(20 May 1995) English/Nat
The largest organisation of gun owners in the U-S is holding its annual convention in Phoenix, Arizona this weekend.
The National Rifle Association remains in the news having issued an apology for remarks that enraged both President Clinton and former President Bush.
As NRA members from around the country gathered at the Phoenix Civic Plaza, they appeared more interested in looking at firearms than the recent bad publicity their organisation had received.
Former President George Bush quit the group over a fund raising letter that characterised police as “jack-booted government thugs.”
President Clinton challenged the N-R-A to give funds raised by the letter to police charities.
The group’s Executive Vice President, Wayne LaPierre, who wrote the controversial letter, is among the officers up for re-election.
The N-R-A’s members are concerned that the government may try to take their guns away.
“I know it’s an unfortunate situation that happened in Oklahoma City – I don’t think its the gunowners in the United States are responsible. What they do is they try to take the guns away, thinking that its going to solve the problem – where they should be actually dealing harshly with the people who actually commit the crimes.”
SUPER CAPTION: Buzz Lawrence, NRA member
“Yeah, I think they’re controlling the wrong end of it, they should be controlling the crime and the people that commit the crimes, not the gun. I mean, if a gun’s laying on the floor it’s not going to kill anybody, it’s the people that have to pick it up shoot somebody.”
SUPER CAPTION: Anthony Kolasinski, NRA member
However, not all members share the same concerns.
Question: “Are you concerned about the Brady Bill or the assault weapons ban?”
“Probably more the assault weapons ban than the Brady Bill, ‘cos the Brady Bill’s been in effect in some other states, basically the same thing – the waiting period – which I don’t think’s really bothered anybody.”
SUPER CAPTION: Dale Darnold, NRA member
Outside the Civic Plaza a few dozen protestors registered their views.
Some of the demonstrators support gun control, but many supporters of gun ownership joined the protest over concern about the N-R-A’s recent hard-line stances.
Don Burchfield, a local gun control supporter, claims that he has been harassed by the N-R-A.
“Before I came down here today, I had someone call me and tell me that if I do what I say I’m going to do – go down there – don’t be surprised if somebody sticks a gun in my back and shoots me while I’m down here. And I do radio interviews, before I go home they’ve already called my home and told me that next time I’m out I’m gonna get shot.”
SUPER CAPTION: Don Burchfield, Supporter of Gun Controls
The connection between the militias and the N-R-A may be tenuous now, but many members are concerned that their organisation is trying to attract those groups.
“I do object to Wayne LaPierre or any other individual representing that this is the view of a three and a half (m) million members, because I don’t believe that it is. But it’s just an indicator of the direction that they want to take N-R-A toward the more militant. They want to use language that appeals to the more militant people – and that scares me.”
SUPER CAPTION: Dave Edmondson, NRA member
However, most members appear to support the current leadership team.
And if the leaders get reelected, it will be a signal of approval for the N-R-A’s recent tactics.
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