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Guns Inc.

Glenn Beck Rallies the NRA Faithful

Glenn Beck speaks during the NRA convention at the George R. Brown Convention Center on May 4 in Houston

Photograph by Melissa Phillip via AP Photo/Houston Chronicle

Glenn Beck speaks during the NRA convention at the George R. Brown Convention Center on May 4 in Houston

Prowling the stage waving an antique rifle, Glenn Beck brought his tent revival to the National Rifle Association’s annual meeting on May 4 in Houston.

The NRA’s progressive foes in Washington “feel like they must regulate us until we comply,” the radio celebrity intoned. “I will not comply!” An audience of more than 10,000 jumped to its feet to give him an ovation. Beck was the keynote speaker at the NRA’s main “Stand and Fight” rally.

“We stand and fight against those who deny the Creator,” he told the crowd. “We stand against spiritual wickedness in high places.”

One of the things that nongun people fail to understand about the NRA is the spiritual fervor of its core membership. In his invaluable insider’s account of the organization, Ricochet: Confessions of a Gun Lobbyist, former NRA operative Richard Feldman recalls how a mentor named Warren Cassidy explained the source of the association’s passion:

People would gain a true understanding of the National Rifle Association, Warren had said, only if they thought of it as “one of the world’s great religions.” In fact, the fervor of its activist members is just as inflexible as that of Muslim, Christian, or Jewish zealots. But the organization’s present leaders have contemptuously manipulated those passions to consolidate political power and keep the money stream flowing steadily. For loyal rank-and-file members, however, their zeal blinds them to this reality.

Thus Glenn Beck sermonized: “Darkness does not understand the light.”

Speaking of the encroaching darkness, he said, “They think this is just about guns, but it’s not.” It is about family, he explained. Liberals “think we’re silly because we think gun rights are more important than our children,” he said. “But we actually believe these things because of our children.” He added: “Guns save lives. Guns protect homes and businesses. Guns protect our wives and daughters.”

Beck has a darkness of his own. “God, forgive us,” he pleaded. “We are a sick society.”

“Have we gone insane?” he asked. “Have we gone insane?”

His answer: “Yes, we have. Yes, we have.”

Barrett is an assistant managing editor and senior writer at Bloomberg Businessweek. His new book, Law of the Jungle, tells the story of the Chevron oil pollution case in Ecuador.

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