NRA Convention Day 1: Hitler, Background Checks and Action Track Chairs

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Jim Williams is the genial grandfather we all want. His voice is soft, and his hands are weathered and firm. He smiles when he speaks. He listens when you respond. He's eager to share his stories, but he's more concerned for your well-being than his remaining days.

Which is why Williams, one of the hundreds of individuals representing arms organizations in this weekend's NRA Convention at the George R. Brown Convention, wants to make sure the Hair Balls audience understands the gravity of what we're facing.

"This is exactly what Hitler did, you remember," says Williams, in town with Superior Arms, and Iowa-based AR-15 manufacturer. "This is how he took over in the 1930s. He told people that if they didn't hand over their guns, they would be shot. And that's like where we're going."

Williams' coworkers nod along, draped on either side by the matte black cousins of the gun that killed 20 children in Newtown. I ask Williams about Newtown, and his eyes drop a bit, but his voice remains soft, reassuring.

"There's nothing we could have done to stop him," he observes. "There isn't a single thing we could have done. We can't limit magazine clips. And he could have just found something else. He could have used a hammer. He could have used the butt of the gun. He could have done anything, and we couldn't have stopped him."

Williams' son, Terry, steps forward in agreement. The elder Williams still smiles, still goes through the weapons Adam Lanza could have found, how there isn't a single piece of legislation that would have prevented a "crazy" from this all. And then the conversation turns to Superior Arms, to business at hand, and Terry jumps in.

"Sales have definitely jumped," he tells Hair Balls, putting his hand on one of the double-chamber AR-15s on display. (The rifles were juxtaposed with piles of mints, offering defense against both intruders and bad breath.) "We've sold more since that [shooting] than all of last year. You look at it, and all press is press, right? It gets our name out there. And it'll probably fall off after this legislation fails, but press is press."

And so it goes. No matter what is written about this weekend's NRA Convention, the names and the guns and the individuals are shared, and the camps remain the same. There doesn't seem to be anything this weekend that will sway a single individual on the merits of the Second Amendment, or the rights to limited government, or any of the other sociological fractures that have run since this recent spate of mass shootings. Any debate, if one were to take place, would be quickly stamped out by those coming not to dialogue, but to purchase the Latest and Greatest in advanced American weaponry.

And it's all here. Slings and silencers. Ammunition piled on top of one another. Beretta and Remington and Smiss Smith & Wesson, and rows of pink handguns and stands of showman shotguns. Scant-clad women signing scant-clad posters. As many old white men as you'd want. Booths and booths of as many arms as a small nation may otherwise employ. All of them, gathered in an industry that only continues to swell.

"I've made $60,000 in sales over the last month," said Chris Clark, a distributor with Swiss Black Powder. "That's triple what it usually is. All over the last month. And I thought it'd be higher anyway -- this is the 150th anniversary of Gettysburg coming up -- but this wasn't what I was expecting. Not this high." Clark mentions that for those in the black powder business, it took but one clip of the footage of the Boston bombing to know that they'd used black powder. And that that only helped business. "That red hue you saw? That's how I knew. That's how I knew it wasn't just a gas-line."

Of course, there's still the potential that could fall off. A Manchin-Toomey-type bill could return. Clark mentioned that New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez has come after black powder. All Menendez is asking for is a background check -- and that, according to Clark, is all that it would take to put him out of business. "These guys I sell to -- they don't want their name on any registry, anywhere. And they'll stop buying if that bill goes through," Clark told Hair Balls. "I'd kill the first guy who steps on my driveway to try to take my guns." And as an aside: "I'm not from Houston. I'm from the Spartans." He smiles, and holds his rifle tighter.

Still, not all at the convention is something ripe to divide. Doug and Paul Carlson gathered amidst the hum of firearm instruction to offer something a bit different.

