NRA 'Stand and Fight' convention: Political big guns will be there

The NRA's annual convention begins Friday, and the theme this year is 'Stand and Fight.' In the line-up to speak to the 70,000 attendees: a host of likely 2016 GOP presidential hopefuls.

Adrees Latif/Reuters
Tommy Joost of Victoria, Texas holds up a raffle ticket to win a gun during the National Rifle Association (NRA)'s annual meeting at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston, Texas, Friday. Tens of thousands of NRA members gather in Houston this weekend for the first time since the Senate rejected a plan last month to expand background checks for gun buyers, but officials say attendees will not sit back to celebrate victory.

Consider it an after-party, victory lap, pep rally, and huddle, rolled into one rollicking shindig. It’s the National Rifle Association’s annual convention, held this weekend in Houston, and the timing – after the gun bill’s defeat in the Senate almost three weeks ago – couldn’t be better for the gun rights group.

By our estimation, the gathering of 70,000 NRA members, supporters, and Second Amendment activists will be one part congratulatory back-slapping, one-part good ol' fashioned gun show, and one part strategic planning session for the gun fight ahead.

And boy, is the NRA ready for a fight: Its theme is “Stand and Fight,” as NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam told CBSNews.com.

“Our theme here is stand and fight,” Mr. Arulanandam said. “From our perspective, this is not over. This is a fight that will take years. And what happened a couple of weeks ago [in the Senate] was the first battle in what will be many battles. But we're prepared for a very long and extensive war.”

War-mongering by a hawkish NRA? Defensive posturing to intimidate gun-control groups? Here’s what we’ve learned about the gun debate, no matter your stance: If you’re not actively waging a campaign for your cause, you’re losing ground.

That point is not lost on gun-control groups. Although the Senate defeat of the gun bill, including its centerpiece provision of expanded background checks, marked an end to one chapter of the gun debate, gun-control groups vow to press on. They’ve taken the fight to the state level and the airwaves, where they’re pressuring senators who voted against the bill with a shaming campaign of sorts. (Most recent was a headline-making town hall meeting in New Hampshire where gun-control advocates confronted junior Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R) on her "no" vote.)

Those very same gun-control activists will have a presence at the NRA’s Houston convention, staging rallies and vigils for victims of gun violence outside the convention center.

No surprise, the NRA isn’t taking this lying down.

The “Stand and Fight” rally is an opportunity for gun rights supporters to recharge for the political fight ahead. They’ve already begun with TV ads supporting senators who voted against the gun bill – and, no doubt, are preparing for the 2014 midterm elections.

The rally is also an opportunity to let loose and celebrate their Senate victory, NRA-style.

Imagine flag-draped NRA supporters milling the halls of the George R. Brown Convention Center, the venue itself plastered with bold red, black, and white, eagle-emblazoned “Stand and Fight” banners.

The speaker line-up is a who’s who of conservative activists including Texas governor and former presidential candidate Rick Perry (R), former GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin, former US senator and presidential candidate Rick Santorum (R), Sen. Ted Cruz (R) of Texas, and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R).

Oh, and did we mention the headline speaker, conservative favorite Glenn Beck? He headlines the convention’s centerpiece “Stand and Fight” rally May 4.

Also on the docket is a gun trade show, antique gun show, prayer breakfast, as well as patriotic concerts and classes on handgun retention, defensive shooting, competition shooting, firearm law, and our favorite, wild game cooking.

On the menu, perhaps? Venison, with a side of victory-fueled strategizing? 

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