One of the honorees who spoke at the banquet was our own Gov. Bobby Jindal, who seems to keep popping up wherever a conservative agenda is being displayed for a national audience. Jindal spoke on, among other things, the gun-confiscation scandal in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the lessons learned from it.
In fact, this was a recurring theme throughout the convention - the debacle in New Orleans has been seared into the collective consciousness of the gun owners of this nation.
But our governor was only one of a number of dignitaries, leaders, entertainers, athletes, military personnel and politicians who filled out the speakers' rostrum and held seminars, talks and signed books on the exhibit hall floor.
Besides Wayne LaPierre, executive vice-president of the NRA, there were speeches by Glenn Beck of CNN Headline News, former presidential candidates Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney, and Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain.
Sens. Hilary Clinton and Barack Obama, strangely enough, were nowhere to be seen.
Also on hand was the Motor City Madman, Ted Nugent, who gave several talks and signed books, as did Beck and Stephen Halbrook, noted Second Amendment scholar and co-counsel in the ongoing case of the NRA vs. Mayor Ray Nagin. He of the long-range rifle, Tom Selleck (Quigley Down Under) was seen roaming the floor of the exhibit hall as were other famous entertainers.
An estimated 70,000 people crammed the exhibit hall at the fairgrounds on the outskirts of Louisville over the three-day weekend. If you have always wanted to attend a SHOT show (Shooting, Hunting, and Outdoor Trades) but are not an outdoor retailer, here's your chance to attend a show that mimics SHOT in everything but size. And while it would take you three or four days to see everything at SHOT, the NRA exhibition will take you only the better part of two days.
To attempt to describe the exhibition would be nearly impossible - simply think of the Louisiana Superdome, its acres of floor space covered by many hundreds of booths displaying the products of manufacturers running the full array of shooting and hunting sports.
Of course, all the major gun manufacturers had massive displays - some so large they were like small houses or rooms rather than booths - displaying all their wares. Smith & Wesson, for instance, had a veritable wall of handguns on display, every one attached by a retractable wire allowing the passersby to handle the guns and get a feel for them.
Para-Ordnance had a huge display featuring videos and regular talks by their champion shooter, Todd Jarrett. One continuous loop that played showed Jarrett and a team of loaders firing 5,000 rounds through a stock Para-Ordnance 1911 model .45 Auto. The gun was so hot at the end, Jarrett dropped it, the trigger burning his finger. The gun did not suffer a single malfunction the entire time.
Ruger's display was slammed morning and night. The biggest crush of people gathered around Randall Pence, national sales manager, who could not keep the new Ruger .380 LCP Ultra-Compact in his hands, so many people wanted to handle it. This new pocket semi-automatic by Ruger in .380 Auto was one of the hottest items at the most recent SHOT show. Apparently, from the crowds grabbing at the little guns, interest in Ruger's first mini semi-auto has not abated. With a 6-1 capacity, well under $300 price tag and Ruger quality, this little hideaway pocket backup is causing huge backorders at the factory.
Lots of new, neat and innovative products were on display. I saw a demonstration for a new protectant oil that South Louisiana salt marsh duck hunters will die for. I saw Barrett's display with their array of .50 caliber long-range rifles and a 25-yard airgun range set up for the kids - and they were having a ball. Each lane was full with a waiting line, and each kid had his own personal instructor to maintain safety, and make sure they learned to shoot well.
Moreso than SHOT, the NRA Convention is a family-oriented event - a great destination for a family vacation. Entry to the exhibition hall is free, and kids are welcome. But when you go, plan on spending at least two days. It will take that long to see everything.Gordon Hutchinson's newest book, written with Todd Masson, is "The Great New Orleans Gun Grab." It's a searing expose' of the scandal of gun confiscations in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. It is available from the publisher at www.neworleansgungrab.com.
Hutchinson's first book, "The Quest and the Quarry," is a best-selling generational tale that parallels the lives of a line of trophy bucks and the youths of a farming family that hunts them. It was chosen as a book of the year by the Southeastern Outdoor Press Association. It is available from the publisher at www.thequestandthequarry.com.