"We call it the Action Track Chair," Paul tells Hair Balls, turning to watch Doug sit. Bathed in camouflage, draped in nuts and bolts and finished metal rods, the ATC looks like something out of an episode of BattleBots. A pair of triangulated snowmobile tracks provide maneuverability. A small motor under the seat allows the ATC to transform from a jerryrigged wheelchair to a vertical plank, with a strap keeping the user tethered in. "You can work on your art. You can go golfing. You can put a vice on this arm, and you can start working on your copper."

Most importantly, though, you can hunt. According to Paul, Combat Marine Outdoors, based in Baytown, owns four of these $15,000 devices, taking injured servicemen into the woods east of Houston for the hunting they never thought they'd enjoy. Moreover, with an appearance at Walter Reed on Bill O'Reilly's last week, these ATC's are set to begin selling dozens, and potentially hundreds, more than they ever thought they could. "Business is doing well," says Paul, smiling. "And it's only going to get better, it looks like."

So it will. It's only been a few hours in this convention, and the weekend's only beginning. And if the price of enjoying all this weaponry -- of enjoying all of the perks of the Second Amendment -- is to force yourself to watch a man in a CommunObama shirt chuckle alongside the loathsome former Ambassador John Bolton, so be it. "It's hard work shooting 4,000 rounds of ammo," said one of the vendors, an eager audience lapping it in. The work's only just begun.

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47 comments
FearLeadsToHate
FearLeadsToHate

" ... BUT, BUT, BUT... HILTER!!!!"

There's nothing left to the NRA but a bunch of fearful fucking sheep, and the politicians and gun dealers that are cynically feeding their fear and profiting handsomely from it.

Keep your guns, and cancel your membership. You'll be happier.

melton
melton

The Second Amendment is not absolute, period. Reagan outlawed plastic guns that couldn't be detected. We've banned assault weapons before. We don't allow grenade or fully automatic machine guns except in rare cases. Attack helicopters are prohibited. Armour piercing bullets are too much. How about we go with Scalia and the strict constructionist's here: unlimited musket ownership and flint-locks for all...with background checks.

unklesam1
unklesam1

When the 2nd amendment was written, Cannons were legal.

andy434
andy434

*Smith &Wesson. And only Bushmaster makes the AR -15. Why does it matter? Because the NR.A seizes on mistakes like that to show how ignorant and biased the MSM (their abbreviation) are

Aaron Kovach
Aaron Kovach

You are a joke! You have no clue! The NRA spends millions of dollars a year on teaching and promoting gun safety!

Aaron Kovach
Aaron Kovach

So are you saying if I shoot someone with a gun and someone gets hurt or dies there is no consequences? Lol

Fernando Moya
Fernando Moya

The NRA is a joke. Racket for the gun industry, nothing more.

Fernando Moya
Fernando Moya

You have freedom of speech* can you yell fire in a crowded movie theater? Yup, and if something bad happens, say a person gets hurt or dies because of it.... you will face the consequences if you are caught.

Anse
Anse

There is perhaps nobody more dangerous than a paranoid freak with a shitty grasp of history who also happens to love killing machines. Of course they no doubt embrace this with pride, the object being the aggressive image that these John Wayne wannabes love to project. I can only assume the reason they're so opposed to background checks is because it might one day be widely accepted that being a Tea Partier is a symptom of mental illness, and therefore a disqualifier for gun ownership. 

Aaron Kovach
Aaron Kovach

Manny you are such a nice person! Stay classy!!

Aaron Kovach
Aaron Kovach

So what exactly does a muslim look like? I've never been to that country! Lol

Aaron Kovach
Aaron Kovach

Wow, Manny! You obviously can't debate my point either! Lol

H_e_x
H_e_x

Oh, I should bring a camera and take some pictures. Surely they wouldn't mind a non-Caucasian poking around? What could possibly go wrong?

*wakes up in Mexico*

Damnit, I'm not even Mexican. 

Schittphaiç Magü
Schittphaiç Magü

Bert, even worse is that he actually likes his own comments. Epic douchemongery.

