NRA Executive Vice President and Chief Executive Officer Wayne LaPierre speaks May 3, 2013, during the leadership forum at the National Rifle Association's annual meeting.
(Photo: Steve Ueckert, AP)
HOUSTON (USA TODAY -- Efforts to pass gun-control legislation have only made the National Rifle Association stronger, as the membership rolls now surpass a record 5 million, NRA Vice President Wayne LaPierre told the gun rights group's annual meeting Saturday.
"The state of the NRA is stronger and larger than it has ever been," LaPierre told more than 3,000 NRA members. "Our commitment to freedom is unwavering and our growth is unprecedented. ... By the time we're finished, the NRA must and will be 10 million strong."
About one-tenth of the members have joined in the past six months, the NRA says.
LaPierre's defiant speech echoed many of the themes of the weekend's convention: Political elites and their allies in the media are pushing a gun-control agenda that will lead to a more dangerous America.
The NRA, LaPierre said, is "at the middle of the river of America's mainstream, and what we want is exactly what most Americans want," he said.
Alluding to the recent Boston Marathon bombing and subsequent manhunt and lockdown, LaPierre said: "How many Bostonians wished they had a gun two weeks ago?"
The NRA's annual meeting Saturday was the business portion of a weekend including concerts, a prayer gathering, seminars and a convention floor with 9 acres of guns and accessories.
The business meeting revealed no split within the NRA membership. Members unanimously or overwhelmingly approved three resolutions: supporting the group's leadership; urging the government to approve its National School Shield program to protect children with armed guards; and urging a no-compromise stance on gun-control legislation.
The last resolution sought to repudiate public opinion polls suggesting 74% of NRA members actually support universal background checks for gun purchases.
"The members at large need to know that the members here gathered solidly and soundly oppose any new restrictions of our Second Amendment rights," said Jeff Knox, a member from Buckeye, Ariz., and director of the Firearms Coalition. The only real controversy was whether the NRA should publish its resolution of support in its journal at a cost of more than $50,000; (Members voted not to.)
The members also elected 25 members to its board of directors. Top vote-getters: Retired lieutenant colonel Oliver North, rocker Ted Nugent, past president Sandra Froman, Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, and past president Marion Hammer.
The organization will also have a new president when the board meets Monday. David Keane, the outgoing president, said he would hand over the reins to James Porter, a 64-year-old Alabama attorney.
"Millions of Americans are becoming first-time gun owners," Porter told the members. "The media calls it fear. That's not it. It's a sense of natural outrage that's been building for quite some time."