Frontier Masculinity, America's
Gun Culture, and the NRA
On Sunday morning in Reno I caught an early bus to attend the NRA Women's Breakfast. As we approached the convention center, we passed an adult cabaret eager to drum up some convention visitor business. Missing an apostrophe, a neon sign out front announced something I can neither confirm nor deny: “NRA Partys Here.” After getting off the bus, I struck up a conversation with a member also on his way to the breakfast. Floyd is an affable Texan in his sixties, wearing dark-blue jeans, tan boots, a thin dark-striped white button-down shirt, and an NRA hat. A friendly Texas drawl spills from his white mustache-covered mouth. Floyd said he figured he would go to the breakfast because nothing else was going on at that time and he wanted to “check out what they're doing.” As we walked to the breakfast and talked about the NRA, guns, and hunting, he excitedly recalled shooting his first spring turkey eleven years ago and shooting another not long before coming here to Reno.
Floyd and I found the right room and sat at a table full of women. Roughly one hundred people, about a quarter of them men, filtered through the breakfast buffet. Several corporate sponsors of guns and gear had banners hanging on the wall, and a portion of the video Hunting with the Women of the NRA played on a large screen, on mute, in the back of the room. At our table sat three women in their fifties, including Kathy, a lobbyist in Washington, D.C., and Tracy, a ranch owner from Texas. They were heavily involved in “Women in the NRA” programs, as both were panelists in the session that would follow on women, hunting, and shooting. In an attempt to break the ice, Floyd shared a joke about a caveman and cavewoman: “The cavewoman's dragging a kill by its tail and holding a big club. The caveman says, 'I'm supposed to be the hunter and you're supposed to be the gatherer.' The cavewoman replies, 'It was standing on something I wanted to gather.'” Everyone politely