Schittphaiç Magü
Schittphaiç Magü

How about we simply legalize bomb-making then? Why stop there? I mean, after all, those anti-bomb making laws don't prevent bad people from making and detonating bombs. While we're at it, let's put nukes, biological, and chemical weapons on the open civilian market so we all feel "safer" from criminals and from the ever-present terrorist threat ("terrorist" meaning any Muslim or Muslim-looking foreigners who aren't reel 'Murkinz). Even better, since, by definition, criminals don't abide by the laws, why even maintain a system of criminal justice in the first place? Just let the "law" of the jungle take hold. We would finally be living in a libertarian "paradise!"

Schittphaiç Magü
Schittphaiç Magü

Never realized that words -- spoken or in print -- could be considered a lethal weapon. Derp!

Schittphaiç Magü
Schittphaiç Magü

"As an agent of free speech, you would think that HP is sensitive to the fact that their First Amendment rights are protected by our dutiful exercise of the Second Amendment." No, they're not. My (or anyone else's) freedom of speech isn't predicated on some loon's pathetic desire to hoist AR-15s in public or amass an arsenal in a secluded bunker to compensate for what he is lacking elsewhere. Shut up; you're dumb.

the_cold_truth
the_cold_truth

I would love to hear what the liberals would be saying if some Republican was calling for background checks for anybody to use the internet, or for registration of your computers, or for journalists to be licensed by the government to practice their trade.

Jimi Austin
Jimi Austin

Its not the NRA members and CHL holders that are out killing people though.

Aaron Kovach
Aaron Kovach

I'm sorry Mr Grammer Nazi... Obviously you can't debate my point so you have to debate my grammer...

Bert Duplessis
Bert Duplessis

"capatialized"? That would be a new word altogether in the English language. Where exactly did you say you went to school?

flounder9
flounder9

look folks, you can believe in your 2nd amendment rights, you can defend it, and not have to belong to a republican agenda gun club. from the speakers at the NRA convention, looks like a teaparty bash Obama rally to me. democrats can believe in the 2nd amendment too, i do, and i believe in my 1st amendment right, which i exercised here. thank you. ...

Suzanna Gratia Hupp explains meaning of 2nd Amendment! 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M1u0Byq5Qis

Aaron Kovach
Aaron Kovach

Ohh my I forgot an "o"!!! Last time I checked, the only letters that should be capatialized is the first letter of a sentence and proper nouns...

monica121
monica121

Even IF that Hitler story were true it would be a complete strawman. Who after all want to "take your guns"?? Goofballs.

Bert Duplessis
Bert Duplessis

TOO bad they don't require proper grammar for posting on FB.

Aaron Kovach
Aaron Kovach

Or he could have used a pressure cooker? Hmm maybe we should require background checks for pressure cookers...

Becci Himes
Becci Himes

"He could have used a hammer"??? Maybe he could have strangled them all as well, but highly unlikely. Crickets on toast!

Aaron Kovach
Aaron Kovach

To bad they don't require background checks for the first amendment! Lol

Gini Reed
Gini Reed

the paranoia is palpable ...

Cornelieus Napolitano
Cornelieus Napolitano

It's obvious HP is looking to write an NRA hit piece and will avoid interviewing the many service men and women, law enforcement professionals, hunting enthusiasts, and ordinary salt of the earth Americans. As an agent of free speech, you would think that HP is sensitive to the fact that their First Amendment rights are protected by our dutiful exercise of the Second Amendment.

Tony Gutierrez
Tony Gutierrez

That they all hate Obama with all their heart and are dangerously deranged people?

casey.michel
casey.michel

@andy434 Good catch on the Smith & Wesson -- entirely my mistake. But it seems AR-15s are made by a handful of companies, including, it appears, S&W.

H_e_x
H_e_x

@Aaron Kovach LOUD NOISES! I LOVE LAMP!

