Guest Post: SDCGO Attends 34th Annual Gun Rights Policy Conference
Guest post by SDCGO Member and Volunteer Edward A. Sanchez
San Diego County Gun Owners was represented for the first time at 2nd Amendment Foundation’s Gun Rights Policy Conference 2019 in Phoenix (#GRPC2019)
There’s a great scene in the movie “The Rookie” in which Dennis Quaid plays a real-life high school baseball coach and science teacher who finally realizes his dreams to pitch in the major leagues. A great moment in the film comes when some of his players travel to see their coach play his first game in “The Show.” As they emerge from the tunnel and their first big league ballpark is revealed…the kids gaze on its green magnificence in stunned awe. I can relate.
Hosted by Second Amendment Foundation (#SAF), GRPC is “The Show” for the 2nd Amendment fight. Attending on behalf of San Diego County Gun Owners, I had that moment as I found myself “in the big leagues.” This is an annual event (2019 is the 34th Anniversary), a gathering of the top fighters in the battle for gun rights. This year, it came to the Crescent Sheraton in Phoenix, Arizona.
“I Am The Gun Lobby”
Welcome to GRPC 2019!
Barely had I stepped off the parking lot and started to breathe GRPC air when Rob Pincus (SDCGO’s recent special guest at the standing-room-only July meeting at Lenny Magill’s Glockstore) noticed me and made a beeline to give me a big hug. “I had to get my hug,” he told me and then rushed off. (Pincus seems to seldom stop…he’s a gent with an impressive number of irons in the fire, wears a lot of different hats and I’d believe it if told he never sleeps!) It took me a moment or two to realize what had just happened. After my recent 9/11 birthday, I posted a meme on Facebook of Liam Neesom, as his “Taken” character, menacing “Thanks for the birthday wishes…I will find you…and I will hug you.” OK…now it made sense. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a pretty huggy guy in my life, but never previously with Rob. It was, nonetheless, apt within the warm welcome I received at GRPC.
The 34th Anniversary Is The Largest GRPC Attendance Ever!
Most of the top leaders and personalities in the 2nd Amendment fight seemed to be here to meet, talk and mingle with a record attendance crowd of over 1100 enthusiastic 2nd Amendment supporters.
We heard from 91 speakers on a variety of advocacy topics running the gamut from recent difficulties plaguing NRA to minority and LGBTQ groups fighting the 2A fight to use of new media tools, updates on nationwide litigation and much more.
The program was kept impressively on pace by our moderators. On Saturday, Juliane Versnel of SAF did a great job of keeping dozens of speakers within their allotted time…no easy feat. On Sunday, Mark Walters of Armed American Radio was in charge of keeping things rolling along as well.
After Sunday’s program concluded and GRPC adjourned, the weekend was topped off by an informative 90-minute presentation on suicide awareness and prevention put on by Safer Homes, Suicide Aware’s Brett Bass. Having lost a veteran friend of mine just over a year ago, I’m particularly concerned with this tragic subject and am glad to see the 2A community becoming much more proactive in suicide prevention.
Don’t worry…there’s more and I’ll write about some GRPC highlights, but I came back bearing gifts and just one of those is a complete set of audio files of ALL the panels and speakers. I encourage you to listen to the following as your interests and time dictate.
Click HERE to download the full agenda for GRPC 2019 from the Second Amendment Foundation website as a .pdf.
For audio files of all the presentations, please check out SDCGO’s original blog post here.
NRA – The Elephant In the Room
It’s an uncomfortable topic…and one that many 2A supporters have difficulty tackling. And that is the challenges facing NRA as a result of growing problems that involve the current top leadership and features embattled NRA Executive V.P. Wayne LaPierre. But, Second Amendment Foundation brought that topic front and center by letting Rob Pincus, professional firearms instructor and outspoken 2A supporter, our very first speaker to kick-off the GRPC programs.
Pincus, not known for shying from controversy…is also a leader in the effort to challenge and thus change the narrative gun owners have clung to for what many (me included) say is far too long. And of course, he’s been prominent in holding the NRA’s feet to the fire regarding lack of transparency, financial misdeeds, questionable leadership decisions and ongoing actions towards and against our own which include a number of well-regarded members of the NRA board of directors.
Rob spoke articulately on increasing NRA transparency and accountability. He also covered other important topics including mental health and the importance of holding each other as well as ourselves accountable in order to more effectively fight the 2A battle on the battlefield we find ourselves upon. This is especially key as we face a daunting 2020 election year with a weakened NRA.
