It was Tennyson who wrote that “In the Spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.”

For many of us men who left “young” in the rearview mirror some years back, however, in the spring our fancy turns to something else entirely: the National Rifle Association’s Annual Meeting, this year being held in Nashville TN.  Professor Jacobson has kindly offered this blog as a forum from which I can share the legal and political observations from that event.

The NRA Annual Meeting: It’s big. Really, really big.

I’m somewhat embarrassed to say that I only first attended the NRA Annual Meeting (or NRAAM) last year, when it was held in Indianapolis, although I’ve been a life member and certified firearms instructor of the NRA for more than two decades.

Indeed, it would never have occurred to me to go even last year, except I was extended a gracious invitation to speak at the Firearms Law Seminar held as part of the event (you can view my talk here, I mostly talked about Stand-Your-Ground and my then-recent victory in the UC Berkeley School of Law “Stand-Your-Ground” debate).

Perhaps the best known facet of the NRAAM is the enormous exhibit hall in which over 500 members of the gun industry present their wares. And I do mean enormous, there are over 8 acres of guns and related sundries. One can literally spend days wandering the hall and still come across unexpected discoveries

I was pleasantly surprised to discover upon my arrival that entry to the exhibit hall is entirely free if one is an NRA member, and last year roughly 70,000+ such members arrived from all over the country to take advantage of the opportunity.

NRA Annual Meeting 2015 Exhibit Hall

NRA Annual Meeting 2015 Exhibit Hall

It is worth noting that the Indianapolis police department reported a sharp decline in violent crime during the days these NRA members—many of them lawfully carrying concealed firearms—were in town.  I suspect that the same cannot be said for any large city hosting, say, the Democrat National Convention.

Friends I Simply Hadn’t Yet Met

Even more surprising than the enormity of the exhibit hall was the unexpected opportunity to meet up with some truly remarkable and entertaining people. At my rather advanced age one does not expect too many opportunities to make new friends.  This unfortunate perspective is perhaps fostered by having lived the last two decades in the “enemy territory” of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts where conservatives in general and gun owners in particular are well advised to keep their heads down.

But make friends is exactly what happened at last year’s NRAAM, perhaps the inevitable consequence of immersion among 70,000+ like-minded people.

Perhaps the best known person whose company I had the chance to enjoy last year was Charles C.W. Cooke, a wonderful writer for National Review Online, author of the excellent just-published book “The Conservatarian Manifesto,” a British ex-pat on his way to American citizenship, and a gun nut through-and-through. And, it must be said, exceedingly pleasant evening company. I look forward to partaking in some ethanol-fueled discussion with Charles again this year. And if you happen to see us talking guns over drinks, please don’t hesitate to say hello.

Charles C. W. Cooke

Charles C. W. Cooke

There are, of course, numerous other new friends met, mostly from the gang over at the fantastic Ace of Spades HQ blog, and with whom I’d already had a tentative internet-based familiarity.  Because they live more private lives than does a public figure like Mr. Cooke, I will not identify the AOSHQ crew as individuals here. I will merely note that while “living the AOSHQ lifestyle” is enormously fun, it’s also somewhat expensive, and for reasons of personal health and public safety is best engaged in on only rare occasion.

Fortunately, the NRA Annual Meeting perhaps qualifies as the most appropriate of such occasions. To my fellow AOSHQ morons, I’ll see you all in a few days time.

Crime Prevention Research Center Dinner/Dessert Evening

As much fun as it was to make interesting new friends last year, I expect the opportunities to meet interesting people will be even greater this year. This expectation is largely driven by a dinner event organized by Professor John Lott, who heads the Crime Prevention Research Center (CPRC) and is perhaps best known for his seminal book “More Guns, Less Crime.” (I reviewed John’s most recent book, “Dumbing Down The Courts” right here at Legal Insurrection.)

Dr. John Lott testifies to Congress

Dr. John Lott testifies to Congress

Over the years John has developed close friendships with many titans in the Second Amendment civil rights and conservative political movements, and on the evening of Friday, April 10 he is bringing them together in Nashville as the nexus of a lavish dinner/dessert evening event.

Their names will, of course, be familiar to the Legal Insurrection family: conservative journalist Katie Pavlich (author of the book “Fast and Furious”), conservative TV/radio host Dana Loesch (who just raised over $800,000 for a pizza shop assailed by raging Progressive fascists, and is the author of the book “Hands Off My Gun”), novelist Brad Thor (too many great books to list, but most recently “Act of War”), the one and only Ted Nugent, Glenn Reynolds (aka Instapundit, more on Glenn below), and more. Heck, somehow even I made the list, albeit in the second tier “other favorites” group.

