This feature appears in the June ‘17 issue of NRA America’s 1st Freedom, one of the official journals of the National Rifle Association.
I have been a member of the National Rifle Association since I was a youngster in the 1950s. I have watched our Association transform itself from a politically innocent national shooting club into the most sophisticated and successful political force in the nation.
Serving as NRA president for the past two years has been among the most rewarding experiences I could wish for. I have traveled to every corner of the nation and met countless good citizens who are the heart and soul of the NRA. Your sense of honor, decency, duty and patriotism have preserved our ever-endangered rights and the freedom they secure.
In the long months before the 2016 elections one thing was certain: There existed a clear sense that NRA members were about to change American history.
The moment NRA-ILA Executive Director Chris W. Cox stepped on the stage at our May 2016 Annual Meetings in Louisville, Ky., and announced our unprecedented early endorsement of Donald Trump’s bid for the presidency of the United States, there was a seismic shift in American politics.
Most people missed it.
But our members felt it. Across the nation, NRA members fostered a growing certainty about the outcome of the presidential election. As it turned out, the NRA proved once again to be the savviest voters in the nation.
Our influence on the American political landscape was indeed earth-shaking.
Nobody among the establishment elites—especially the media—had a clue as to what was brewing among ordinary Americans, especially among the nation’s gun owners. Virtually every NRA member was confident that Trump would defeat epic gun-banner Hillary Clinton.
With the leadership of NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre and Cox, the NRA changed the dynamic of the election.
As it turned out, the NRA proved once again to be the savviest voters in the nation. But you were the key. You did it.
For the first time in decades we have both a pro-Second Amendment president and Second Amendment majorities in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.
NRA members, your families, friends, neighbors and colleagues saved the future of American liberty.
The truth is that our individual calling as guardians of our unique American freedom will never end. The threats will never go away, and they must be met with continued strength and courage.
Every time we hold the line against the enemies of liberty—protecting against their predations against the Second and First amendments—what we are preserving is profoundly summed up in the words of the Declaration of Independence, “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
In fact, protecting and practicing those elements of American freedom—“life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”—defines the core mission of the NRA.
Life. When you think about it, saving lives through the use of peaceable armed self-defense is an essential Second Amendment protection. Without the NRA’s decades of work preparing for the ultimate test before the U.S. Supreme Court back-to-back decisions in Heller and McDonald, the right to keep and bear arms simply would have been extinguished years ago.
Life. Embodied in that word are years of NRA leadership in firearm safety training.
Life. Consider how far we have come in enacting life-saving concealed-carry and “Stand Your Ground” laws—all of which are about giving peaceable individuals the means to protect their lives against criminal predators.
Liberty. Preserving the rights that secure our unique American liberty is what NRA is about. We are the oldest and foremost civil rights organization in the nation.
Pursuit of happiness. For the NRA, the pursuit of happiness represents the exercise of freedom by individual Americans engaging in every conceivable aspect of private firearm ownership—from collecting, to hunting, to the shooting sports, to self-defense.
When I became NRA president, I pledged to work to introduce more people to peaceable gun ownership and to the enjoyment inherent in “pulling triggers.”
That goal will be carried on by incoming president Pete Brownell, who has dedicated his life to maintaining and enhancing all aspects of the shooting sports. You can expect this skilled young man to work to bring into our NRA family the millions of citizens who reacted to Barack Obama’s incessant attacks on the Second Amendment by voting with their pocketbooks and becoming first-time gun owners.
Pete will be a dynamic force for the future of the NRA, especially when it comes to our pursuit of happiness.