Media Experts – Their Perspective
Of special interest for me was a panel that brought together media insiders including Stephen Gutowski, writer from Washington Free Beacon, AWR Hawkins, who writes on 2A issues for Breitbart and Mark Walters, host of Armed American Radio & AAR Daily Defense They talked about the current media landscape, techniques and methods being deployed to erode the Bill of Rights and how to effectively communicate in order to change perceptions on guns and their owners.
Audience members were encouraged to communicate with media figures, particularly when we spot the inaccuracies, ignorance and misconceptions that support the message emitting from the gun-ban lobby.
“Be a resource,” Gutowski told us. “Be a fact-checker,” he continued. Importantly, he admonished us…be polite! AWR spent time discussing myths and language used by anti-gunners to diminish and shame us. Repeatedly, throughout GRPC, in fact, we were reminded that WE are the gun lobby and we have the power to counter the establishment media and their tactics. (#IAmTheGunLobby)
Giving Credit Where It’s Due – GRPC’s Award Luncheon
A nice lunch was in store for us with, yes, tasty food…but the real treat for me was hearing from our Master Of Ceremonies Tom Gresham…and watching him receive SAF’s “Lifetime Achievement Award. As a longtime listener of his weekly radio program…I never miss an episode of GunTalk Radio which airs on hundreds of stations across the United States and has for almost 25 years. Tom, the son of a prominent gun writer, has firearms in his DNA and is a personable, potent voice informing, galvanizing and mobilizing “gun folk” everywhere. His show concerns itself with all things gun and is a must-listen for every shooting/2A enthusiast.
Tom talked to us about how gun owners are being “othered”…marginalized and minimized in order to steamroller across our civil rights and he offered sensible ideas on how to fight back by simple means. One effective tactic is to invite anti-gun leaning friends to the gun range so you can introduce them safely to shooting fun. This helps to normalize those things that are being demonized in mainstream media messaging. Another important tactic involves tackling inaccuracies as you encounter them. As he often says on his show, he warned us that a “lie unchallenged becomes truth.”
Guest speaker, legendary Major League Baseball pitcher Curt Schilling began his comments by leading the room in The Pledge of Allegiance. We also heard from Matt Brasseoux of the Trump Victory Campaign who spoke on the importance of the upcoming 2020 election.
Following these speakers, Alan Gottlieb came up to make a series of presentations and brief comments commemorating the special efforts of the following notables in the 2A fight.
- Tom Gresham – Lifetime Achievement Award
- John Lott – Scholar of the Year
- AWR Hawkins – Journalist of the Year
- Mayor Dusty Escobar (Tucson, AZ, “2A City”) – Hall of Fame Award
- Amanda Suffecool – Defender of Liberty Award
- Rhonda Ezell – Defender of Liberty Award
- Dave Kopp – Defender of Liberty Award
- Freddie Real – Defender of Liberty Award
- Mark Penick – Defender of Liberty Award
- Robin Sandoval – Defender of Liberty Award
- Derrick LeBlanc – Defender of Liberty Award
- Dean Weingarden – Defender of Liberty Award
- Paul Markell – Defender of Liberty Award
- Adam Kraut – Defender of Liberty Award
- Charlie Cook – Ray Kotter Blogger of The Year Award
- Dave Kopel – Defender Of The Constitution Award
- Nevada Firearms Coalition – Grassroots Organization Of the Year Award (Don Turner)
- Alexander Roubian – Grassroots Activist Of the Year Award
- Buckeye Firearms Association – Affiliate Of the Year Award
- Stephen Gutowski – Gun Rights Defender Of the Year Award
- Senator Mitch McConnell – Gun Rights Legislator Of the Year Award
- Sheriff Mark Lamb (Pinal County, AZ) – Bill Of Rights Award
Women & Guns
An important reality is the fact that women are flowing rapidly into the firearms community. They are the largest growing portion off firearms and training buyers. We were strongly reminded that their voices are integral to our efforts to change perceptions and offer an important alternative to the typical impression of gun owners, which has been highly male-centric in times past. Well, those times ARE passed. One vital panel had us hearing specifically from some very effectively engaged women in the pro-gun movement.
Beth Alcazar, who wrote “Women’s Handgun & Self Defense Fundamentals” and works with USCCA spoke on the “woulda, coulda, shoulda” and legislative obstacles which are part of mobilizing women, and in fact, all gun owners into self-protection and the 2A fight. She told us that 1 in 3 women have experienced domestic violence, 1 in 5 women have been raped (63% being unreported certainly makes that numbers much higher) 19.3 million women have been stalked. These numbers never fail to shock.
