I worked at the NRA for 20 years, and during most of my time there, the gold standard of NRA Annual Meetings attendance was a show in Portland, Oreg., in about 1974 where around 35,000 attended. Generally, attendance of 25,000 was thought to be just fine.
Since I left, NRA has gotten a lot more interested in making money (wish they could have had that attitude when I was there) and promoting the Annual Meetings. The number of exhibitors and attendees has steadily grown, to where attendance in the 60-70,000 range is no big surprise. As you would expect, the superheated political environment surrounding this year's show meant record attendance of more than 86,000.
NRA used more of Houston's Brown Convention Center than it did in 2006, so the show aisles, while bustling, weren't packed as they have been sometimes in the past. But Mr. Magoo could see that the crowd was very, very large and enthusiastic.
You would have thought that fact might have led coverage of the event, but instead, an offhand remark made at a convention session seems to have hijacked the attention of the large national media contingent.
Rob Pincus is a firearms trainer and TV personality who has been on various shows, including IMO's own Personal Defense TV. While discussing home defense use of firearms, he innocuously said that a child's bedroom can be a good location for a gun safe, since a parent's first reaction in a crisis is to run check on the kids.
If the gun, securely stored, is there when you arrive, there's less running around with a gun in your hand when you haven't necessarily located the intruder. Makes perfect sense to me.
Well, the national media latched onto that one comment, made at one session at a show where there were dozens, and ginned up a couple solid days of outrage, conveniently ignoring the big turnout (and the miserable turnout by anti-gun demonstrators).
There were those who thought Pincus shouldn't have said what he said in such a public forum, but if he hadn't, the press would just have latched onto something else. The antis would love to get NRA back to the meek, scared, overly cautious organization I joined in 1976. Harlon Carter and Neal Knox changed NRA's direction the following year, and it has never looked back.
You can argue if you want that Pincus' advice is not tactically sound, but not that he should have been afraid to present it. When you are under attack, it's time to be loud and proud. The only thing we can ever say to satisfy the anti-gun press is "we surrender."