#NRAAM2019, Day 1

Today opened the 2019 NRA Annual Meeting. Estimates at attendance this year put the head count at somewhere around 70,000, which is a bit down from recent years. It has been rainy and dreary in Indianapolis, which may have thinned the crowd this morning.

We’ve seen the usual contingent of protestors, as usually outnumbered by the press interviewing them. They do seem to be a bit smarter this year, with Bloomberg’s Every Town for Gun Safety renting a number of digital billboards for their “NRA In Crisis” campaign. There are also a couple of panel vans with “NRA In Crisis” digital billboards circling the convention center, as well.

And truthfully, the NRA *is* in crisis. Their recent lawsuit against their PR partner, Ackerman McQueen over transparency in financial payments, where various NRA spokesperson’s loyalties lie, combined with political infighting among the NRA leadership, has brought a bit of unease to many attendees I’ve spoken with. This is shaping up to be a battle for the soul of the NRA.

There have been battles for the soul of the NRA before, and the organization survived them.

Personally, I’d be happy if our spokespeople weren’t so strident and tone-deaf. Let’s find some people of color and women – and the NRA already has plenty of them within their ranks – who can serve as positive role models as Second Amendment advocates, rather than call traumatized kids crisis actors or blame school shootings on violent video games.

But enough of the doom and gloom. One thing I witnessed this morning in this “organization of old white men” (we really need a sarcasm font) was during the signing of the National Anthem at the opening of the meeting this morning.

Walking to the press office, listening to a disembodied child’s voice singing the anthem over the PA system , several thousand conversations stopped in mid-sentence – every one of them – everyone looked around for a flag, doffed their caps, put their hands over their hearts, and respectfully stood for the anthem. That’s something you don’t often see outside of rodeos.

However this battle resolves itself, that shows that the soul of the NRA is still in pretty good shape.