Gun Rights Policy Conference 2014

September 27, 2014 – Hyatt Regency Chicago O’Hare

Last Saturday, the 29th annual Gun Rights Policy Conference (GRPC), sponsored by the Second Amendment Foundation (SAF) and the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms (CCRKBA), convened in Chicago. A closure of O’Hare airport yesterday took a toll on the presenters and attendees – some (half) jokingly suggesting this was a ploy by anti-gun Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to undermine the conference. But a few hundred people have nonetheless gathered to hear a line-up of over 50 speakers in over 20 sessions begin held Saturday and Sunday.


Not having attended the GRPC before, I was immediately struck by how different it was from the NRA Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA) “Leadership Forum” I attended for the first time at the NRA annual meeting in Houston (2013). The NRA-ILA Leadership Forum was basically a pep rally and platform for potential Republican presidential nominees. The GRPC, by contrast, is a seriously sober affair.

The event began with federal affairs briefings (The Firearms Coalition, Gun Owners of America, National Shooting Sports Foundation), two state legislative briefings (representatives from 10 states), and an overview of what is happening with international firearms treaties (3 presenters). All that before lunch.


It continued with an awards luncheon hosted by nationally syndicated radio personality Tom Gresham of Gun Talk and featuring an address by attorney Alan Gura, famous for having spearheaded the Heller and McDonald Supreme Court cases.

Eight more sessions followed in the afternoon, featuring such prominent figures as the gun rights movement’s house economist, John Lott, authors Chris Bird and Alan Korwin, and two of the most interesting people in the gun world in my view, Massad Ayoob (humanitarian gun trainer) and Gene Hoffman of the CalGuns Foundation.

Perhaps the only person who approximated a tone of enthusiasm was Korwin, who asked everyone, “Are you pro-gun?” And responded with a rousing, “No!” He insisted that the audience think of themselves as pro-freedom, pro-rights, pro-liberty. As believers in the core American values: religion and morality, individual rights, limited government, low taxation. As centrists. They, he suggested of the anti-gunners, are the radicals. Which is another way of saying that for many people in the gun rights movement, it’s not about the guns. It’s about something bigger than that.

By the end of the day, my brain was full and not even contemplating another half-dozen sessions and twice that many speakers on the agenda for Sunday. As a brain-busting bonus, I had plenty of reading material from the conference to look at on my train ride back to the city. Everything pictured below was provided to every attendee free of charge.


  1. “He insisted that the audience think of themselves as pro-freedom, pro-rights, pro-liberty. As believers in the core American values: religion and morality, individual rights, limited government, low taxation.”

    I love how speakers at these meetings always insist that they are “non-partisan” and then immediately go in to an arrogant rant like the one above. Who appointed those guys the definers of American “core” values? I didn’t and neither did anyone else. But get a bunch of people in a room who believe what you believe and you can say whatever you want, right? You refer to John Lott as the “in-house” economist of the gun rights movement. And who appointed him?

    Know what? I would take this whole bunch seriously if they would once actually give speaking time to someone who holds a contrary view. Just once and then maybe their core values would mean something. But when you parade speaker after speaker up in front of an audience who are all saying exactly the same thing you know what you have? A pep rally, certainly not a serious exchange of views about anything.

    Come on David. You can do better than that..


    • The point of the GRPC is not to debate gun control, but to develop policy and strategies that best further the Second Amendment. It draws a widely diverse group that varies from religious conservatives to libertarian. The “gun culture” cuts across the traditional one-dimensional left-right shorthand that the dominant media reinforces. Many of us have to hold our noses when we vote and make endorsements through gritted teeth because, for us, the gun issue trumps many others, even issues that may be important.

      There are often sharp disagreements within the gun community in terms of strategy or tactics. That’s one reason the conference exists — to exchange ideas and debate tactics. David has elsewhere remarked the absence of the NRA at this year’s conference. That’s too bad. They have sent representatives to other GRPC, but chose not to this year. Unfortunately, even when they did, it was often a token appearance with no real exchange or debate. The NRA is the 900-pound gorilla and does what it will. Nonetheless, what is said at GRPC gets back to NRA headquarters and it does make a difference.


    • Dear Mike: When I have been involved in setting up conferences (whether it be what turned into the 2001 issue of the Journal of Law and Economics or the Students for Concealed Carry Conferences (e.g., Paul Helmke) I have ALWAYS invited people who have views on both sides of the debate. Indeed, even the Crime Prevention Research Center has people who have published articles on both sides of the gun control debate for people on our board of academic advisors. I don’t control the GRPC, but I would do the same thing there if I had that influence.


  2. Thanks for reading and commenting as always. My response: I have been to many pep rallies, including the ones at the NRA meeting as well as anti-gun pep rallies and pep rallies that had nothing to do with guns, and this was not a pep rally. Pep rallies are designed to arouse people’s emotions for a cause. This conference, by contrast, was meant to provide information, insights, and strategies about the various dimensions of gun rights policy from the local to the international level, and including political, administrative, and legal dimensions of policy. And it did that in a very serious and sober manner – in my opinion. That is why the one presenter of 50+ I mentioned stood out so much.

    To your other point, I don’t think it is incumbent upon groups to invite people with contrary views to their conferences. I doubt that Moms Demand or Everytown or CSGV invite people with contrary views to speak at their events or planning sessions. That said, one group you need to take more seriously, by this standard, is Students for Concealed Carry who invited Chelsea Parsons of the Center for American Progress to their national meeting in August (see:


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