Page 1 of 2

"Good Morning Gun Lobby!"

The NRA's theme for the '96 election is "family values." But under patriarch Neal Knox, the NRA's own family is torn by hidden conflict.

Neal Knox's feisty greeting echoes out over an audience of 150 activists at the National Rifle Association's 125th anniversary convention in April. Knox, the NRA's first vice president, is the architect of a revolution that has transformed the group from an organization of hunters and target-shooting sportsmen into a militant faction pushing such issues as concealed weapons, assault rifles, and armor-piercing bullets. Although nominally the group's number two executive (behind recently elected president Marion Hammer), Knox calls the shots at the NRA, exercising near-absolute control of its board of directors.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Today, the first day of the NRA's annual convention, Knox is urging the assembled activists to carry out their assigned tasks in the 1996 elections: toppling President Clinton and protecting "at all costs" the pro-gun party in Congress. He tells them not to worry about the anger they provoke in liberals and gun control advocates. "All that hostility," Knox chuckles, "means you're getting through to them."

Knox's appeal to the hardliners differs markedly from the kinder, gentler image the NRA is trying to broadcast to the general public. As the NRA gears up for its take-no-prisoners election drive, the theme it is repeating again and again in interviews, speeches, and literature is "family values." Even one of the convention press kits is titled, "Meet the NRA Family."

Page 1 of 2