Hot on HuffPost:

See More Stories

NRA in Charlotte: Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck and Lots of Guns

3 years ago
  0 Comments Say Something  »
Text Size
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – "No open or concealed carry weapons on Convention Center property," reads the sign outside the Charlotte home of what promises to be one of the biggest events to hit this city -- the 139th annual meeting of the National Rifle Association. How big? From Friday through Sunday, up to 70,000 people are expected to listen to speakers, line up for book signings, and wander through the giant exhibit hall and gun displays. "It's Toys R Us for big boys," a visitor told me.
It's so big that Michael Phelps, in Charlotte for UltraSwim, had trouble finding a room. Any other weekend, he would be the draw. But, with all due respect to the gold medal winner, Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck will no doubt best him in the "enthusiastic applause" heat. Just like the Olympics, there will be lots of red, white and blue.
The theme for this year's NRA meeting is "A Celebration of American Values." While the NRA is nonpartisan, convention speakers do trend Republican, with few exceptions such as N.C. Blue Dog Democrat Rep. Heath Shuler. NRA spokeswoman Rachel Parsons said that when it comes to lawmakers, "if you support us, we support you 100 percent."
Palin, waiving her considerable appearance fee, is the headliner at Friday's "Celebration of American Values Leadership Forum," with support from a long list that includes Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, former ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton, U.S. Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.), Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), Lt. Col. Oliver North and Chuck Norris. The last time I saw the action movie actor, he was jamming at Clemson University with Mike Huckabee during the South Carolina GOP presidential primary race; in Charlotte, he'll be signing copies of "Black Belt Patriotism: How to Reawaken America."
Beck shares a spotlight with Newt Gingrich at Saturday night's "2nd Annual Celebration of American Values Freedom Event," with musical entertainment by Charlie Daniels. Both events move to the larger Time Warner Cable Arena. Gingrich is going to be a busy man that day, also signing copies of "To Save America: Stopping Obama's Secular-Socialist Machine" and speaking at a midday fundraiser for North Carolina GOP Rep. Sue Myrick.
Charlotte, besides having the room and the facilities for the convention, is within driving distance of many of its members. Gun-friendly South Carolina next door had a tax-free gun holiday last fall.
With 4 million members, the NRA has grown because "people are concerned," Parsons said on Thursday as workers assembled booths labeled Winchester, Remington and Smith & Wesson. "People want to make sure their freedoms are protected." The NRA puts the number of gun owners at 80 million.
Parsons cited the 2008 landmark Supreme Court decision, District of Columbia v. Heller, that struck down a D.C. ban on handguns as a sign that passion for the rights guaranteed by the Second Amendment are strong. She's not so pleased by President Obama, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, or Attorney General Eric Holder, who have not done anything, "yet," she said, to curb gun rights. Obama's "had his hand full" with so many other things.
John Fasching, of Naples, Fla., like Parsons and other NRA members, has doubts about the president. In Fasching's view, Obama is "just waiting for the right time," to crack down on gun ownership. Fasching, who turns 55 in July, and his wife, Ann, have come to their first annual meeting to see the exhibits, hear the speakers -- especially Sarah Palin -- and spend time in a place "where everybody feels the same way you do," he said.
It's all mixed up, said Fasching, when people are more likely to "blame the gun than the person" for a crime. He owns "at least 15" guns; Ann has "a nice, pretty, little pink one" she said. They've bought their 12-year-old granddaughter a .22-caliber Beretta for shooting targets, and have already taught her how to take it apart and put it together.
Mel Morganstein, 70, is a retired Army design engineer who lives in Charlotte. A volunteer for the meeting, he was doing whatever he was asked to get ready for Friday's grand opening. We first met at a Wednesday night dress rehearsal for the North Carolina Dance Theatre, where he also volunteers as a photographer and in community outreach. The dance lover and gun owner is a poster child for the NRA's broad reach, and he hates to be pigeonholed, he told me. He's more of a libertarian, he said, than anything.
While I don't want to stereotype, I do believe a Venn diagram of the NRA and the Tea Party movement would show substantial overlap. Both Morganstein and the Faschings are Tea Party members. My Creative Loafing story on the Charlotte Tea Party this week shows the area is fertile ground for discontent with government regulation.
"It's anti-politics," said Morganstein, who this weekend wants to attend workshops by the NRA's Institute for Legislative Action, the group's lobbying arm. "It's about my grandbaby," he said, and showed me her picture, "and what kind of world she's going to have."
Ten years ago, at the 129th annual NRA meeting, also in Charlotte, its president, Charlton Heston, raised his gun in the air and shouted his famous, oft-repeated phrase -- "From my cold, dead hands!" -- to candidate Al Gore, in particular. The late actor's likeness is on a poster at this weekend's Charlotte gathering, not far from one with a slogan for a new decade: "Stop Obama's Gun Grab!"

Our New Approach to Comments

In an effort to encourage the same level of civil dialogue among Politics Daily’s readers that we expect of our writers – a “civilogue,” to use the term coined by PD’s Jeffrey Weiss – we are requiring commenters to use their AOL or AIM screen names to submit a comment, and we are reading all comments before publishing them. Personal attacks (on writers, other readers, Nancy Pelosi, George W. Bush, or anyone at all) and comments that are not productive additions to the conversation will not be published, period, to make room for a discussion among those with ideas to kick around. Please read our Help and Feedback section for more info.

Add a Comment

*0 / 3000 Character Maximum Comment Moderation Enabled. Your comment will appear after it is cleared by an editor.

2 Comments

Filter by:
yorktown1979

Shouldn't Mr. Beck get the Medal of Freedom for disrespecting the First Family? I hope he remembers to chastise those who might disrespect Sarah Palins "fine" family in spite of himself!

June 01 2010 at 8:11 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply

Follow Politics Daily


  • Comics
robert-and-donna-trussell
CHAOS THEORY
Featuring political comics by Robert and Donna TrussellMore>>
  • Woman UP Video
politics daily videos
Weekly Videos
Woman Up, Politics Daily's Online Sunday ShowMore»
politics daily videos
TV Appearances
Showcasing appearances by Politics Daily staff and contributors.More>>