HOUSTON — The National Rifle Association kicked off its annual convention Friday with a warning from its incoming president that its members are engaged in a “culture war” that stretches beyond gun rights, further ramping up emotions surrounding the gun control debate.
NRA First Vice President James Porter, who will take over the top job Monday, issued a challenge in the opening hours to President Barack Obama after the NRA’s major victory on gun control and a call to dig in for a long fight that will stretch into the 2014 elections.
More than 70,000 NRA members are expected to attend the three-day convention amid the backdrop of the defeat of a major gun control bill in the U.S. Senate that was introduced after December’s mass shooting at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school.
Porter’s remarks came in a short speech to about 300 people at a grass-roots organizing meeting and set the tone for a “Stand and Fight”-themed convention that is part gun trade show, political rally and strategy meeting.
“This is not a battle about gun rights,” Porter said, calling it “a culture war.”
“(You) here in this room are the fighters for freedom. We are the protectors,” said Porter, whose father was NRA president from 1959-1960.
On Friday afternoon, a political forum will feature speeches from several state and national conservative leaders, including Texas Gov. Rick Perry, former Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin, former Pennsylvania senator and presidential candidate Rick Santorum and Sen. Ted Cruz, a Republican Texas firebrand who has become one of the top tea party voices in Washington since being elected last year.