This was a little weird, in a good way. My parents, you know from Facebook posts are 97 & 95, threw me a curveball. I am not often in town (northern Virginia) so usually my wife and siblings deal with more than my preparing an occasional meal (bad on me, but for now it is what it is). On my way to join them for dinner, Mom calls to ask if I’d take them out for the evening. Mom got this idea that Pop just HAD to attend the community annual business meeting, they’d been attending since 1966. Notwithstanding, getting late 90-year-olds fed, dressed and out of the house, that’s not the weird part. The meeting was in MY elementary school. OK, weird, or odd, or just retrospectively different. I sat in the cafeteria for the first time since way before many of you reading were born. Decades, multiple decades. You may not know my age but could figure it out by my more-publicly-known West Point class i.e. old. Got this urge and went and found my classroom. Holy cow, even with renovations and updates, the same small walk-thru closet! Sneaking my way around the halls, glanced out a window and saw the field (now with a finished track??) I learned to love soccer and track & field. I was different then, in this school. We had come back from five years growing up in Europe on military bases. I transformed in Junior High and became ‘me’, for better and worse, in High School. But, this school, that cafeteria, classroom and field are strong memories.
Our host for this meeting was a very generous Bass Pro Shops conservationist, fisherman, patriot Johnny Morris. One afternoon, we went to Big Cedar Lodge, outside Branson MO on the Arkansas border. The Ozark’s are beautiful and reminded me of the Shenandoah mountains. Did a golf cart for the nature trail. Then could tour their museum but .. instead had a little time for sporting clays at the Bass Pro Outdoor Academy. I’m crappy for lack of practice (I don’t) but enjoy seeing how crappy each time I get the opportunity. One of my ‘team’ was Steve Hornady (yeah, THAT Hornady. You probably have a box of his ammo in your bag.) who repeatedly told our young guide that we had time for ‘just one more’ station (we shot a lot). I missed some pigeons but you can be certain that when I broke clay … it was mostly luck. Damn, those things are fast. Pig roast was part of dinner, country music off the back of an old flatbed, cigars around the corner with the cool guys afterwards.
Unfortunately bailed on the Historic Automobiles Museum to spend more time shopping at Bass Pro Shops and shooting some video at the NRA Sporting Arms Museum.
The Professional Bull Riding Association was in town for the weekend, part of their tour to determine the finalists for the World Championship coming in November. Having joined us at yesterday’s NRA President’s reception, PBR invited us to their rodeo.
Mean bulls, crazy cowboys, and hot cowgirls. My kinda of Americans. EVERYONE bowed their head in prayer. Then, they had this 20’x15′ US flag that four veterans rappelled from the rafters, THEN, their Governor (Greiten’s is a former SEAL) friggin’ rappelled down to join us in the National Anthem for which E.V.E.R.Y.O.N.E. stood (and doffed their cowboy or baseball caps). Like I said, my sorta people.
I’m slow or have to figure how to do this in a more timely manner. Our meeting ended Saturday night, not writing until Wednesday. September NRA Board meeting is routinely of less scale than the others. Some because of the annual schedule of competitions, training, hunting season and such, and some because of the legislative calendar. As an example, I kept the two committees from last year and now am on five committees – Military & Veterans Affairs, Outreach, Grassroots Development, Legislative Affairs, and Federal Legislative Affairs. Only Legislative Affairs met this week, though Grassroots held a meeting by conference call last Monday (I missed while on a plane out of Milwaukee Carry Guard Expo). I am often conflicted-out of committees because of my schedule, so this time I dropped in to Gun Collectors. Over the course of four days with some 10-11 committee meetings, we conclude with our thrice-annual Board meeting for the better part of a day. In between committees, and during some evenings, we have formal (scheduled) or informal (just us getting together) activities or explore on our own. I am not often in the mid-west (Springfield MO), so lots of explore-fun. I don’t take or post many meeting photos, and the full Board meeting does not allow for photos or recordings (nor any electronic devices). One event each meeting is the President’s reception. This was pretty special. Johnny Morris, of Bass Pro Shops, graciously hosted us to a sneak preview (opens later this month) of his Wonders of Nature 300,000 sf, 35,000 animal (mostly fish species) Aquarium. Amazing. One walks for a little over a mile to experience every nature environment (hmmm, I don’t now recall the arctic). It was neat. Bass Pro and NRA, both leaders in conservation, have a solid partnership. We, the NRA Board, in turn, invited the leaders of the Professional Bull Riders Association (in town on tour) to further our partnership with them.
