The NRA-ILA Annual Leadership Forum at the NRA Annual Meetings & Exhibits provides gun-rights supporters with one of their best opportunities of the year to hear from freedom-loving politicians who unabashedly support lawful American gun owners.
And like many meetings in past years, the 2023 forum wasn’t without its highlights—and even some surprises.
With superstar celebrities like President Donald Trump (R) and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) on the list of speakers, it could be easy for other invitees to be relegated to the background, but that wasn’t the case with South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R), a stalwart Second Amendment supporter and possible 2024 presidential candidate.
Surprising everyone in the room, including NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre, Gov. Noem called LaPierre back onto the stage so he could be there when she signed an important executive order to protect firearms businesses in her state.
“I’d like to ask Wayne if he would come back out here and join me on stage, because today, I’m going to be signing an executive order to protect your God-given right to keep and bear arms from being infringed upon by financial institutions,” said Noem. “My executive order, effective immediately, blocks state agencies from contracting with large banks that discriminate against firearm-related industries.
“It's not just the media and big government that are attacking our rights. Now we’ve seen banking institutions go after industries that they disagree with. None have been more impacted than those who support the Second Amendment. Well, not on my watch: I won’t stand for it—not in South Dakota.”
LaPierre stood by while Noem signed the executive order, then expressed to her what just about all those in attendance were probably thinking.
“On behalf of everyone in this room, gun owners throughout the country and all our members and firearms owners in the great state of South Dakota, governor, God bless you,” LaPierre said.
The signing of the executive order followed a speech that left no doubt about Noem’s allegiance to the Second Amendment and to America’s lawful gun owners.
“My honor and good sense require me to continue to fight for freedom, and that’s what I’ll do,” she told those gathered at the forum. “As I look around this room, I see resolute faces prepared to stand up for honor and for good sense. You are prepared to defend our right to keep and bear arms. I also see a media, at the back of the room, who insist that we’re crazy for doing so. They’re prepared at times to shame us and to demonize us. I know that they’ll attack me for giving this speech and what I’ve said. But if they think that’s going to stop me, then they weren’t paying very much attention during the pandemic.”
Noem’s signing of the executive order is part of a broader movement by politicians in majority pro-freedom states to protect firearms-related businesses from discrimination by banks and credit card companies.
In Idaho, H.B. 190 was approved by both the House and Senate and signed into law by Gov. Brad Little (R) on March 31. The measure requires that banks and credit unions that are designated depositories for public money do not boycott industries important to the State of Idaho and the livelihood of its citizens, including those that engage in or support the manufacture, distribution, sale, or use of firearms.
Iowa’s legislation prohibiting such discrimination—Senate File 507—continues to move through the legislative process. On March 15, the state House voted 63 to 37 to pass the measure with an amendment that ensures that Iowa taxpayer dollars do not go to businesses that boycott the firearm industry, among other industries. The amended measure has gone back to the state Senate for consideration.
Unfortunately for gun owners and firearms-related businesses in Arizona, Gov. Katie Hobbs (D) vetoed S.B. 1096, a bill that sought to discourage businesses from discriminating against the firearm industry by preventing Arizona taxpayer dollars from going to those that engage in such practices. And a similar measure in Oklahoma recently failed in the Senate’s General Government Committee.