We also heard from Robyn Sandoval, Exec. Director of A Girl And A Gun and Texas’s DC Project delegate. Esther Schneider, Amanda Suffecool and entrepreneur/radio host Cheryl Todd all spoke on issues such as “Mom’s Demand,” self-protection and the media biases and deceptions which continue to ignore or minimalize the role of women gun owners and the importance of armed defense in mitigating disparity of force when dealing with attackers, etc.
Getting women to the range was discussed…to get them past their prejudices and misgivings about firearms. Women are often painted unfairly as victims, gullible or incapable of the self-empowerment we commonly see women achieve in the gun. Women and hunting and their vital role to conservation as well as their importance to Election 2020’s outcome. (Women comprise 51% of the electorate, Ms. Schneider tells us.) Changing the narrative to one that reaches young Moms. “Young Mom’s don’t want to hear from old white guys to tell them that they’re here to save the day,” Esther said, to laughs.
“Strong women…may we know them, may we be them, may we raise them” declared 2A radio personality Amanda Suffecool. A popular event at GRPC, by the way, was Friday night’s Concealed Carry Fashion Show presented by Ms. Suffecool and hosts US LawShield.
As is clear to many gun owners, suicide accounts for 60% of all annual gun deaths in the United States. Brett Bass of Safer Homes Suicide Aware made brief comments on Saturday and, following the close of GRPC, he facilitated an incredibly informative and well-crafted presentation and discussion on this critical topic with useful tactics, strategies and resources to prepare people for tackling this tragic issue on a personal level or when dealing with another person struggling with their mental health.
(I’ll underscore that audio from both the brief comments as well as the complete Sunday program are available above in the sound player.)
Winning Firearms Freedom One Lawsuit At A Time
SEVEN lawyers talked to us…whew! Lawsuits, of course, are a cornerstone of 2nd Amendment gains and victories. So, our litigating attorneys are some of our key fighters on the 2A battleground.
First up, was a gentleman I have the pleasure to know and have spent time talking with and hearing from. This was was San Diego County Gun Owners PAC’s special counsel, Mr. John Dillon, who focused on the challenges faced by those who live “behind enemy lines” in the State of California and emphasized the importance of the fight in California which, of course, is a message I repeat with great regularity. (We are ground zero for the anti-gun, the “moldy petri dish” of the gun-banners as Tom Gresham calls it).
John briefly explained two cases he is currently litigating. Jones v Becerra which targets the post-Parkland law which prevents18-20 year olds from exercising their gun rights. These persons can participate in all other adult activities, including bearing arms in war, but cannot defend themselves and their families…somehow, California considers them as being too immature to enjoy this civil right. The other is Miller v Becerra, which challenges the constitutionality of California’s “assault weapon” ban…whose range, of course, is being expanded as the federal assault weapon ban facing the rest of the country.
While I’m mentioning lawsuits, I had the opportunity for a pleasant chat with Mr. Brandon Combs of Firearms Policy Coalition, who is partnering with San Diego County Gun Owners in our lawsuits. I was impressed by his attitude of inclusiveness and cooperation. Despite a heartening atmosphere of cooperation at GRPC, one area of common interest for Brandon and myself is the divisiveness which unfortunately exists to varying degrees in the gun community. goals and keeps us from being more fully effective, together.
Background Checks, Red Flag Laws & Gun-free Zones
A hero to many…certainly to me…is Dr. John R. Lott, a world-recognized expert on guns and crime. He is President of the Crime Prevention Research Center and been involved in research and teaching at numerous institutions including Univ. of Chicago, Yale, Wharton School, Stanford and Rice University. When it comes to public issues of controversial public policy, Lott has few equals…to paraphrase Nobel laureate Milton Friedman.
Lott’s talk was informative…and galvanizing, as he laid out the inherent dangers, flaws and lies involved in the proposed background check schemes. He laid out the same direct analysis for us pertaining to “red flag laws” and the lunacy we recognize as “gun free zones,” a frustratingly common reflex to evil by anti-gunners.
Lott went on to proposing actual “common sense” solutions to fix the tactics being floated by the anti-gun left. The difference is that Lott’s ideas make sense. The thinking behind them comes across as eminently sound, reasonable and based on reality. Lott’s talk is a must and I recommend it for all.
