The 29th annual Gun Rights Policy Conference was held this past weekend in Chicago, and was a great success despite the travel nightmare that prevented many attendees and some speakers from making it to the Windy City.
Early Friday morning, an airport contract employee apparently set fire to the Chicago Air Route Traffic Control Center in Aurora, Illinois, resulting in a ground stoppage of all flights entering and leaving Chicago’s O’Hare Airport. Thousands of flights were canceled on Friday—including mine—forcing many of the GRPC attendees to cancel their travel plans.
Yet, despite this turmoil, and not knowing how many speakers and attendees would actually make it to Chicago, the conference went forward with an adjusted schedule that changed throughout the day on Saturday. While I estimated that their were well over 100 badges that were not picked up, attendance still managed to top 200.
The topics weren’t limited to just gun ownership. Dave Ritter of KnifeRights.org is fighting a battle similar to the one that gun owners face when it comes to the right to be able to carry a knife, and John Fund of National Review Online spoke about Eric Holder, calling him the “worst Attorney General in the history of the United States.”
I was on the media bias panel and reminded the audience that the media have a long history of bias against gun owners. I cited a 1975 CBS documentary called “The Guns of Autumn,” reported by Dan Rather. The report, not surprisingly, attacked hunters, but was so biased that even the liberal Columbia Journalism Review panned it. I also explained to the audience that one of the best ways to engage with the liberal press was to use social media, as many members of the media are getting a majority of their news via their smartphones, and through sites like Facebook and Twitter, which have seen a huge increase in the use of their mobile apps in the last couple of years.
Herb Stupp, an Emmy award-winning journalist from New York, told the audience that journalists are “lazy,” but that they should try to build relationships and attempt to win over the press using sugar instead of vinegar.
Charles Heller, from “Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership,” wrapped up the panel by playing some of the hard-hitting radio Public Service Announcements that he has produced, and offered to help other groups record their own PSA’s.
The last time the GRPC faced such adversity was after 9/11, when they didn’t know if planes would be flying in time for their conference in two weeks. They did resume flying shortly before the conference was to begin, and the GRPC wound up with record attendance, as people were looking to defend themselves in the aftermath of the attack.