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NRA convention opens in Indy; activists get busy in Puyallup

Phil Watson with Protect Our Gun Rights is coordinating a volunteer effort this weekend in Puyallup.
Phil Watson

It was raining in Indianapolis this morning, but that won’t dampen the spirits of tens of thousands of gun owners gathering here for the opening day of the National Rifle Association’s 143rd annual convention, nor is the same wet forecast going to keep people away from the monthly Puyallup gun show, where volunteers will be passing out thousands of bumper stickers.

Those bumper stickers, according to Phil Watson with Protect Our Gun Rights (POGR), the group pushing Initiative 591, will be handed to people this weekend as they leave the Washington Arms Collectors gun show, a monthly event. A competing gun show at the Tacoma Dome is getting some attention from backers of Initiative 594, the 18-page gun control measure touted as a so-called “universal background check” proposal.

There are many parallels between the NRA gathering at the Indianapolis Convention Center and Washington gun shows. Anti-gunners are targeting the events, as Examiner reported earlier this week. Several groups of pro-gun women will be outside the convention center in Indy to counter a much smaller demonstration by Moms Demand Action/Everytown for Gun Safety, the $50 million “grassroots” gambit financed by anti-gun billionaire Michael Bloomberg.

On the other hand, Watson’s effort in Puyallup will demonstrate what most people consider real grassroots. Yesterday, POGR issued a call for volunteers to hand out bumper stickers Saturday and Sunday, with two shifts both days, mornings and afternoons.

Yesterday saw Colin Goddard, senior policy advocate for Bloomberg’s Everytown project, announce what promises to be a “powerful new TV ad that takes on the NRA's leadership directly.” Goddard appears in the ad, and he’s bragging that it gives him the chance to “say a lot of things to the leaders of the NRA” since he was shot at Virginia Tech seven years ago.

Goddard’s message was an appeal for money to pay for the advertisement, which may seem superfluous to some, considering the millions of dollars Bloomberg has already dumped into his campaign. This comes on the heels of another video depicting a home gun accident involving children, a tragedy that has nothing to do with the current drive to expand background checks. This Bloomberg-financed video was released a few days ago.

Shannon Watts, founder of the Moms group and an Indiana resident, told USA Today that she hopes the “NRA leadership will find out while they are in Indianapolis that many Indiana residents favor tighter controls on guns, including stricter background checks on gun buyers,” the newspaper said. Watts, in an e-mail quoted by the paper, said “It's time for NRA leadership to stand with responsible gun owners and its own members instead of gun manufacturers and lobbyists who profit from easy access to firearms.”

This appears to be part of an overall strategy to drive a wedge between NRA’s leadership and its members. This has been an on-going effort for the past few years, portraying NRA leaders as extremists, while insisting that polling data shows strong NRA member support for various gun control measures including background checks. Everytown does have its supporters.

“It's (NRA Chief Executive) Wayne LaPierre and the other NRA leadership who need some Hoosier sensibility, which we hope they'll get while they're in the Heartland,” Watts said in the e-mail.

That may be put to the test this weekend, as gun owners gathering in Indy, Puyallup and Tacoma could have a far different message. Tired of being penalized for crimes they did not commit, with proposed regulations that would not have prevented the crimes for which they are being pushed in response, Second Amendment activists just might roll up their sleeves and declare that they have had enough.

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