So I went down Friday to the Phoenix Civic Plaza Convention Center to take in the sportsman’s expo that is held along with the NRA Convention. The NRA Convention is held in a different city every year, but has been here twice before. I went those previous two times and was thrilled to see all the vendors and exhibitors at the expo. It’s not as big or with as many industry booths as the big SHOT Show in Vegas each January, or have as many nifty trinkets and toys you can actually buy and take home as the Small Arms Review (SAR) show here at the fairgrounds each December. But it’s still a big deal and worth going to see.
Or at least, I should say, it USED to be.
Based on my previous experiences there, I was excited. At least with that despicable boondoggle rip-off train running right past the outside, people should have parked elsewhere and hopped on for a short trip to the center. So, not wanting to give any of my money (beyond what they steal from me already) to the train, I figured I’d just drive on down to the parking garage underneath. Yeah, I’d pay more, but at least its not a gun-free zone. Turns out most people in this town had the same idea, and I had to go elsewhere to park, then walk back. But it was heartening to see so many other people refuse to ride The Beast.
But after I made my trek in the hot sun to the north building of the center (where the expo is), I was stunned to see a looooooong line to get in. There were no lines last time this was here, except at the concessions stands. Well, Phoenix is a bigger town now than it was when the NRA was here last, with more people. I just chalked it up to that and the current Obama panic gripping the nation. The last gun show was just crammed with people so thick, it was like salmon trying to get upstream, so why should I be surprised?
But this was not THE line. No, it was but the line to get into the NEXT line. And it took FOREVER. I was outside in the sun for 45 minutes before the 1st line even made it inside. And then, after about 90 minutes, we got to where we could finally see what appeared to be a queue to pay for admission?! Hmmm, the NRA had never charged admission before. That would have been nice to know. Perhaps I could have gotten online and bought my tickets beforehand. I would have been happy to do that.
As we stood there, it seemed that it was taking an awfully looooong time for people to just buy their tickets and get in. But after a while, I was able to get close enough (which was still far away) to see that the line led to the “Registration” booth. Aw hell,…I’ve been standing in this line all this time just to register to attend the association meetings!?!? I just want to see the expo! I got out of the line and went up to the entrance to the expo, where I was promptly stopped by security officers, who informed me I needed to have a little sticker to gain access. WTF? And where do I get this sticker, I asked. They pointed to the Registration booth.
You gotta be f@#king kidding me!
As I stood there at the entrance, I could see into much of the expo. It was rather empty. There was hardly anyone walking around. That shouldn’t have been too surprising, really, since everyone who wanted to be in there was in line!!
I walked back to where I had gotten out of line and asked if my fellow hostages would be gracious enough to let me back in. They agreed, and asked what I had discovered. (They were all thinking the same thing, but I had gotten out of line first, so let me charge the ramparts. I explained that apparently the NRA wanted all attendees to register, just as if we were attending the seminars and committee meetings. We all agreed that was insane and didn’t make any sense, so one of the other guys who was frustrated with the delay went on down to the front of the line to inquire why this was necessary. After a couple minutes, despite how distant we were, we all plainly heard the fellow say exactly what I had been thinking to myself earlier; “Are you f@#king kidding me!?!?!?”
Our spy stomped angrily all the way back to us and gave us the news; no one could get in before they were offered to join the NRA. If you were already a member of the NRA, you would have explained to you your options for upgrading your membership. ONLY then (supposedly whether you agreed or refused) would you be given the special color-coded sticker to gain access to the expo. Everyone within earshot of this report rolled their eyes and moaned.
One fellow piped up and said, “Well I can answer that right now. This constantly-money-grubbing-above-all-else bulls@#% is why I left the damned NRA in the first place! They jam me up like this now and think I’ll somehow give them a f@#king dime?!?!” About 75% of my fellow hostages agreed with this sentiment and all expressed why they had not bothered rejoining the NRA. You could tell who the current members were in the line. They just gritted their teeth and said nothing. I had left the NRA forever back in 1990 for different reasons. I refused to any longer be associated with a group like them that was not actually interested in defending or supporting the principles they claimed to represent. They’re a bunch of compromising weenies, and I don’t give money or legitimacy to folks like that. Very few of my interactions with the NRA had ever been positive, and here was another to ad to that long line of enraging disappointments and lies.
But most all of us there in line had played hookey from work or the wife to be there. We had gone through the extraordinary measures to have this day to ourselves, and here we were, pissing it away for the privilege of getting yet another pitch for money from people who refuse to use it either wisely or with principle. I kept thinking I could have gone shooting that day, or been home spending time on the reloader. Something constructive. But for the moment, I was too comforted and entertained by my commiserating fellow prisoners to bother to just leave. After a while longer, without getting appreciably closer to the registration desk, one of the other guys who happened to live on my end of town said, “F@#k it!! I’m going shooting. F@#k these a@#holes!!”
Boy,…even in the heat and this late in the day, that just made a lot more sense. “Anyone else want to go?” he asked. Gee,…twist my arm.
So that’s why I have no report for you on what is actually inside the NRA expo. If I were one of the exhibitors in there and discovered how many people were NOT getting in to see my wares I was paying exhibit space to the NRA for, I’d demand a refund. There has got to be a lot of pissed of industry folks there this weekend.
Instead, I took the chronograph out got some velocity readings on my latest reloads. I also got to hang out with some guys from the line who are (unlike the NRA) actually dedicated to defending the 2nd Amendment and principle over incumbents and party hacks. Even got to shoot a .50 BMG rifle. Can’t do that at the expo!
So if you go, just be aware of what you’ll have to go through. Maybe it’ll be worth it for you. It just wasn’t for me.