When I see an NRA hat across the room, I smile because I know that person is a boldly proud American. I know that person is for individual freedom. I know that man or woman is someone we can count on when times are hard. I know that individual appreciates how unique and fragile this American freedom of ours really is.
I know all this because no other membership can tell as much about a person as an NRA shirt or hat. There simply has never been another association like the NRA.
So yes, I feel stronger when I see those hats.
I feel this way because I know the NRA stands for liberty. And who is the NRA, but you? And I do mean you. You are part of the wall protecting our Second Amendment, the right that protects the rest of our rights, and America needs you now more than ever.
Other nations, even when they’ve gotten their hands on real freedom, have lost key parts of their natural rights because they didn’t have an NRA. The media elite doesn’t want you to realize that fundamental truth about America and your NRA. They also don’t want you to know just how unusual and precious this American freedom is. Their mission is to destroy the NRA by whatever means they can dream up, because they know a strong NRA protects a cornerstone of American liberty and thereby impedes their goal of attaining power over you.
Lately, the mainstream media has been trying to get their way by attacking me personally. They have sunk to targeting me with horribly dishonest ad hominem attacks. I’ve quietly disregarded much of this, knowing I can take all the spin and outright lies they can concoct. What none of us can stand still for, however, is their attempt to fool the American electorate into voting away their hard-won freedoms.
This is why I want to speak plainly to tell you what your NRA has done and what our future can hold if we continue to stand together.
We’ve Come A Long Way Together
In this critical election season, the mainstream media, and many of the politicians now running for the Democratic nomination for president, want us to lose our way in clouds of their disinformation. They want us to lose momentum, to turn against each other and to forget what we’re fighting for.
At times like these it’s critical to remember that all of the Second Amendment freedom you now enjoy didn’t just come to you organically. It was earned, political battle by battle, thanks to your NRA membership dues and support. The simple truth is there is no other gun-rights organization anything like the NRA. There is no association other than the NRA that can continue to protect your freedom and to pry more of your rights from the clutches of government.
I started as a state lobbyist for the NRA in 1978, on the staff of the NRA Institute for Legislative Action (ILA), which had been founded in 1975. Today, ILA’s ability to fight successfully for the rights of America’s law-abiding gun owners directly reflects the support of NRA’s 5.5 million members—a number that has more than tripled since 1978. Now, when restrictive gun-control legislation is proposed at the local, state or federal level, NRA members and supporters are alerted and respond with individual letters, faxes, emails and calls to their elected representatives to make their views known.
In the 1980s, we were just learning how to do this. During this time I learned from great leaders, such as Harlon B. Carter, and was part of a team you funded to protect your freedom. I was first the Director of State and Local, then Federal Affairs and then the Executive Director of ILA. There was a void in our media strategy at this critical time as we fought in legislatures and in Congress. So, I stepped in and did media interviews in each position to help advance our freedom. In doing so, I inadvertently emerged as the fighting face of the NRA.
In 1991, I became Executive Vice President of the NRA. It wasn’t a position I sought. I tried to recruit candidates from within the board and even reached out to some notable names in D.C. But, no one was willing. So, I stepped up.
So, when no one else at the NRA was willing to appear on national media, I would go on and articulate how the American public feels about their constitutional rights. I would take the heat as the resolute voice and face of the NRA. It came at a very high personal cost—one that I bear still today. But, not doing it would have been calamitous for our Second Amendment.
Let’s look back together for a moment, as it’s critical that we not forget what we’ve accomplished together.
A History Of Fighting For Freedom
It is easy to forget that 30 years ago the Second Amendment was on its deathbed. To resuscitate this fundamental freedom, the NRA became a fighting brand for you and your rights.
We turned our attention to The Gun Control Act of 1968. Under this legislation, a person didn’t even need to have intent to break the law to find themselves facing a felony. The government could even enter a gun store every day simply to harass them out of business. In the mid-1980s, the NRA fought to change this so the law would be better focused on targeting criminals, not law-abiding gun owners.
After about a decade of work, the NRA convinced Congress to overhaul the entire Gun Control Act of 1968 and passed The Firearm Owners' Protection Act of 1986. This act did a lot for you. It protected legal gun dealers from harassment. It even forbade the U.S. government from creating or keeping a gun registry of firearms owners. It was signed into law by President Ronald Reagan.
Changing The Gun Control Act of 1968 was a big win, but it was just the beginning.
Thanks to the NRA, the dominoes of gun-control laws were soon falling.
NRA Grew Your Right To Carry
A big part of this struggle is and was your right to carry a concealed firearm–after all, the Second Amendment protects your right to keep and bear arms.
It is easy to forget that, in the mid-1980s, even Texas had a bad concealed-carry law. The NRA fought, state by state, to turn “may-issue” states—places where local licensing authorities can decide, based on their own personal feelings or any rationale they can dream up, to deny any citizen their right to carry a concealed firearm for self-defense—into “shall-issue” jurisdictions. In the 1980s most states were “no-issue” or “may-issue,” but over the past 30 years, thanks in large part to the NRA, this has changed completely. Now only eight states are considered “may issue.”
