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.