By Mannix Porterfield
As political pressure in Washington intensifies to heighten government supervision of firearms purchases, the rank-and-file of the National Rifle Association continues to grow — both in West Virginia and on the national level.
That fact became readily apparent as the Southern West Virginia Friends of the NRA prepared for its annual Beckley dinner.
A year ago, state membership in the nation’s largest firearm organization stood at 32,000, but since the debate began to escalate on Capitol Hill to impose more federal regulations after the Sandy Hook Elementary carnage, the membership has added 8,000 new members.
Dr. Terry Kourey, a Beckley dentist who chairs the Southern West Virginia Friends of NRA, said the group has added almost 1 million members since a year ago, when the number stood at 4 million.
Kourey attributed the sharp increase to the political climate in the nation’s capital, where Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., has taken the lead to enhance background checks when guns are purchased. The senator recently was hosted at a fundraiser by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, one of the country’s leading opponents of the NRA.
“Because of the atmosphere of the guns, more people are wanting to own a firearm,” Kourey said.
“It (political pressure) doesn’t affect the gun ownership.”
Kourey is finalizing plans for the NRA’s annual dinner set for Sept. 19, a Thursday, at the Beckley-Raleigh County Convention Center. Doors open at 5 p.m.
Tickets run $40 per individual and $70 for couples.
“We have other packages that people probably should contact me about,” he said.
Kourey can be reached at either 304-253-8854 or 304-545-4967.
About three-fourths of the available seats have been sold, he noted Monday.
This year’s fare follows that of past dinners, including door prizes, special drawings, live and silent auctions, art work and an abundance of firearms.
No special speakers are lined up because, as Kourey put it, “We just try to get through our program and get to the fun part.”
Proceeds are plowed into youth activities, with half of the money staying in West Virginia.
“We are promoting youth firearms safety and education programs, and hunter education, range development and improvement, and wildlife conservation efforts,” he said.
Within the past year, Kourey said, West Virginia was awarded $102,000 in such grants, up from $65,000 in the previous year.
“We highly donate to the Boy Scouts and 4-H groups,” he said.
“Any organization that wants to apply can turn in an application. We review them. This year, we ended up giving out 18 different grants. We also gave money in grants to the Division of Natural Resources, and the West Virginia University rifle team, which is doing very well.”
In sync with the NRA’s underlying goal, the West Virginia remain ardent supporters of the constitutional guarantee to keep and bear arms, he said.
“We really want to preserve the 2nd Amendment and hopefully continue that through the generations, to keep our rights to own firearms,” Kourey added.
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