Now for a little business before moving to the next blog post. President Pete Brownell recounted some of the many successes operationally and legislatively NRA enjoyed recently. He focused us on the future of Carry Guard and the need to work as a team (all our committees) as we move into 2018. 1st VP Richard Childress highlighted our on-line Hunter’s Education Program and the move by PETA and Humane Society to villianize our American culture of hunting. 2d VP Carolyn Meadows recapped NRAAM with 82,000 attending. Exec VP Wayne LaPierre gave an overview of the huge amount and span of NRA staff work, including working with Interior Secretary Zinke. NRA ‘brand’ is solid, people believe in and trust us. Details of General Operations (Josh Powell) and Institute for Legislative Affairs (Chris Cox) went next. Operationally: many new and good staff changes, Carry Guard is ahead of goals, basic firearms training and CCW training is increasing, and NRA is introducing a college version of Refuse to be a Victim. Legislatively: we got Gorsuch at SCOTUS, Attorney General Sessions, rolled back the Obama social security crap and ended Operation Choke Point (those affects are going to felt for a while), Reciprocity should come to a vote this fall, Sportsman package this week (just passed out of committee). Each committee chair reported, in turn. While a lot of updates, there were few action items for the full Board to consider. Bottom line for now – NRA is in “good” post-election financial and organizational shape going into 2018, and becoming better organized for myriad General Ops functions. “Good” is highlighted because we recovered better than we thought we could following a tough 2016-2017 (this is a good thing), nor are we in ‘great’ shape. There are a couple months until the next full Board meeting, though committees meet throughout the year. For more, go Like www.facebook.com/WillesLeeNRA.
No other organization does more across the 2A and firearms spectrum as NRA. Always under heat for not doing enough (Reciprocity vs Constitutional Carry), doing too much (Carry Guard), not doing it well-enough (blended training), I’ll add this note compiled from various sources. If not for NRA stepping up in the 70’s with ILA (sort of a result of the run up to the ’68 gun control legislation) then we don’t have ANY concealed carry. In fact, at the same time we were winning Florida conceal carry, it was debated whether to altogether ban handguns. If not for NRA continued defending of freedom, we don’t have many states now with conceal carry, and more than a dozen with constitutional carry. This is on top of our self-determined mission to conduct firearms training and safety. Put all that together, and arguments over whether NRA should be in the insurance business become moot. Without NRA, there is no firearms insurance business. With NRA as the gold-standard, there is no doubt that everything will be measured against NRA training and insurance protection. Instead, this is the time for all 2A-supporting organizations to work towards the same goals – national reciprocity (constitutional carry will come), hearing protection and bringing common sense to the NFA, Sportsman package, Second Amendment Guarantee, securing hunting in our American culture.
This week is the World Championships at Peacemaker. Yeah, NRA runs that, too.
Had a couple minutes after the range at NRA HQ to stick my head inside the NRA’s National Firearms Museum. Just to see what’s up. In a rush, only 45 minutes later I was on my way having gotten a rush (no pun intended) again from the new displays, speaking to every museum visitor from far and near, and touring the new Thompson .45 display and soon-to-be Bolt Action Rifle display with the passionate Ernie Lyles, NRA Museum Special Projects Coordinator and President of the Virginia Gun Collectors Association. Phil and Jim were NOT there this hour (but can’t do a museum post without mentioning them).
