We don’t have a final tally of how many of the record-breaking 87,000+ members in attendance at the 2018 NRA Annual Meetings & Exhibits at Dallas, Texas, were women, but there is no denying that the female impact and commitment to NRA’s fight for freedom was demonstrable. Whether through participation in target shooting, competitive shooting, hunting or personal protection—or by attending the Dallas NRA show—women continue to flex their Second Amendment muscles.
Of course, the election of four additional female NRA Board members earlier this month is one sure sign of this, but that was not the only strong indicator. One didn’t have to look further than over his or her shoulder in Dallas for more evidence, starting with the 12th Annual NRA Women’s Leadership Forum Luncheon & Auction on Friday, May 4, an event that has seen attendance grow more than 10-fold since its beginning.
With fundraising and philanthropy as the event’s objective, the 1,200 women in attendance put their money where their mouths are as they bid on hundreds of items on display (silent bidding was managed by the GiveSmart app), and live auctions on a gamut of goods, from handguns and long guns, one-of-a-kind jewelry, once-in-a-lifetime hunts and safaris, shooting lessons and other unique experiences.
An impromptu addition to the live auction sparked a friendly competition for a day spent with NRA Board member Ted Nugent and his wife, Shemane, at their Waco, Texas, home. Luncheon attendees became increasingly animated when Ted Nugent himself appeared onstage, precipitating a bidding war as Shemane described what the day might entail: “We might just take a long walk with our dogs, go squirrel hunting or go shoot bows and arrows,” she said. With bidding heating up, the Nugents graciously ended the auction by offering the two final bidders each a day of their own for their individual bids.
After all of the guns, hunts and related experiences were spoken for, dozens of women dug deep and displayed extraordinary charitable giving as a call went out for pledges to the NRA's National School Shield Program. The women’s generosity was contagious and resulted in a rush of donations, which was met with plenty of vocal approval by all in attendance, a humble reminder that the heart of the program’s mission is to protect our nation’s schoolchildren.
National School Shield Director Sheila Brantley said the event was the perfect venue to harness the power of women to protect children. “The Women’s Leadership Forum has already proven ladies are a force to be reckoned with when it comes to defending the Second Amendment—and all women know we are even more fierce when it comes to protecting our children,” she said. Brantley continued that while others politicize the challenge of securing our nation’s schools, this event “showcased the ladies of the NRA who are committed to actually taking action to protect our children—and not just talk about it!” Brantley said it was incredible to witness the generosity and energy in the room. “I am honored to help oversee this important program,” she said. “With these funds, we will continue to work with communities nationwide in a shared commitment to more secure schools.”
With the auction portion officially over, an audible hum of excitement filled the ballroom as the women anticipated the arrival of featured guest speaker Tucker Carlson, the popular host of FOX News Channel’s “Tucker Carlson Tonight.”
Carlson offered 20 minutes of his brand of boyish charm, wit and intellect for which he is well-known as he engaged the women with earnest and specific advice on defending their gun rights. He drew enthusiastic applause for his unabashed support for the Second Amendment, sharing stories about growing up in a hunting and shooting family, a heritage he is passing along to his four children.
“The NRA is one of main reasons I handle guns safely,” he said, noting that he has a “cigar box full” of NRA marksmanship badges. “NRA instructors and people who own guns are the safest handlers of guns.”
He continued, “I can’t think of a nicer group, more patriotic group, ... an informed group, a decent group. You can look all around America and identify all sorts of problems; this is not the problem.”
Carlson’s overall message to the women was, “Be proud. Make a case. Don’t hide. But more than anything, stay cheerful. People who are winning stay cheerful.”
“Be proud. Make a case. Don’t hide. But more than anything, stay cheerful.”
“Cheerful is just another word for ‘humane,’ “ he said, and is a tactic that should be employed when engaged in debate or more likely, attacked, by those who look to take away one’s ability to defend herself or her family. “They win by making your position unacceptable in the eyes the people who are in charge of our culture ... ,“ adding, “they’ve been really successful at it.”