MadMac
MadMac topcommenter

Oh no! Grandpa and other organizers don't want you to photograph racists T-shirts, bumperstickers, Nazi paraphernalia, (these cats love cry "Hitler," but really seem to get a stiffy for this junk) and anti-government slogans. They REALLY don't want recordings of conversations between "law-abiding citizens" discussing how to circumvent gun laws.

ltrasczak
ltrasczak

@flounder9democrats can believe in the 2nd amendment too???  

Well, until they get thrown out of the party... that's what the "Pro Life Democrats" said 30 years ago...  lots of luck with that.

Anse
Anse

@Cornelieus Napolitano Screw that. You are not protecting anybody's rights with your peashooter. Please do not be so arrogant as to pretend that your beloved firearm has anything whatsoever to do with how I live my life. 

ltrasczak
ltrasczak

@flounder9 of course the fact that there aren't any Pro-Life Democrats any more doesn't mean that your party is intolerant of differing opinions and lacks room for debate... no  I"m sure your plan will work out just fine.... 

Anse
Anse

@ltrasczak @monica121 Hitler expanded gun rights in Germany. Germans were required to disarm as a condition of surrender after the end of WWI. Hitler rolled back those restrictions.

Anse
Anse

@ltrasczak Everybody I know is pro-life. Do you mean "anti-abortion"? If that's what you're referring to, then you need to wake up: Latinos vote Democrat by wide margins and tend to be deeply anti-abortion. You don't know what the hell you're talking about. 

birdmanalcatraz
birdmanalcatraz

@ltrasczak  I've miss the point of your rambling. Of course the Democrats have a platform and adopt planks to build that platform. As do the Republicans. That doesn't mean that there are not individual politicians who don't buy into the view of the party.

Anyway, if there's been a movement toward the fringe in American politics, it's been visible on the Right. The Republicans have become a party of old white men. Ones who tell women what they can do in regards to their bodies, and what they think is fair to pay them versus men.

Btw, there is no absolute right to bear arms in America. We have limits on what individuals can buy or own; there is nothing wrong with limiting these rights more. Our forefathers didn't envision a citizenry where every neighbor bears machine guns, grenades and assault helicopters.

ltrasczak
ltrasczak

@Anse @ltrasczak @flounder9  A handful of  politically misinformed Seatlitles (?) does not a political faction make.  
The Democratic Party is a great many things, but a home of diverse views and open debate it is not. Where are the "pro Life Democrats?" There were some... but not any more.  The moronic, close-minded ideologues (your words)  made it pretty clear that you can be pro-life, OR you can be a Democrat Politician, but you can't be both..that's been clear since  the Gov. of Pennsylvania (Robert P. Casey) wasn't allowed to address the National Convention in 1992 because he was pro-life. That's not the only issue. Where were the women's rights groups that fought so hard against workplace sexual harassment when  it was a Democratic President doing the harrasing?  They got REAL quiet didn't they?  For that matter where are the Democrats who oppose gay marriage, or support right to work laws, or even like the Boy Scouts? They sure weren't part of the Platform Committee in 2012. They are conspicuously absent from any appointed jobs in the Obama Administration.    Did you even SEE the 2012 convention?  Did you see the "vote" where they booed God, and then deemed the resolution to have passed even though it had obviously been voted down? They go to great lengths to assemble a group of diverse LOOKING people, but when it comes to ideology the Democratic Party tolerates about as much open debate as Josef Stalin.

If a gun owner is so brain addled, either through self-deception  or living in a state that has legalized marijuana, that they wish to throw their votes and their cash to the Democratic Party, the Democratic Party will gladly accept that support... but it is still the equivalent of  a chicken voting for Col. Sanders.

Anse
Anse

@ltrasczak @flounder9 I had the pleasure of meeting and hanging out with several gun enthusiasts in Seattle last summer who also happened to be Democrats and supporters of our president. No, Democrats are not moronic, close-minded ideologues. In fact it's a cause of some of our political weakness over the years.

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