With the 151st NRA Annual Meetings and Exhibits in my hometown of Houston still fresh in my mind, I want to give you a report—because what you probably read in the news, and what those of us who attended the event witnessed, were entirely different.
First, I’m grateful and humbled for being re-elected as your NRA President for another year. It’s an honor for me to serve the cause of freedom and the Second Amendment that guarantees our ability to protect ourselves, our families and the individual rights that define and defend our nation.
But what I want to talk about today is you—the NRA members like you whom I met in Houston. The pride, passion, sense of a shared higher purpose and, above all, courage that I witnessed throughout the weekend’s celebration of freedom was like a battery recharge.
If you saw legacy media reports on the Annual Meetings, you probably heard that attendance was down from previous years. More than 61,000 men, women, children and families attended—enough to fill the Houston Astrodome to standing-room-only capacity. Yet, the media tried to portray this as a setback for NRA. During a TV newscast, a report claimed that there were “thousands of protesters” at the NRA convention. While that “newscast” was airing, I was looking down from a window at Discovery Green, where there were no more than 100 protesters. While I suspect the goal was to keep the NRA crowd to a minimum, more than 61,000 loyal NRA members joined us for our first NRA convention in three years. As is always the case, NRA members don’t scare easily.
Let’s be clear: Like all Americans, NRA members are sickened by what happened in Uvalde. We have families, too, and like all good people everywhere, our hearts break and our prayers go out to the families struck by that horror. We share the world’s outrage and wish that there were a way to ensure such a monstrous crime could never happen again. But, we also know that evil cannot be banished from the earth by any law. So, what we will not do, and never will, is surrender our ability to defend ourselves and our families from that evil, or from anyone who would do us harm.
Yet, that’s what many in the anti-gun press and political class want us to do. They’re pushing every kind of anti-gun policy you can imagine. President Biden called for a ban on the most-popular rifles in America or “at least” a ban on anyone under the age of 21 from buying them, a ban on standard-capacity magazines, so-called “red-flag” laws that would deny your right to self-defense without due process, repeal of the law protecting America’s firearm industry from frivolous lawsuits and more.
And they’re not just demanding new laws—they’re also inciting the lawless. In a June 3 article for National Public Radio affiliate WAMC in Albany, N.Y., retired professor Michael Meeropol even went so far as to urge readers to level “personal attacks” on NRA board members, including “activities that might land oneself in jail.”
It takes courage to confront evil. When faced with lies, hatred and irrational anger, it takes guts to stand for principle, reason and truth. But, that kind of courage is exactly what I saw in Houston from NRA members like you.
Yes, there are things we can do to make our nation safer: We need to secure our schools and protect our children. We need to support law enforcement with the training and resources they depend on to protect us. Over the past 60 years, NRA has trained nearly 60,000 law enforcement firearms instructors—more than any other group. We need to put violent criminals behind bars and keep them there—with no bail, no deals and no early releases for dangerous predators. These are the things that’ll make us safer.
Demonizing lawful, peaceable people, defunding police, ”decriminalizing” offenses, abolishing bail, releasing inmates, denying fundamental human rights, disarming victims—all these things cost innocent lives.
The NRA members like you that I spoke with in Houston understand that and aren’t afraid to stand up and say so. So, it makes me proud and humbled to stand among you, and it gives me great hope for America’s future.