We should take a cue from those who are attacking us, he said. “They aren’t ashamed to argue in public that you don’t deserve the rights you were born with ... it’s vicious ... and completely wrong.”
He emphasized that the right to defend oneself and her family is the most basic of all rights. “When it comes down to it, you are responsible for your own safety and that of your family. In fact, it’s your duty. It’s the burden you carry,” he said.
All of a sudden people are ashamed to say things like, “I love my family and I want to defend them,” or even, “I love quail hunting,” he said.
“Your average gun owner who, by temperament, is more restrained and polite ... is embarrassed to say that,” he said. “We have internalized that we are the problem. We are not the problem,” he said, which drew an explosive round of cheers. “[Staying cheerful] means being proud of your beliefs and your culture. You have nothing to be ashamed of.”
And with that, the NRA Women's Leadership Forum Luncheon & Auction concluded for another year—but as they say, a woman's work is never done. That is especially true for the women of the NRA. See you in Indianapolis.
Women’s New Energy Breakfast
“Coffee and Conversation”—that’s how the 5th Annual Women's New Energy Breakfast on Sunday, May 6, was billed. While it sounds like it could have been just a cup of Folger’s (black) and a recipe swap, in reality the 90-minute session was more like a Starbucks Blonde Roast Venti and a Zumba class.
Highly caffeinated beverages aside, the mingling and personal greetings by the many female NRA Board members in attendance at the sold-out event offered a warm “open house” networking atmosphere for the 140 women who came highly motivated to learn ways they could roll up their sleeves and become directly involved with one or more NRA programs in their own communities. They were women from of all walks of life who want to give back in a hands-on way. The energy—from both new and not-so-new members—was palpable.
The WNEB committee, comprised of NRA Board members NRA Past President and WNEB founder Sandy Froman, Maria Heil (Second Amendment Sisters) and Linda Walker (Buckeye Firearms Association)—all stewards in the fight to maintain the freedoms ensured under the Second Amendment—kicked off the event with individual welcomes and the Pledge of Allegiance, followed by a motivational greeting from the woman who, more than anyone, epitomizes the word “energy” during the NRA Annual Meetings: Susan LaPierre.
“We, the women of the women’s Second Amendment movement, must lead the charge,” said LaPierre. “We must have the freedom to defend and protect our families. “
LaPierre told the women that no right is greater than the right to survive, and no freedom is greater than the one guaranteed in the Second Amendment, “granted by God and for no one to take away, ever. That is why we are here,” she said.
“Celebrate the movement and celebrate each other,” she told the women. “Most of all, get involved, however you feel it. Invite a friend to join you on the range. Take a class with one of our incredible women instructors,” she suggested.
“In ways big or small, your participation is so critical. Whatever you do every day really does make a difference,” she said. “We need you now more than ever, from Washington D.C. to the state of Washington, from California to Maine, no matter where you live or how you get involved, you are part of this great sisterhood. Together we all stand proudly for our values, and together, we are the women of the NRA.”
Then, in a musical chairs game of sorts, the women split into groups, quickly shuffling to tables that were identified as one that would offer discussion on a specific NRA program or outreach in which they were interested. Whether it was politics and grassroots, hunting and wildlife conservation, the NRA School Shield program, competitive shooting, youth programs, concealed carry and personal protection, or the NRA Foundation, the dozen or more female NRA Board members in attendance—including the four newest electees: Il Ling New, Carrie Lightfoot, Julie Golob and Kristy Titus—were on hand to moderate the discussion and answer questions.
From left: NRA Past President Sandra Froman with Il Ling New, Kristy Titus, Carrie Lightfoot, Susan LaPierre and Julie Golob
After lively interaction between the women, each table appointed a spokesperson to share with the others what they had learned. The goal was to provide concrete information to those who are already clearly motivated to make a hands-on impact in their communities on a grassroots level—which is the very foundation of NRA.
There were many takeaways offered by the women at each table, but the one that most agreed on was that that the WNEB, which has quickly become a favorite way for women to learn how to climb into the trenches of NRA programs, is going to need a bigger room at the 2019 NRA Annual Meetings in Indianapolis. Pencil it on your calendar now.