To begin, the conference didn't start officially until Friday, April 13th, but I had an invitation by my buddy from Texas (Matt Miller) to accept a free ticket to attend the NRA Banquet & Auction on the preceding Thursday AND I was previously invited by the "Cam & Company Show" to be an in-studio guest later that same day. So, I had to make the trek from Detroit to be in St. Louis by 5:00pm local time (CST) on Thursday.
I hit the highway early enough in the day on Thursday - 7:00am EST - to travel safely through a few states to reach St. Louis: Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Missouri. The trip was relatively long (9 hours) but it was a snap especially when you consider that in 2010 that I had driven 12 hours to go the Annual Meeting in Charlotte, NC. The last few hours of my trip, across Illinois, with my handgun unloaded, separated, and stored in my trunk caused me a bit of separation anxiety but I survived.
By the time I saw the St. Louis Arch, I literally had mere minutes to get cleaned up for the aforementioned banquet. As many people know, this event is a fundraiser for the NRA which funds many worthy firearms education programs across the country.
Within 30 minutes of announcing my intention of meeting NRA Executive Vice-President Wayne LaPierre to my buddy Matt, he magically appeared and I promptly walked up to him and introduced myself to him.
We had a short but great conversation upon after which he gave me his business card. Anyone who knows me will attest that I am not shy. As such, I'll be calling him soon about some projects that I hope will interest him.
After the banquet wound down, I made my way over to the Convention Center to be ready for my appearance on the "Cam & Company Show." By the time I made it there, I had plenty of time to spare. As such, I was chilling off-set with some friends until my slot arrived.
My interview was 15 minutes long, but it seemed like the time flew by. We covered a lot of ground: my expectations for the conference, what I planned to do, what's been going on in Detroit, and what kind of firearms I like. Check out the full Youtube embedded video:
Throughout the weekend, I spent a considerable amount of time in the Media Room. For me as a blogger, one of the greatest joys of attending conferences is meeting my peers in the gun rights blogosphere. I ran into some familiar faces and met some new ones. The biggest risk of name-dropping in a blog about a conference is that inevitably someone will be left out. Without naming names, here are some pictures of folks I met:
Not pictured among the people I networked and/or hung out:
Dennis Badurina (Dragon leatherworks), John Richardson (No Lawyers - Only Guns and Money), Robert Farago (The Truth About Guns), Rita Beeman (Fatale Abstraction), Don Gwinn (IllinoisCarry), Tim McNabb (Tin Cans Unlimited LLC), Destinee, Days of Our Trailers, Bonnie Burgette (Squeaky Wheel Seeks Grease), Dan Hall (GunUp), WeerdWorld, Ambulance Driver Files.
If I left you out of the above list, let me know. I'll update it ASAP.
Moreover, no trip to the Annual Meeting would be complete without a trip to the exhibition floor. I spent a lot of time looking at all of toys on display and speaking with the celebrities present. No gun porn in this post (maybe in my next one) but here are some photos from my view in the exhibitor's hall:
In all truth, I spent a considerable amount of time being social at the conference. The bulk of the fun I had during that weekend was spent in hotel lobbies, at the bar, and at area restaurants. I didn't take many pictures of those activities because I was busy being social. However, I snagged a few photos from the web of other bloggers of me socializing. The first picture is of me and Jay Grazio (MA-rooned) that was taken by Oleg Volk:
Wouldn't that picture be epic if Oleg had added in some lightning bolts between my hands? Well, I think so.
The next picture was taken off of Bonnie's web site. It shows me and Jay bumping into the great Massad Ayoob at a local eatery.
As many of you know, Ayoob is a nationally recognized expert on the proper usage of lethal force during a self-defense encounter. I seized the opportunity to ask him for his take and position on the Trayvon Martin case in Florida. I'll keep his comments private but they are very similar to what I think about the case.
In all, I had an awesome time at the conference. I am already certain that I will be at next year's conference in Houston, TX. There is so much that I could add to this post about what it meant for me to be here and why it was important that I didn't miss it. I may post more about the conference in a future post.