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May 30 2016

Guns and Butter: Attending Both NRA Conventions

Ricochet
featuring Julie Gunlock

When someone says “NRA,” most people immediately think of the National Rifle Association. But there is another NRA here in Washington: the National Restaurant Association. Both are powerful lobbies, protecting their members from government overreach, and defending personal freedoms from the right to bear arms to the right to eat whatever your arms can hold.

I work for NRA News — that’s news about rifles, not restaurants — on a show called “Cam and Company.” Host Cam Edwards discusses all the important Second Amendment news and issues of the day and he also delves into many other freedom-related issues. One of the many great things about my job is attending the NRA Annual Meetings every year. We have a giant set right on the show floor, and the entire NRA News crew produce high-quality shows, packed with news and entertainment, filled with celebrities and other fantastic guests. The end product is worth the long hours, sweat, and anxiety.

On “Cam and Company,” we have a weekly segment called the “Nanny State Update” with Julie Gunlock, Senior Fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum. Julie is an expert on food freedom and an evangelist for protecting the right to eat whatever and wherever you want. Attacks on food freedom are seldom reported, and a growing threat to all of our personal liberties.

I recommend that you Google Julie’s articles and see just how pervasive the attacks are, and how quickly they are multiplying. Having Julie on the show every week has made me much more interested in — and keenly aware of — these attacks on our food freedoms, and the ever-growing role of the nanny state.

Both NRAs have their shows around the same time but, to the best of my knowledge, this is the first time the conventions have actually overlapped. The National Rifle Association’s Annual Meetings are in a different city each year and, this year, it was in Louisville, Kentucky. The National Restaurant Association’s convention is always in Chicago, Illinois.

Years ago, I attended the restaurant show with someone who worked in the industry. It was amazing. You walk down aisle after aisle, with every company that provides food to restaurants handing out samples of their offerings. Steak, hot dogs, Coke, hummus, cakes, cotton candy, ice cream, Pabst Blue Ribbon, burgers, gelato, and on, and on, and on. Thousands of companies trying to get you to eat their food; it’s how I picture Roman emperors ate.

I’d always wanted to go back to the restaurant show, but the timing made it difficult. This year, however, it worked out that I could attend the rifle show Thursday through Sunday, then leave for Chicago to meet my wife at the other NRA show on Monday. On Tuesday, we also went to the Sweet and Snacks Expo, an industry convention also in Chicago, whose name says it all, but that’s an article for another day, maybe, if I ever recover from this sugar coma.

The two NRA shows, while very different, are strikingly similar. For the most part, both shows have tons of people walking up and down vast aisles of products that find themselves under more and more government attacks everyday. Of course, the guns, ammo, and other products at the NRA Annual Meetings are under many more — and more dangerous — attacks from the highest levels of government, including attacks from Hillary Clinton.

The restaurant industry has its own powerful and growing list of detractors, from people like Michael Bloomberg who happen to be on the warpath against both guns and foods, to organized labor demanding $15 minimum wages. First Lady Michelle Obama has been very vocal in criticizing what she considers junk foods. President Obama’s FDA has been making it harder and more expensive for restaurants to operate by making them post calorie counts on their menus, and making many of their suppliers adopt stricter labeling requirements.

Walking around the show floor in Louisville, I saw people and families of all colors, shapes, and ethnicities enjoying the beautiful sight of acres of all things gun-related. Moms showing daughters how to properly handle firearms. Dads trying hard to navigate strollers through packed aisles. Most people were smiling. Most people were friendly. Many of them had driven hundreds of miles on their own dime to hear speeches by Wayne LaPierre and Donald Trump, or hear Toby Keith perform, or hold the latest gun by their favorite manufacturer.

Walking around the show floor in Chicago, I took special note to look at the businesses printed on attendees’ badges. The huge chains and corporations were well represented, of course, but I saw so many people who just owned either a single restaurant or a small local chain. According to National Restaurant Association research:

• More than 9 in 10 restaurants have fewer than 50 employees.

• More than 7 in 10 restaurants are single-unit operations

Profit margins for restaurants are already razor-thin; more government regulations, like mandatory menu labeling, will only lead to more restaurants closing their doors. “Fight for 15” is another push that could turn into a fight for the very survival of restaurants.

One common element of both NRA shows: People just want to be left the hell alone. As long as they’re not hurting anybody, law-abiding gun owners should be allowed to purchase and own the guns of their choice, and restaurants should be able to serve whatever their customers want to eat. The market should and will dictate these things, as the private sector is always smarter than government bureaucrats.

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Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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