Repeatedly Saturday morning, Wayne LaPierre warned that the media was going to misrepresent the speech he was giving at the National Rifle Association's annual meeting. The writers sprinkled throughout the Dallas Convention Center ballroom in which he spoke to NRA members had already made up their minds, he said, to sell LaPierre's vision of America as a totalitarian hellscape, one that's meant to stir the deepest fears of America's gun owners. It's not a bad attempt to work the refs — no one wants to do exactly what someone says they're going to do — but the thing is, LaPierre is selling dystopia. Dystopia that's going to keep him in a job, and dystopia that's going to keep Republicans getting elected.
"Despite all the national media attacks and the predictions of the NRA's demise, I'm here to tell you that the NRA is stronger today than at any point in history," LaPierre said. "Not enough people really think about the founding of our country, how it all began and what its really about. They don't even teach it in schools any more."
The NRA, according to LaPierre, is the guardian of the vision of the Founding Fathers, the same one that liberals, celebrities and the media are trying to destroy.
"It was their utopia based on a single idea that every citizen lives free," LaPierre said of the United States' forebears. "That is what America has always been about until now."
The elites, political class and media class, as LaPierre identifies America's enemies, want an America that isn't, well, American.
Their agenda is to turn America into a "European style socialist state," LaPierre said.
Before one could even start dreaming about free healthcare, free college, an equitable tax system and drastically decreased gun violence, however, LaPierre laid out the plan for America's 100 million gun owners to stop the rot from within.
"America, our precious country, is teetering on the abyss, and this coming election is a guarantee of our worst nightmares if we don't reach from one end of the country to the other. This election will determine if the Second Amendment survives or is headed for complete extinction," LaPierre said.
As LaPierre wound down, a group gathered a little less than half-a-mile north of the convention hall at Belo Garden to urge that America learn different lessons from the country's ongoing gun violence epidemic.
"I'm hear to tell the NRA they're wrong," said Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter Jaime Guttenberg was killed along with 16 other teenagers at a high school in Parkland, Florida, in February. "I'm hear to tell the NRA they are part of the problem." Guttenberg said before the start of a rally for NoRA, a gun control advocacy group.
The NRA's lack of support for meaningful changes to American gun laws makes every community in the country vulnerable to mass shootings, Guttenberg said.
"I was that guy who thought never in my neighborhood. I didn't have a lot of interest in the NRA, because I lived in an area where I thought nothing like this could happen," Guttenberg said. "Guess what? It did. It was brutal, it was violent and it tore our community apart."
As the rally began, actress Alyssa Milano, the founder of NoRA, took the stage to read the Gun Safety Bill of Rights in which NoRA pushes for expanded background checks, restraining orders that would keep guns away from people who are declared threats to themselves or others and federal funding of apolitical research into gun violence. She then opened the floor to Guttenberg and other survivors of gun violence.
Po Murray, the chair of the Newtown Action Alliance, echoed Guttenberg about being stirred to action by tragedy.
"The shooting shattered the families, our neighbors, and our community," Murray said about Adam Lanza's mass shooting at Newtown, Connecticut's, elementary school, "but it has given us a mission to break the NRA's grip on the American political system."
As the event wound down, a video crew from Alex Jones' Infowars, kept out of the park during the rally proper by event security and Dallas cops, was allowed into the park, stirring a bit of absurdity into everyone's mid-afternoon.
Dressed in a black cowboy hat, Infowars' Owen Shroyer asked several rally-goers about their antipathy for the NRA, eventually getting the answer he wanted from a woman who said she was there to stop children from getting killed. Shoyer asked her if she supported the right to abortion, too, she said yes. Shoyer began to shout.
"They can't have a debate," Shroyer said. "These same people that are anti-Second Amendment, they use the school shooting in Florida to virtue signal and say that we're trying to save kids lives and then they all support Planned Parenthood. So they'll tell me they want to save the children from the next mass shooting while the continue to support Planned Parenthood. If that isn't the most ironic double standard I've ever seen. I mean, it's literally the definition of insanity, but it shows you how it's all a cult."
Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.