Yesterday Was a Busy Day Around the Gun World

courtesy Safari Club International

Wednesday was an auspicious day. It was, at the very least, a new beginning of sorts for two of the outdoors’ most influential organizations.

Yesterday marked the closing of what has likely been the most contentious time in the history of the National Rifle Association; the tenure of Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre. It also marked the opening of the Safari Club International’s Fifty-Second Annual Hunter’s Convention is Nashville, Tennessee.

Normally, I wouldn’t conflate the two, but the halls of Nashville’s Music City Center were buzzing with the same question that dominated many casual conversations at last week’s SHOT Show; “What’s next for the NRA?”

It seems many NRA members simply have no clue what the beleaguered organization will do without Wayne. Even after LaPierre’s admitted transgressions, from misuse of corporate funds to deliberately failing to disclose conflicts of interest, he still has ardent supporters.

Consequently, as he and two of his subordinates stand trial for acts the State of New York alleges constitute a gross and persistent violation of their fiduciary duties, many members appear to be at a loss as to what the organization is to do going forward.

That’s a huge frustration for many of his outspoken opponents. But as one of those opponents reminded me yesterday, “Gone is ultimately gone. And in his case, gone is good.”

On Tuesday, LaPierre spent his final hours on the witness stand…at least for the prosecution. He argued that much of his spending — from safaris to Africa to his many trips on private planes — while not in keeping with NRA policies, were “all business.”

He was followed on the witness stand by NRA secretary and general counsel (and co-defendant) John Frazer. He told the jury that, despite his position, he was never actually involved in several key NRA decisions, from the lawsuit against Ackerman McQueen to the disastrous decision to file for bankruptcy. The Ackerman lawsuit was settled in Ackerman’s favor. The bankruptcy was dismissed as a “bad faith filing” that was unsuccessful at avoiding the lawsuit being argued now.

According to Judge Joel Cohen, the trial may continue for weeks. The defense, after all, has yet to make its case to the jury.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the continent, a federal judge in California has ruled that the state cannot enforce a law requiring people to undergo background checks to buy ammunition.

According to U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez, the California law has “no historical pedigree” and, consequently, violates the Second Amendment by “treating all citizens as having no right to buy ammunition.”

“Saint” Roger Benitez (courtesy

Benitez continued “A sweeping background check requirement every time a citizen needs to buy ammunition is an outlier that our ancestors would never have accepted for a citizen.” He also criticized California’s eleven percent failure rate as “too high.”

California AG Rob Bonta says the state will seek an immediate stay of the Benitez decision, insisting “background checks save lives.”

SCI’s Nashville happening is far more enjoyable than courtroom drama, but it does have a deja vu feel to many of us. SHOT Show, in case you’ve forgotten already, was just last week. Fortunately, , less crowded, and full of happy visitors.

Here’s a look at some of what was happening yesterday:

Music City Center’s seen its share of celebrities, but the sight of someone walking their baby bison stopped traffic even before entering the exhibit halls.

They weren’t as big as a baby bison, but Rodrigo Medina of Mexico’s Big Game Outfitters stopped traffic with his exhibit four beautiful Bengal kittens. Yes, they’re available for purchase/adoption.

Gorilla Ammunition wasn’t one of the better-known brands exhibiting in Nashville, but their well-armed ATV proved to be a popular photo op stop.

Politics is generally avoided at SCI, but the absence of interested hunters in the Professional Russian Outfitters booth seemed to speak volumes about the current state of US/Russian relations.

If SHOT Show’s essence is the latest in high-performance firearms, SCI’s might be defined by fine figured wood and elegantly engraved metal.

That detailed craftsmanship was demonstrated in Beretta’s exhibition where master woodworker Scott Mays carefully cut checkering lines into wood that will guarantee another happy Beretta shotgun owner.

Plenty more will be happening around the industry this week, both inside and outside courtrooms. As always, we’ll keep you posted.

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