I putz now. Having run all my life, run competitively, and trained full time, I am reduced to putzing. Not even yet back to jogging. No excuses, had my left knee scoped last fall, picked up some weight during the NRA campaign, and just now getting back to getting back in shape (it is really that whole cardio thing). So, I am out putzing yesterday and a high school cross-country team is holding time trials. Yeah, I’m old but THAT I remember. S.U.C.K.S. Boys had just finished, girls were running. It was thrilling to watch these young people push themselves. The fast, sleek speedsters, you could pick out the upperclassmen and tell who were the first-timers. (These days, boys and girls look younger every day). It is exciting to see young people committed. The front of the pack looked like athletes who had prepared for this day. The back of the pack looked like the youngsters forced by their parents to “try out for something” or “it’ll be good for your college resume”. All of it was fun to watch, and remember (can’t help it – that “Glory Days” song wedges into your brain). I asked a young man, a boy, which school? “Washington and Lee”. Oh, cross-town rivals. In a flash, out of the past from decades ago, my memories of the competition, dislike, and fights while playing soccer, running track against these kids from the other side of the county. Now, they are all just our children (or grand-children), some running under the anxious eyes of their stage-moms and -dads along the course with stopwatches. Oh, well. I finished my putzing for this day. Later, when recounting this flash of past rivalry, a friend asked (bringing the discussion to modern politics) how long before those liberals (yeah, it is THAT part of town) would call to tear down or rename their own school something other than “Washington” or “Lee”?
(Political correctness already hit my high school. Having been a proud Warrior all my life, now they are, well, something else not Indian or American-Indian or probably even tough-like. A bunch of over-zealous, snowflakes raising generations of snowflakes.)
Left Nashville, in a hurry to Milwaukee for the inaugural NRA Carry Guard Expo (Renamed from the Personal Protection Expo). NRA reports 14,000 attend. It was a great success, and I am happy for the NRA & Milwaukee. Landed an immediately called BFF Amanda Suffecool (Eye on the Target Radio, and now, Concealed Carry Fashion Show guru) for dinner at Maders. I grew up in and then served eight years in Germany, our daughters were born there, love the food. We ran into favorite Jenn Jacques (from Bearing Arms, our conscience) and NRA’s Andy Lander out with the team of our (thankfully) major sponsor Crossbreed. Friday attended a couple seminars (How fast a draw is fast enough?, and Home defense.), lunch with great folks visiting CG, walked the exhibition floor. Way cool was the simulator to get schooled in a safe “threatening” environment. NRA Range had several ranges set up, Wall of Guns (still trying to find out why the Wall didn’t have actual firearms instead of just photos), Eddie Eagle, NRATV team with Cam Edwards. Brat and cheese curds and (something like) Cow beer that night.
Now getting blurry. Saturday was exhibit floor. Found a neat clip to hold back up magazines (yeah, thank you, I know the difference ‘tween a clip and a mag) in my pocket, and the husband + wife team are from down the road near Quantico. For our crowd, big names included Colion Noir, Mark Geist, Dana Loesch doing meet and greet book-signings. Protest and protestors were a bust, but these were not Antifa violent idiots. Met with NRA team, which ended when we couldn’t get the Mayweather-McGregor fight so I busted back to the hotel to watch. It was fun, room full of 2A rowdies enjoying being together off the exhibition hall floor. Note here: our NRA CG trainers are mostly former SEAL bubbas (mostly Seal Team 6, Dev Group). Those who aren’t are another flavor of US Special Ops. I’ve told others before that these are the most amazingly talented people anywhere, and you’d never know to look at or speak with them. These are good folks, doing good work.
So Sunday morning, said a prayer, and went over to go through the CG virtual reality station. Gets your attention when the instructor asks if you’re carrying and where – just so he can intervene if you go into reality mode during this virtual scenario! Geared up with head piece and earphones and plastic ‘firearm’, they put me in a convenience store when an armed robber comes in, grabs a women, puts us on our knees, asks for money. I’m waiting for him to leave the cover of the counter because I know today I can’t make the shot between the counter and the woman, the instructor is whispering in my ear “shoot him”, then it got darn near like “just friggin shoot him already”. I take the shot and, no kiddin, bad guy goes down. Here’s where the lesson begins. LEO bust in, I drop the ‘weapon’, get handcuffed, and hauled downtown. The police interrogation begins…. duh, I should have had Carry Guard insurance. Lesson over.
I tried a live Facebook from CG and the exhibit hall and floor but the stream was streaming so well, it was a fiasco. Lunch with good friend then……….. popped to the Harley-Davidson Museum. Very, very cool. Until leaving when I noticed the door sign “no firearms”. Wait. What? At Harley-Davidson? (What to do? I contacted Jan Morgan down at the Gun Cave in Arkansas, she’s reaching out to the H-D folks). Long week, including Nashville RNC in suit and tie, long weekend in Milwaukee never in suit and tie, I am way ready to get moving.
A lot more of this is on WillesLeeNRA Facebook page. Go check, Like if you like.