Quay County Sun - Serving the High Plains

NRA banquet sells short


April 3, 2019

Ron Warnick

Jim Hudson of Tucumcari gazes at framed lyrics of the Charlie Daniels song "Simple Man" and a Mossberg 12-gauge shotgun that would be given away at the Quay County Friends of NRA banquet Saturday at the Tucumcari Convention Center.

The 11th annual Quay County Friends of National Rifle Association Banquet on Saturday drew nearly 480 people but proved to be less than a sellout - an indication residents are less up-in-arms about gun-control bills in the state Legislature than they were just weeks ago.

Kent Terry, the event's chairman, reported at the end of the banquet at the Tucumcari Convention Center a total of 475 tickets had been sold - short of a sellout total of 525.

Terry said if the banquet had been a few weeks earlier, a sellout would have been likely. That was when the New Mexico Legislature was considering a flurry of gun-control bills.

As it turned out, just one bill - a universal background check for all firearm sales - became law. Quay County Sheriff Russell Shafer, who pledged to not enforce any new law he deemed unconstitutional, also persuaded the county commission to adopt a nonbinding "Second Amendment sanctuary county" resolution. Nearly 30 counties and several municipalities adopted similar resolutions in its wake.

"I really thought, a month or so back, with the atmosphere in Santa Fe, it would have boosted things because people would've been upset with what was going on," Terry said. "But the bills, turning out the way they did, and the support we got from the sheriff and the county commission, people in Quay County weren't too worried about the Second Amendment."

Attendees clearly were appreciative of Shafer's efforts. They applauded when Terry and Mike Guilliams, an NRA representative from Alamogordo, asked for an acknowledgement to current and retired military and law-enforcement personnel. But the loudest ovation came for Shafer "in appreciation for what the sheriff has done in the past few weeks."

"I don't believe I did anything you wouldn't have done," Shafer told the audience. "If I did something I did, it was for standing up for our rights. They will take it from me before they take it from y'all."

Terry said he wasn't disappointed with final ticket sales, considering the numbers he was looking at less than two weeks ago.

"A week, 10 days ago, we were at 350, and sales, we thought, had kind of plateaued, he said. "Then, boom, in the last week, so many tickets came in."

Ticket sales have trended downward in recent years - from an all-time high of 565 in 2016 to 525 in 2017 and 500 in 2018.

Terry said higher ticket sales a few years ago reflected residents' concerns President Barack Obama's administration would scale back Second Amendment rights.

"With the Trump administration, our gun rights feel more secure," he said.

Terry also attributed some of the ticket-sales falloff to the closing of several businesses in Quay County.

Terry also said banquet dates and other circumstances tend to affect sales, as well.

"This year, we had five big supporters, that with their families, we could have been around 500," Terry said, "but they had family issues and other different things (that them from attending). Three years ago, we had the banquet right before turkey season, and a number of supporters couldn't attend because of that."

Terry on Monday morning reported the banquet's gross revenue was $85,000, with a net profit of about $50,000. The net fell from last year's record of $64,000.

"We thought we were going to be down more than that, so we're pleased," Terry said of the net proceeds.

Terry said 57 firearms were given away during the course of the evening, along with dozens of other prizes via live auctions, silent auctions and raffles.

Half the proceeds from the banquet is given to the NRA. The other half is doled out to 4-H and high-school shooting clubs throughout New Mexico.

"We believe in putting fingers on triggers early," Guilliams said during a giveaway of a BB gun, "and talking firearm safety and responsibility. These are the next generation of Second Amendment defenders."

After the banquet, Guilliams said half the money raised at the Tucumcari banquet stays in New Mexico for firearm training and education.

"What we're trying to do it take that little kid over there and teach her how to defend herself from the big, bad world," he said. "A lot of people in this community are concerned about it. Anyone with half a brain is concerned about it, because they're after us.

"Everyone is concerned about the future of the Second Amendment," Guilliams added. "If you're not, you're just not reading the newspaper. Anyone who's a gun owner, anyone who cares about that, knows what's going on."

A local committee looking at revitalizing Five Mile Park west of Tucumcari is considering an improved shooting range there. A final master plan for the park likely will be approved by August. Terry acknowledged the park could be awarded an NRA grant as soon as 2020 to revamp the shooting range if it submitted an application by November.

The Quay County Friends of NRA banquet remains the biggest such fundraiser in New Mexico. Guilliams said it continues to do well because of teamwork.

"It takes a lot of people to work really, really hard to pull this off," he said. "We've got 30 people on this committee, and they do a terrific job. For one of the smallest towns in New Mexico, they have the largest committee in New Mexico. And the community comes out and supports it with everything they've got."

Though it annually sends the NRA tens of thousands of dollars, Terry said his organization demurs from making suggestions to it.

"On that 50 percent of the money, we have no say," Terry said. "We have faith the NRA is going to use it for good things."


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