We still have a long way to go on this issue. We need “national reciprocity,” for example, and your NRA has been lobbying for federal legislation that will allow law-abiding U.S. citizens to travel with their handguns without worrying about being locked up because they’ve crossed into a state like New Jersey.
We also need the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down the unconstitutional infringement that allows local licensing agents to wield “may-issue” powers. The Second Amendment is an individual right that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled also restricts state and local governments. American citizens should obviously be able to travel with this right intact.
With this in mind, it’s worth asking how many lives have been saved by right-to-carry laws over the last three decades. Crimes averted are a difficult thing to measure, but it is a big number. I remember a call I received from a woman who was driving from the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) when two thugs intentionally ran her off the road. They jumped out of their vehicle and were coming at her with a tire iron. She pulled her handgun, and they ran.
“I just want you to know, Wayne, you saved my life,” she said to me because the NRA had fought to change the carry laws in Texas.
Real stories like this one need to be told, but too few in the national media are honest enough to do that.
The NRA Did So Much More
I hate lists because they diminish each achievement, but there were so many critical political battles for your rights that we can’t possibly fit them all here.
NRA wins for your rights over the last three decades include:
• The NRA passed Stand-Your-Ground laws and Castle Doctrine laws enabling you to save your life by lawful self-defense against criminals and criminal intruders. In 2005, the NRA helped enact the nation’s first Stand-Your-Ground law in Florida. Today there are 27 states with similar laws and another seven states have Stand-Your-Ground laws in practice–either through case law, precedent or jury instructions.
• The NRA fought again and again to save gun shows.
• The NRA defeated, in states from New York to California, so-called “micro-stamping” laws.
• The NRA killed the Obama administration’s Operation Choke Point.
• The NRA got preemption bills passed to stop attacks on gun-owner rights by local anti-gun politicians. Incredibly, from 1981 through 1991, the NRA helped bring the number of states with firearm preemption laws to 41. Today, there are 45 states that limit the authority of municipalities to regulate firearms and ammunition.
• The NRA eliminated the federal Assault Weapons Ban of 1994 in 2004, and is fighting new attempts to arbitrarily ban popular semi-automatic firearms today.
Thanks to NRA lobbying, since 1994, the number of states that have range protection laws has risen from eight to 48.
Today there are 22 states that have enshrined the right to hunt in their constitutions, with most of them adopting language developed by the NRA.
Together we stopped the government from ever again confiscating your firearms during times of emergency as they did in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, where they went into citizens' homes when there was a complete breakdown of police protection, confiscated their firearms and left them completely defenseless in the chaos and darkness. Now, thanks to the NRA, emergency-powers laws prohibit government entities, whether state or local, from suspending our right to keep and bear arms during a declared state of emergency. Since Katrina, NRA has passed such protections in 33 states.
It’s hard to overemphasize the importance of the NRA-backed Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA). President George W. Bush signed the PLCAA into law in 2005. The PLCAA prevents firearms manufacturers and dealers from being held liable for illegal misuse of their products—criminals need to pay for their crimes, not the manufacturer that made and sold a legal product. This bill literally saved the American firearms industry from certain bankruptcy.
All of that just touches on the victories for your rights the NRA has been instrumental in achieving legislatively. The NRA has, meanwhile, been busy growing the shooting sports. The NRA now sanctions more than 12,000 shooting tournaments and sponsors more than 50 national championships each year.
Just consider a few numbers:
• NRA state associations and local clubs: over 12,000
• NRA target-shooting tournaments annually: over 12,000
• NRA certified instructors and range safety officers: 112,000
• Individuals attending NRA firearm courses annually: over 800,000
• NRA Law Enforcement firearm instructors: over 12,000
• NRA certified competitive shooting coaches: 5,000
With that taste of what your NRA has done over the last three decades and more, now we need to look to the future.
The Future Of Your Freedom
On May 20, 2016, the NRA endorsed Donald J. Trump for president of the United States. The reason for our early endorsement was due to the extreme gun-control stance of Hillary Clinton. In the 2016 presidential election, the NRA spent more than $60 million in support of Donald Trump, more than any other independent group in that election, and three times what it spent in the 2012 presidential election.
As a result of going all–in to back President Trump, we now have a solid pro-Second Amendment majority on the Supreme Court with the addition of Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch. President Trump has also filled the U.S. Court of Appeals with, as this was being written, 43 judges and the U.S. District Courts with 83 judges.
With this in mind, ask yourself what the value of your NRA membership card is. Then ask yourself where we would be today if America didn’t have the NRA. Finally, realize that we need to come together as never before in this 2020 election cycle.
As NRA members, we know that no one should have to face evil with their bare hands. We know that government protects only what it wants to protect. We know the elites are always protected. We know the NRA is about you and every other citizen’s Second Amendment rights.
By God, we believe in the unique benefits of American freedom. We do this because we know all of our freedom can be wiped out in a historical blink. If the current leaders of the Democratic Party win the Senate in 2020, the first thing they’ll do is toss out the filibuster rule so they can get their way. If they also hold the House and take the White House—I’m only taking them at their word here—then they’ll come after your guns.
This is why we need patriots like you to step forward now. We need more members. Who will stand up for you if not the NRA? In the future, generations will look back and thank you for standing tall for their freedom.