The new National Rifle Association President Oliver North came to the heart of the USA – Effingham, Illinois Thursday. God, country and family marked the three primary themes of his visit. Of course, he threw in a health dose of guns for good measure as well. That seemed appropriate as Effingham County holds the distinction of Illinois’ first gun sanctuary county.
Yes, outside of Chicagoland, Illinoisans embrace guns and gun rights.
Even as I rolled up ahead of the event, I saw a heavy police presence. For a small town of 12,000, I think every officer they had along with a bunch of county deputies were providing security. Organizers told me the cops provided peace of mind from troublemakers. After all, the left has spewed no shortage of violent rhetoric of late.
Sure enough, three protesters stood outside. Thoughtfully, organizers provided agitators a safe space to protest, along with a porta-potty. The senior citizens brought a few more hand-made signs, but I think they over-estimated the number of NRA haters in conservative southern Illinois.
The three seemed of good cheer. Perhaps their smiles expressed their gratitude that someone actually took the time to pay them some attention. At the same time, seeing the guy with the genuine “March for our Lives” sign, I couldn’t help but think of this guy.
Laurence Key seemed of good cheer as well, and weeks later cops say he phoned in a threat to murder a Congressman’s three children.
Laurence Wayne Key is facing federal charges under the offense of “communication of a threat to kidnap or injure a person.”
A criminal complaint shows Key is accused of calling Mast’s Washington, D.C. office Monday, and telling an intern who answered the phone, “I’m going to find the Congressman’s kids and kill them. If you’re going to separate kids at the border, I’m going to kill his kids. Don’t try to find me because you won’t.’
Back inside, the VIPs at the event had a chance to pose for a photo with Marine Lt. Col. Oliver North, retired. Under Reagan, North worked in the White House as a member of the National Security Council. Democrats in Congress, seeking to sully the “Teflon” reputation of Reagan administration, grilled North in the Iran-Contra affair.
More recently, North hosted the Fox News series War Stories. Earlier this year, NRA members elected him President. Like Charlton Heston, North has great name recognition and is seen positively by most of America.
And in flyover country, people clearly revere North as an American hero. Above, Guns Save Life’s Charleston Regional Co-coordinator Justin Bawcum and wife Jennifer pose with the Lt. Colonel.
Despite the heat in the room, the nearly 75-year-old Marine remained gracious and shared a kind word with anyone and everyone even to the end. Here he shares a moment with Illinois House candidate Blaine Wilhour and his wife Amber.
The retired Marine also made it a point to pose with some of the veterans, including these five from differing conflicts.
Recognizing veterans and their service to our nation took center stage. Four World War II veterans, including this one who served in the Battle of the Bulge, individually received standing ovations for their service.
Meanwhile, outside, the protesters continued protesting to pretty much nobody. People on the busy street out front could not see them. Those inside viewed them with amusement at best.
The three amigos left shortly after I took this photo. They “attended” for about an hour in the warm sun.
After a handful of warm-up speeches from conservative politicians, and House candidates like Guns Save Life member Chris Miller (above, with his wife Mary), North took the stage.
He masterfully delivered his presentation, poking fun of the media, Congress and the “kooks” outside. He talked of the importance of God, country and family. Today he lives in Virginia with his wife of well over 50 years. They share a farm on some land that saw a Civil War battle in 1864.
The old Leatherneck spoke of men back then who volunteered to fight to end slavery. And ones before that who risked their lives, fortunes and sacred honor to give us the American independence from Great Britain. From there he talked of today’s all-volunteer armed forces and their noble acts of courage and selflessness.
As an example, he showed a photo of a group of Marines kneeling ahead of a mission. They said a prayer, North said, not for themselves, but for the EOD dog and his handler, a Lance Corporal. The dog and his handler would exit the helicopter first at the enemy location, identifying potential IEDs to save American lives at great risk to themselves.
Oliver North praised men willing to continue to serve even though they had lost their legs in previous combat tours.
As he held up his Bible, he talked about reading it under orders from his commander early in his military career. And he talked about the importance of family. He mentioned three things he has given all of his kids and grandkids as they become adolescents.
They each received a box with a lensatic compass (with a topographical map of the area where North and his wife live in Virginia), a Bible and a 20-gauge shotgun. If they learn to use all three things and use them well, he tells them, you’ll never be lost, hungry or need to fear anything.
He clearly relishes his new role as NRA president. Moreover, he says he looks forward to growing the nation’s oldest and largest civil rights organization. Not to mention he enjoys helping genuine, freedom-loving, 2A-supporting candidates win public office.
The new NRA president will represent gun owners well. After all, who doesn’t love a hero?