I used to think anyone associated with the National Rifle Association (NRA) was an extremist right-wing, gun-toting, Bud-swilling, war-mongering, pick-up truck-driving, overall-wearing Bubba with a collective IQ of negative 27. Really, I did. Of course, at that time I was a very young, tie-dyed-wearing, pot-smoking, hippie wannabe tree-hugger who thought love was the answer. Wow, that was a long, long time ago and how I’ve changed over the last 30 years or so. Now I’m a lifetime member of the NRA. Really, I am.
Last week I attended the NRA Convention with Devoted Spouse. I had some reservations about this trip, I’ll honestly admit. I am a believer in our Second Amendment rights, but I don’t spend much time thinking about that. I don’t have a problem with guns; I just don’t know much about shooting (which I will soon rectify) and I’m certainly not in favor of hunting unless you are very hungry; very hungry indeed. I am in favor of conceal and carry laws – if I’m out doing what I do and some thug is about to do the wrong thing, I’d like to think some nice concealed weapon-carrying citizen might be there to do the right thing and rescue me. I’m quite comfortable with guns in the hands of law-abiding citizens. So, what’s my point here? As I went to the first day of the Convention, I still harbored the notion, however tiny in the far back reaches of my mind, that NRA members are Bubbas. Three days at this Convention changed my mind. Stereotypes are hard to get rid of, aren’t they?
I saw thousands of normal people, like you and me, visiting vendors who represented everything from guns of every type to trips for outdoor sportsmen (those who want to shoot animals w/rifles, and those who want to shoot animals only with cameras), gun gear, clothing, famous gun personalities from your favorite cable show, quasi-military sniper-types hawking books, gun accessory vendors, sports enthusiast magazine groups, crossbow vendors, ATV and safari-type jeep vehicles, and of course what convention would be complete without at least one NASCAR simulator vehicle? Not a one of these vendors had on overalls.
I did see a few interesting outfits while out on the Convention floor — mind you, some of these folks were representing groups of Wild West shooters and were done up in costumes. But some folks were wearing cowboy-type duds complete with fancy boots and spurs and the requisite ten-gallon hat. This was to be expected. There were alot more ladies than I imagined. Shame on me for being sexist about this — I failed to recognize how many of the top-rated shooters are women. Some of them were there autographing pictures for fans. I have much to learn about the world of shooting. The funniest sight I came upon while there was toward the back of the Convention hall where the food vendors are lined up. At one of the tables sat a nice middle-aged lady. By her feet were several of the vendor plastic bags with names like Smith & Wesson and Glock stuffed full of literature and Convention trinkets. She had a cup of coffee and a piece of pie on the table in front of her. And in her lap was a project she was crocheting, her fingers going a mile a minute. On the other side of the table a vendor was demonstrating a type of mounted laser sight and here sat this lovely lady crocheting. I had visions of the hunter she left at home. Here she was collecting literature for her man, and working on a rifle cozy in her spare time. Mom, apple pie, and the NRA. That’s my America.