Dianne Muller – Will Not Comply!
By now, pretty much everyone I know has seen DC Project founder Dianna Muller‘s dynamic testimony in front of the US House’s Judiciary Committee where she spoke so excellently and put a very different face on the national stage to represent gun owners. Her unplanned declaration of “I Will Not Comply” powerfully drew a line in the sand for all to see. Coming from an atypical (to the uninformed) firearms owner, 22 yr. retired police officer, 3-gun competitor, TV personality and 2A activist, this was a memorable moment in the turning of the narrative which tries to paint gun owners as we’re not.
Now…what you may not know is that, three days before her appearance, Dianna was unexpectedly added on the fly to the Sunday program at GRPC. She then proceeded to try out her House speech on us before heading off to Washington for the Wednesday session. I’m proud to have been a guinea pig for that speech which will resonate as an eloquently forceful shot across the bows to the House and all anti-gunners.
Doctors With Guns
Another essential group in the effort to change perception and the mainstream narrative are physicians who are gun owners and there was great interest in this panel which gave GRPC attendees the opportunity to hear directly from doctors who are experts in assessing medical and public health research. They were at GRPC representing Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership (DRGO)
In a time when political interests influence medical professionals to ask about guns in the home with questionable motives, this is an organization who fulfills an important role in helping lawful gun owners from falling prey to these deceptive policies and practices while stripping rights. Worse still, many physicians exceed their boundaries by pressing anti-gun agendas and messages onto patients. It’s an institutional problem and having these physicians on the side of lawful firearms owners is a huge benefit. Additionally, DRGO provides gun owners the ability to connect with medical providers who are gun-friendly.
Discussing the gun battle from a health benefit these doctors provided a factual scientific approach to causation and information presented as fact by those who would infringe civil rights while pointing to flawed scientific conclusions as evidence to further their ends.
A particularly helpful section was provided by John Edeen, MD, a pediatric surgeon, who discussed the failings of extreme risk protection orders and gun violence restraining orders (‘red flag laws”). Dr. Edeen also went through the Bill of Rights and listed all the amendments violated by this legal fad.
Growing Gun Rights In LGBTQ and Minority Communities
An especially impactful panel happened on Sunday when speakers from these groups delivered strong, impassioned messages conveying the special motivations and challenges faced by these members of the gun community.
San Diego County Gun Owners very own Piper Smith of Armed Equality spoke along with other dedicated 2A fighters representing gay, transgender, black and other minority citizens who find themselves in positions of heightened risk of attack due to unique circumstances that face them. These 2A activists also demonstrate the true diversity which defines the gun culture.
It was a riveting presentation and I cannot encourage you enough to take the time to give the audio from this panel a listen.
Don’t Miss GRPC 2020 In Orlando!
I recommend any 2A supporter make the time to attend Gun Rights Policy Conference. (Next year, we’re in Orlando, FL.) 2nd Amendment Foundation and their sponsors host, so it’s free to attend as long as you get yourself there and cover your own food & lodging. (big discounts available for staying at the event hotel) Some tasty meals were even provided starting with our welcome reception along with lunch and beverage breaks, all thanks to event sponsors. Each seat in the hall had a large stack of useful 2A and shooting books and information waiting for us so, yes, you definitely walk away with loads of info. & swag.
As If That Wasn’t Enough! (Prologue)
After GRPC’s Sunday activities ended…and everyone headed home. I met up with a buddy who lives in Phoenix and decompressed with him for a bit. Afterwards, as I headed back to my hotel, I decided to catch a bite at a nearby restaurant. No sooner had I settled in with my elk burger (you read that right), when a group of guys walked in and settled at a table next to my booth. A couple of them recognized me from the conference and before you know it, I found myself enjoying my dinner with new friends including Derek LeBlanc of Kids S.A.F.E Foundation and rising 2A YouTube star Charlie Cook of “Riding Shotgun With Charlie” a video and podcast show roughly modeled on “Carpool Karaoke” but which features him chatting with firearms notables as they ride around in Charlie’s vehicle. Both Derek and Charlie were not only featured speakers at GRPC, but both also received Defender of Liberty Awards at Saturday’s luncheon.
They made great dining companions. We chatted, exchanged contacts, and they showed great interest in the successes, such as CCW availability, that San Diego County Gun Owners has achieved with our local activism. We’ll definitely be staying in touch…and hopefully I’ll get them out to San Diego as valuable allies for our fight here.
You just never know who you’ll run into at GRPC.