The expanded background checks bill supported by President Barack Obama and other lawmakers in response to the Connecticut shooting failed to pass in the Senate.
During a fiery and defiant speech Saturday, Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre, the public face of the NRA, said the “political and media elites” have tried to use Sandy Hook and other recent shootings “to blame us, to shame us, to compromise our freedom for their agenda.” He said the proposed bill “got the defeat that it deserved” and that the measure would do nothing to prevent the next mass shooting.
“We will never surrender our guns, never,” LaPierre told several thousand people during the organization’s annual member meeting, which is part of the yearly NRA convention being held this weekend in Houston. More than 70,000 NRA members are expected to attend the three-day convention, which began Friday. Acres of displays of rifles, pistols, swords and hunting gear could be found inside the convention hall.
James Porter, the incoming NRA president, said Obama’s gun control efforts have created a “political spontaneous combustion” that has prompted millions of Americans to become first-time gun owners and created a national outrage that will manifest itself in next year’s midterm elections.
“The Senate and House are up for grabs,” Porter said during Saturday’s meeting. “We can direct this massive energy of spontaneous combustion to regain the political high ground. We do that and Obama can be stopped.”
LaPierre said the NRA now has a record 5 million members, but he urged for increased membership and added that it “must be 10 million strong” in its battle against gun control.
Meanwhile, across the street from the convention, advocates of expanded background checks and other gun control measures vowed to continue their fight.
Kellye Bowman of the Houston chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, a national grassroots effort promoting gun control that was started after the Sandy Hook shooting, said her organization was not discouraged by last month’s failure of the gun control bill. She said its defeat actually increased her group’s membership.