I caution that the event is not free—a lavish dinner and dessert in a top tier hotel do not come cheap, a fact to which the CPRC accounting department can surely attest—but it’s hard to imagine another opportunity to be in the company of such an esteemed group of leaders “on our side,” and in such a relaxed setting.

The numbers of attendees has also been strictly limited, which promises to be a nice break from the somewhat overwhelming environment of tens of thousands of people in the exhibit hall. For details on how to register to attend the CPRC dinner, click here.

And be sure to say hi–I’ll be the guy in the “Law of Self Defense” ball cap.

NRA 18th Annual Firearms Law Seminar

Immediately preceding the CPRC dinner is the NRA’s 18th Annual Firearms Law Seminar, at which I spoke last year.

This year the keynote lunch speaker will be the aforementioned Glenn Reynolds, who in addition to being the blogger Instapundit is also a Professor of Law at the University of Tennessee, as well as the author of the book “The New School,” which was reviewed here at Legal Insurrection just last year.

Professor Glenn Reynolds

Professor Glenn Reynolds

Other notable speakers at the seminar include Law Professor Joyce Lee Malcolm (author of the book “Guns and Violence: The English Experience”), Attorney and Second Amendment advocate Stephen Halbrook (author of the book “That Every Man Be Armed”), NRA Assistant General Counsel Sarah Gervase, use-of-force expert Massad Ayoob (author of the recently published book “Deadly Force”; also, in full-disclosure, I’m a graduate of Mas’ LFI-I course), and ATF legal counsel William Ryan.

Little wonder I didn’t make the speaker list this year! I’ll be there as an attendee, however.

Subjects to be covered at the seminar include cautionary tales of gun control efforts and outcomes overseas, insight into recent and ongoing Second Amendment civil rights court cases, the gradual movement towards treating the Second Amendment as are all other Constitutional Amendments rather than as some Constitutional aberration, NFA trusts from the perspective of the ATF, and legal traps to be avoided when using force in self-defense.

Like the CPRC dinner, this Firearms Law Seminar is not a free event. There are many discounts offered for non-attorneys, however, with especially low rates for students, for active-duty LEO and military personnel, for those attending only a portion of the seminar, and so forth.

Also like the CPRC dinner, the Firearms Law Seminar represents a unique opportunity of a sort not likely to be found again until next year’s NRA Annual Meeting in Louisville KY.

Details on the program and how to register for this event can be found here. If you do attend be sure to introduce yourself–again, I’ll the guy in the “Law of Self Defense” ball cap.

Have Motorcycle, Will Travel

Tennyson was obviously not a motorcyclist, or he would have written “In the Spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of riding.” And indeed, for this not-so-young motorcyclist the Spring-time NRA Annual Meeting presents an opportunity to make a riding trip out of the event.

Attorney Andrew F. Branca, Law of Self Defense

Attorney Andrew F. Branca, Law of Self Defense

It’s a common practice among those of us who travel long-distance by motorcycle to chronicle our trips, and in the interests of doing so for this trip I’ve acquired even more cameras (note the helmet camera in the picture above), and similar documentary-type gadgets.

My blogging of the legal and political facets of the NRA Annual Meeting, including the CPRC dinner, will all be done here at Legal Insurrection, so if those are your primary areas of interest just leave this browser tab open for the duration and refresh from time to time.

My blogging of interesting gun-related discoveries at the NRAAM will likely be carried by the appropriately named WeaponsMan.com. That blog is run entirely by former US special forces members, and is in my experience the single best blog on the internet for truly well-informed weapons insight. Despite my never having served in the military a day in my life the hosts there have kindly offered to carry a few of my gun-content posts from the NRAAM. I’m humbled.

Triple-barreled shotgun from NRAAM 2014.

Triple-barreled shotgun from NRAAM 2014.

As for the more generalized motorcycle-centric commentary on my trip, I’ve not yet decided where to blog on that content. Perhaps here, if the Professor is interested. If not, perhaps on my own blog, to which I pay woefully little attention.

In any case, all my blog posts related to my NRAAM, in whatever forum made, will be cross-referenced to facilitate the ability to enjoy it all, if desired.

OK, folks, that’s it for now. Time to mount yet another camera to the motorcycle.

–-Andrew, @LawSelfDefense


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Andrew F. Branca is an MA lawyer and the author of the seminal book “The Law of Self Defense, 2nd Edition,” available at the Law of Self Defense blog (autographed copies available) and Amazon.com (paperback and Kindle). He also holds Law of Self Defense Seminars around the country, and provides free online self-defense law video lectures at the Law of Self Defense Institute and podcasts through iTunes, Stitcher, and elsewhere.