Dear Fellow NRA Members:
I have been a political activist for gun-owners and the Second Amendment for 37 years. I am both proud and humbled to have been nominated by the NRA Nominating Committee for re-election to the NRA Board of Directors in 2017. The title "NRA Director" is one that should be worn with dignity and the realization that 150 million American gun-owners are depending on us to carry out our duties with diligence and dedication to preserving the protections of the Second Amendment and all that it means to freedom-loving Americans. It has been an honor to have served on the Board with dedicated board members and I respectfully request your support in my re-election effort.
To say that gun-owners and all and all who value constitutional protections are living in perilous times would be a gross understatement. President Obama, his administration, his allies and supporters made unprecedented attempts to destroy the Second and Forth Amendments. He routinely ignored constitutional mandates and issued executive orders usurping the authority granted exclusively to Congress. Now that Donald Trump, a committed Second Amendment supporter, has been elected President, he is expected to do everything he can to restore Americans' Second Amendment rights. Republicans control both the House and Senate and some expect that gun owners will get everything they want merely by asking. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Republicans hold a two vote margin in the Senate and it takes sixty votes to break a filibuster. That means at least eight Democrats must join pro-gun Republicans, if anti-gun filibusters are used to block pro-Second Amendment legislation. This presumes all fifty-two Republicans remain loyal to gun owners. The message is clear. The 2016 Presidential election was critical to our Republic, but the fight to restore all gun rights is far from over.
Powerful opponents of the Second Amendment have coordinated in an effort to destroy or limit gun-owners rights and enjoy financial support heretofore unseen in the American political arena. Former New York City Mayor Bloomberg has boldly stated that he spent $700 million trying to prevent young people from smoking and he will spend more than that to destroy Americans Second Amendment rights. With his net worth over $37 billion, anti-gunners have an almost endless supply of cash at their disposal.
Former United States Congresswoman Gabriel Gifford and her husband have formed and anti-gun organization whose goal is to limit Americans access to firearms. This organization is but a sham and is funded primarily if not exclusively by Bloomberg. Bloomberg-supported anti-gun groups are being formed in every state to pursue gun control legislation. Those who continually attack the Second Amendment know that passing gun control legislation in the U.S. Congress will be virtually impossible with the makeup of the House and Senate and Trump in the White House. These are just some of the reasons gun-owners must be active in the political process and why they must join and support the NRA like never before in our history.
While recognizing the current threat, we should also take pride in our accomplishments. The NRA and its state associations have steadfastly expanded law-abiding citizens' rights to carry handguns for self-defense. "Shall issue" concealed carry statutes are now the rule, rather than the exception, in the majority of states; a feat many would have considered impossible only a few years ago. Anti-lawsuit statutes have been passed in several states to protect firearms manufacturers from frivolous, politically motivated suits filed solely to drive them out of business. This is in addition to the Lawful Commerce in Arms Act passed at the federal level to provide a two-pronged defense. To emphasize the importance of the 2016 Presidential election, Hillary Clinton had vowed to repeal the Lawful Commerce in Arms Act so frivolous lawsuits could once again be filed and drive manufacturers and dealers out of business.
In Texas, we have expanded gun-owners’ rights by passing numerous pro-gun bills. Procedural requirements to obtain and renew a Texas License to Carry a Handgun have been streamlined making it much easier and less costly for Texans to obtain their LTC. Bills have been filed in the Texas Legislature for the 2017 session that would eliminate all license fees, repeal most off-limits areas for Licensees and tweak previously passed pro-gun bills.
As most folks know, the NRA also took action in response to the atrocity at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown Connecticut. The National School Shield project funded entirely by the NRA is an independent program. It is the gold standard in terms of protecting our precious school children. As NRA Executive Director Wayne LaPierre correctly stated, “the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is with a good guy with a gun.” This is more than a buzz phrase, it is a concise statement of fact that both law enforcement and school officials around the country recognize as the truth and they are acting on this truth. After Sandy Hook, many proclaimed the death of both the NRA and the Second Amendment, but they underestimated the resolve and intelligence of everyday Americans who could see through the lies of those who would dance in the blood of the innocent to gain political ground. The NRA and the Second Amendment survived and indeed they provide the only real answer to mass murderers who would prey on the most helpless and precious of Americans --- our children. Once again, the NRA with its leadership and Members weathered the political storm and came out stronger because people didn’t fall for the lies of those who would reduce the Second Amendment to a historical footnote.
Over many years, the NRA made passage of laws commonly known as the "Castle Doctrine" a top priority in the states. These laws vary by state, but at their core they allow a citizen to defend themselves from violent attack, without having to worry about facing prosecution and prison. Many of the states included civil liability protection in their version of the "Castle Doctrine." Beginning the with misreported facts in the Travon Martin case, an concerted effort is being made to repeal or severely weaken so-called “stand your ground laws” such that violent attackers would be protected from would-be victims merely trying to protect themselves. At least three such bills were filed in the Texas Legislature during the 2013 Legislative Session – none were passed thanks to the NRA and our Members. But past failures have not discouraged people who want to take away both your Second Amendment rights and your right to self-defense. The 2017 Texas Legislative Session has seen the filing of yet another bill to gut protections enacted in 2007 with the passage of the Texas version of the "Castle Doctrine" (SB378 - 2007).
I made this statement in 2005 and it bears repeating. Ironically, our successes can actually work against us, unless were are ever vigilant. It is comforting to see the great strides we have made, but we cannot allow that success to lull us into complacency. Rather, we must use our successes as a springboard for new efforts. Gun owners won the 2016 Presidential election and we held onto majorities in the U.S. House and Senate. Yet the fight to preserve Constitutional protections is not over. Sadly, it will never be over so we must remain politically active.
As important as political efforts are in defense of the Second Amendment and the ability of law-abiding Americans to defend themselves against predators, the NRA must also continue its unequaled support of the shooting sports. These activities include competitive shooting through various NRA sanctioned and/or sponsored shooting disciplines and the preservation of access to hunting lands. Another tactic of the anti-gun crowd is to target hunting by restricting or eliminating available hunting land, closing or shortening of seasons, and burdensome red tape. Local regulations and lawsuits designed to put sport shooting ranges out of business is a growing tactic throughout the country and other states need the sweeping protection provided by the Texas Sport Shooting Range law passed in 2011. Those who oppose Second Amendment rights know that if people do not have the opportunity to use their firearms, they will be less likely to get involved in protecting the Second Amendment.
The NRA must also make every effort to attract young people into the shooting sports. Americans could quite literally loose our Second Amendment rights in a single generation, if we do not attract millions of new shooters into our ranks. Our duty to young people does not lie solely with educating them on the importance of the Second Amendment and teaching them how to safely use firearms. We must continue to work with younger children through the Eddie Eagle Program so that firearm safety becomes second nature. Accidents with firearms have declined dramatically over the years and we want that trend to continue.
There is much work to be done. In truth the fight to defend all Constitutional rights, including the Second Amendment, will never end. I hope to have the opportunity to continue working for NRA members, indeed all gun owners, as a member of the NRA Board of Directors. With your help, this will happen.
Charles L. Cotton