NRA in Hou
Firepower and brimstone: Glenn Beck, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin & nine acres of guns at NRA Convention
The National Rifle Association's Annual Meeting comes in two essential parts. There's the exhibition area, which featured literally nine acres of guns and accessories this year thanks to the massive George R. Brown Convention Center.
The NRA has projected upwards of 70,000 attendees for its 2013 gathering. And like any weekend convention, Saturday was designed at the centerpiece of the three-day event, with gun demonstrations and book signings planned throughout the afternoon and a special evening rally led by conservative pundit Glenn Beck.
But while the convention hall was packed with friendly faces checking out the newest gear during the day, Beck's nighttime speech left the sold-out audience with little to smile about. First, let's visit the booths. (Full disclosure, this was my first gun show.)
Daytime: Firepower on the floor
Unlike the six other yearly gun shows at the GRB, firearms aren't actually for sale at the NRA's Annual Meeting.
However, for those interested in holding the most-recent designs from Smith & Wesson or Winchester . . . this is easily the biggest public event in the nation. Every major player of the military-industrial complex is on hand with salespeople eager to show off the newest features on a semi-automatic pistol or an AR-15 assault rifle.
On the whole, exhibitors were focused on their products with nary a mention of gun control or Second Amendment rights. Meanwhile, with swarms of protestors just outside the GRB, representatives with the NRA booth would not speak with the media directly, pointing journalists and reporters to a press room two stories above.
CultureMap spent a surprising three full hours on the convention floor, taking in the booths and chatting with a diverse crowd of hunters, weapons engineers, taxidermists and professional target shooters. There were simulated digital shooting ranges, high-tech camouflage displays and even TV celebrities like "Stone Cold" Steve Austin and Chase Landry from the History Channel's Swamp People.
Nighttime: Brimstone with Beck
After an entertaining performance from Fox NFL Sunday alum Frank Caliendo and a prayer from former colonel Oliver North (yup, that Oliver North), the NRA's Annual Meeting took a darker tone with Glenn Beck's two-hour Stand and Fight Rally speech.
The talk itself was equal parts history lesson, Christian preaching, social critique, and promotion of his Dallas-based cable news channel TheBlaze TV. Beck illustrated his points with a small collection of antique guns and an occasional outburst of tears.
As with the speakers at Friday's NRA Leadership Forum, the TV and radio personality targeted New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, President Obama, the media and France. By the end of the night, Beck also added a host of other foes, including the "progressive elite," hippies, Harvard, Michael Moore, environmentalists, John McCain and pirates (specifically the 18th-century Barbary pirates, which he called "Muslim extremists").
"The right to keep and bears arms shall not be infringed and we will win by strapping on the full armor of God," Beck closed his speech, taking aim at those hoping to enact gun-control legislation. "We shall stand firm in the belt of truth, with the breastplate of righteousness, with the shield of faith, with the helmet of salvation and the sword of the spirit."