“I AM FREEDOM” | NRA’s 152nd Annual Meetings & Exhibits

In a celebration of freedom like no other, tens of thousands of NRA members gathered together in Indy.

posted on July 21, 2023
NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre
Photos: NRA

NRA Exective Vice President Wayne LaPierre told NRA members, “Second Amendment freedom is the most precious thing we have. ... Year after year, election after election, the NRA stands, we fight, and we win!”

In a show of strength, 77,246 NRA members celebrated our Second Amendment freedom in a display of patriotism, solidarity and fun at NRA’s 152nd Annual Meetings and Exhibits in Indianapolis, April 13-15. This year, regular NRA members volunteered to have their faces and their stories put proudly on display on banners throughout the halls of the Indianapolis Convention Center. “Defend the Second” they proudly proclaimed.

They were backed up by the words of NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre, who spoke boldly, loudly and proclaimed what freedom is, what it means—and what it costs—in his own speech on “I Am Freedom” during the Annual Meeting of Members. Representing the voice of freedom, he said, “I am freedom, and I’m proud, and all I ask in return is that you talk about me, stand up for me, tell your kids why so many have died for me … I am offended that career criminals that abuse me are set free time and time again. I’m offended when DAs don’t do their jobs, and prosecutors don’t do the jobs they were hired to do. … I am freedom, and I’m more relevant than ever.” You can watch in its entirety at americanrifleman.org/content/i-am-freedom.

former Georgia Congressman Bob Barr
At the Indianapolis Convention Center, there were more than 14 acres of guns and gear on display for NRA members (left). Longtime NRA Director and former Georgia Congressman Bob Barr (right) was elected NRA first vice president. David G. Coy was re-elected second vice president.

The NRA-ILA Leadership Forum on Friday afternoon drew thousands, and they were addressed by NRA leaders, including LaPierre and President Charles Cotton, but there were also messages delivered by our national leaders, including congressmen, senators and governors, as well as by Indiana’s own former governor and former Vice President Mike Pence. Capping the event was a rousing speech from 45th President of the United States, Donald Trump. For a more detailed report on the forum, turn the page.

In the exhibit hall, there were more than 14 acres of guns and gear, allowing NRA members to handle the latest and greatest in new firearms, visit with guides and outfitters and take in the educational exhibits put together by NRA’s gun-collecting affiliates.

There were also dozens of workshops, celebrity appearances and free seminars  offered for NRA members, including the NRA-ILA Grassroots Workshop, how to get into long-range shooting and talks on the “Guns of the Russo-Ukrainian War” and “Sniping in Ukraine.” While waiting on a Wall of Guns drawing, Life Member Mike Williams summed up the feelings of many in the enthusiastic crowd. “This is great. It’s fantastic to be here with so many freedom-loving patriots. We are back!” he said.

NRA Life member, hunter and South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem was recognized at the 2023 NRA Hunters’ Leadership Forum with the NRA Distinguished Hunters Leadership Award to honor her leadership in protecting the future of hunting and wildlife conservation. “How dare we leave [our children] less of a country than we grew up in,” said Gov. Noem, who also appeared at the NRA-ILA Leadership Forum. “Talk about the Constitution, the Bill of Rights—about what secures freedom.” This year saw the return of the National Friends of NRA Banquet and Auction Thursday night, raising money for worthy causes.

At the 15th Annual NRA-ILA Dinner & Auction, Life Member Raul Mendez told his incredible story of how, despite being shot in the head, he was able to save his family by drawing his concealed handgun and “putting four shots” into the attacker, “sending him straight to Hell.” His family trains hard, tells of their experiences, and this is their message: “This family will never be victims again.”

NRA Annual Meetings
The Friends of NRA Banquet & Auction was held Thursday night and the Annual NRA-ILA Dinner & Auction (top left) was on Friday evening after the NRA-ILA Leadership Forum. Cutting the ribbon to start the event (top ctr.) was the Potterfield family— (l. to r.) Eliza, Brenda, Jay, Larry and Sarah—of Midway USA, which was the official sponsor. NRA President Charles Cotton was elected to a third term (top ctr.). “The highest purpose of a firearm is to protect innocent life,” he said. At the Women’s Leadership Forum, NRA Director and North Carolina Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson said,“ [Y]ou shatter the left-wing narratives of women not shooting, women hating guns ... and despising the NRA, despising gun rights and being complacent on the constitution. At the Member’s Meeting (above), the oldest Life member-—for the third year in a row—was Herbert A. Louis. The youngest was Lillian Raney (below, r.) of the David A. Raney family.

At the 17th NRA Women’s Leadership Forum Luncheon, North Carolina Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson focused on women leaders since the beginning of time. “Throughout history, it has always been women who stood up in the role of leadership, taking a role to ensure that freedom reigns—always. Wherever there has been a revolution, that revolution did not survive or did not get started until the women got mad.”

At the official prayer breakfast on Sunday, author Jimmy Sites of Spiritual Outdoor Adventures delivered a relatable sermon based on waterfowl adventures with his friends the Robertsons of “Duck Dynasty” fame and through audience participation that demonstrated how “the devil has a 3D plan to distract, deceive and desensitize.”

After the crowds cleared, the NRA Board of Directors met to discuss association business. Following a recommendation from the Bylaws & Resolutions Committee, the Board amended the bylaws to allow Charles Cotton’s election to a third term as NRA president. Bob Barr was elected first vice president and David Coy was re-elected as second vice president. Wayne LaPierre was re-elected executive vice president, and he named Randy Kozuch as the executive director of the Institute for Legislative Action and Joseph P. DeBergalis Jr. as executive director of General Operations.

Plans are underway for a celebration of freedom as big as Texas for the 153rd NRA Annual Meetings and Exhibits in Dallas, May 16-19, 2024. We’ll see you there!


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