The National Rifle Association is hosting its leadership summit in Houston on Friday. Following a mass shooting at a Texas elementary school Tuesday, many corporate media outlets are suggesting politicians should cancel their planned speeches there.
ABC News tweeted:
“Houston Mayor Says He Can’t Cancel NRA Convention After School Massacre,” wrote Bloomberg. “Trump will keep ‘longtime commitment’ to Texas NRA event despite school shooting,” wrote the New York Post.
Why would an organization of law-abiding defenders of the U.S. Constitution cancel an event on account of a horrific school shooting committed by an individual with no regard for constitutional principles, readers might ask. Nevertheless, the pressure from the media and others opposed to gun rights will be intense.
It is reminiscent of a previous attempt by the media and other partisans to blame law-abiding gun owners and their defenders for gun violence. On April 20, 1999, two high school seniors murdered 12 students and one teacher at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. The NRA was slated to hold its large convention in Denver just days later.
Everyone in the political and media classes warned the NRA to cancel their convention. Many immediately pushed for gun control as the only valid response to the murders.
President Bill Clinton and his wife Hillary Clinton immediately called for limits on gun rights, as did many other Democrat politicians. The Democrat mayor of Denver, Wellington Webb, repeatedly told the NRA attendees that they weren’t welcome anymore.
Weak-kneed politicians canceled their planned appearances. More than five dozen Colorado business leaders signed a full-page ad published in local newspapers asking the convention organizers to cancel. Thousands of anti-gun rights activists descended on the convention.
Nevertheless, a few brave gun rights proponents stood strong. Charlton Heston — the actor and civil rights activist who was by then president of the NRA — opened up the convention in Denver on May 1, saying it was “absurd” and “offensive” to act as if supporters of Second Amendment rights couldn’t gather.
But what happened next was breathtaking. The top-ranking Republican in the state at that time was Gov. Bill Owens. He declined an invitation to speak. Secretary of State Vikki Buckley, a black Republican in her second term, welcomed the attendees to Colorado with a breathtaking speech on gun rights. “I greet you as Secretary of State of Colorado and I welcome you to Colorado, a state where some of us believe strongly in the entire Constitution of these United States, including the Second Amendment.”
Buckley was the first black secretary of state in Colorado and the first black Republican woman elected statewide in the Centennial State. The mother of three sons, she had once been on welfare to support them, eventually becoming a clerk typist in the secretary of state’s office in the early 1980s.
Her campaign pitch was to tell people that if she didn’t win the race, she’d have to train whoever did win. She defeated four other candidates for the Republican nomination in 1994 on the strength of a floor speech, even though hardly anyone at the convention had heard of her previously.
Buckley mentored young women and spoke to international women’s organizations about building stronger communities. She helped homeless children and worked to end the scourge of gang violence.
One of the children killed at Columbine was Isaiah Shoels, an 18-year-old black senior. His murderers had used racial slurs before killing him. Buckley had spent time with his parents and quoted Isaiah’s father about the scourge underlying violence.
“Guns are not the issue. Hate is what pulls the trigger of violence,” she said. She talked about “new age hate crimes,” such as raising children “without a value system which places a premium on human life,” or sending children to school “without a value system which teaches the difference between right and wrong.” She listed the ways in which children were not prepared for socioeconomic success, saying, “raise as much heck about that as you did about the NRA, and you will have saved more lives in five years than are taken with guns in a century.”
Buckley then shared the painful story of how she was the victim of gun violence. “I know firsthand the pain and fear–but that experience has not made me an opponent of the NRA or the Second Amendment,” she said. She called for resources to be spent against violence and hate, then said, “But we must stand ever strong against those who would ignore sections of the U.S. Constitution which they do not like. We are a strong democracy because the guiding principles of our Constitution and all of its amendments including the Second must be adhered to in its entirety, not selectively. Thank you and God bless America.”
The thousands of attendees roared to their feet and gave her a standing ovation. You can watch the speech here.
Rabid anti-gun rights activist Jake Tapper — yes, that Jake Tapper — attacked Buckley and her ideas. The Wall Street Journal, on the other hand, suggested Buckley was set for greater political heights.
It was not to be. Buckley died unexpectedly of a heart attack just two months later. Her courage and leadership is remembered.