NRA Show’s Women's Leadership Forum Gala Draws Sold-Out Crowd as Hunters and Shooters Stand with NRA to Secure American Freedom

NRA Show’s Women's Leadership Forum Gala Draws Sold-Out Crowd as Hunters and Shooters Stand with NRA to Secure American Freedom

“Without a strong NRA, we don’t have a big, strong America.” 
—Pete Hegseth, Co-Host of Fox & Friends Weekend, decorated combat soldier, author and American Patriot

It was a show of strength and solidarity as NRA members nationwide gathered for the inaugural NRA Women’s Leadership Forum (WLF) Gala & Auction at the NRA Annual Meetings & Exhibits in Dallas on May 17 to support the NRA Institute for Legislative Action’s (NRA-ILA) efforts leading into the 2024 elections. Of course, part of the draw for the sold-out event was keynote speaker Pete Hegseth—New York Times best-selling author, Army veteran and co-host of FOX & Friends Weekend and the host of multiple series on FOX Nation—who was there to stand with us to protect America’s future from those who seek to destroy it. 

Celebrating the gala’s “Shooting Stars over Texas” theme, women fit the part in their fancy mid- and full-length dresses with the occasional pair of cowboy boots, while men donned Western-style tuxedo jackets, jeans, bolo ties, and, of course, iconic cowboy hats and boots in step with the “Texas black tie” attire. But while you could feel the camaraderie, attendees were clearly on a mission to lay the groundwork to take back our country on Election Day.

NRA WLF Gala Chair Carol Adams (center) welcomes attendees alongside WLF Co-Chairs Susan Springhorn (left) and Jane Brown.

As WLF Gala Co-Chairs Jane Brown and Susan Springhorn shared, we all hail from different parts of the country and have different experiences but we are united by a common value: “our freedom and the desire to protect it.” It is because of the Second Amendment that we have the right to defend ourselves and our families and participate in our mainstream American hunting and shooting sports traditions.

The ballroom was packed as hundreds of NRA members came out to support the NRA WLF and NRA-ILA, including (front row, from left): PenFed Credit Union's Gaurav Bhatia and Samantha Weiss; NRA Ring of Freedom member Mike Fuljenz and Jerry Jordan of Universal Coin and Bullion; and NRA Publications' Marshall Flemion and Doug Hamlin. Back Row: Phil Phillips and NRA Publications' Karen Mehall Phillips. The event marked one of Hamlin's last events as Executive Director of NRA Publications as he was named NRA EVP and CEO on Mon., May 20.

We celebrated having a true “shooting star” in our midst as Fox News’ Pete Hegseth delivered an energizing keynote address for which he received a standing ovation, sounding home the need to protect the NRA and the Second Amendment and to put freedom first. “We have the greatest country in history led by a government that is obsessed with taking our freedom and firearms away,” he said, referring to New York City as America’s largest gun-free zone and NYC’s Fox News Channel headquarters as “the only square block of sanity” on the island of Manhattan.

“The opportunity to work on Fox for eight years allows me to give a voice to the men and women who never have a seat at the table,” he said, noting how issues stem from East and West Coast elitists in contrast to the rest of us and especially those in the military who “do impossible jobs in impossible places on behalf of all of us to defend us and support our freedom,” calling to mind his book “American Crusade” in exposing the dangers posed by those who demand socialism, globalism, secularism and politically-correct elitism.

A fitting speaker and crusader during an election year, Hegseth spoke from the heart as a husband, father, patriot and Christian. The Army veteran of Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay—who earned two Bronze Stars and a Combat Infantryman’s Badge—shared that he is originally from Minnesota, but it changed the state flag. “It now looks like the Somali flag,” he said. So I now live in the free state of Tennessee,” where he and his wife are raising their seven children.

The author of four books, including New York Times No. 1 Bestseller “Battle for the American Mind: Uprooting a Century of Miseducation,” Hegseth asked the crowd, “Are we doing everything we can to introduce the next generation to what we stand for to protect American freedom? What are we doing in the minds of our kids for the 16,000 hours between Kindergarden and 12thgrade?” noting how K-12 is now captured by the Left as extremists work to control the supply chains of future citizens.

“We are not a democracy,” he said. “We are a constitutional republic and we’re in the middle of a 100-year takeover. Early progressives wanted the minds of our youngest kids. They had to get rid of God in our schools. If you say your rights are endorsed by God, you’re an extremist,” sharing that it was President Eisenhower who added the words “under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance but progressives replaced God with allegiance to the state.

Hegseth spoke of how the military allowed itself to go woke. “If you are saying nothing, you are complicit,” he said. “They [the extremists] get rid of the idea of accountability ... such as our retreat from Afghanistan,” calling to mind how America’s image was torn asunder on the world stage as America lost thousands of weapons, night vision goggles and other equipment. “I was an infantry platoon leader,” he shared. “If I’d lost one weapon, I’d be canned.”

A former executive director of political advocacy groups Vets For Freedom and Concerned Veterans for America, Hegseth was considered for the position of Secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in the Trump administration. He referenced his book “The War on Warriors,” sharing how society has forgotten those who take risks and face the dangers the Left pretends don’t exist.

Perhaps having an inkling that the NRA was endorsing President Donald J. Trump for U.S. President at the NRA show the next day, Hegseth called Trump a fighter from the beginning. “Trump charged straight at them [the Left],” he said. “They came out and said who they are—'yes, we believe in disinformation.’” He said Trump continues to represent the kind of ethos we must have to defeat the Left. “Be radical—get married, have kids, embrace traditional gender roles and church, turn off devices, teach people to shoot, worship God, carry concealed and educate your children intentionally,” he said. “It’s what America did. It made us free.”

Underscoring the mission of the NRA, Hegseth pointed out a critical fact: “We don’t have a First Amendment without the Second. We don’t have a free country unless we can say with our mouths what we’re thinking with our minds. Without the Second Amendment, we don’t have a free country. You must defend it.” He warned, “They will call you a racist, a sexist, a homophobe. They are the real lunatics. I mailed my Harvard degree back to Harvard live on national television. Their head chaplain was an atheist. The new fight these days is not in freshman year. It’s 4thgrade,” he explained, as the Left strives to create so-called “perfect human beings through government intervention.”

As for gun owners’ next steps, Hegseth said, “We have to organize, guard the ballot box and win by the margin of cheating.” 

In step with NRA-ILA in assessing what we will face leading into Election Day 2024, he closed by saying, “Holding people accountable is a threat to the system. I get paid to give an opinion”—and so he gave it: “Without a strong NRA, we don’t have a big, strong America. It’s about to get ugly. Hold your family close, stay close to God and fight for this nation.”

A highlight of the evening was a check presentation to NRA-ILA from NRA donors Larry and Brenda Potterfield and their grandchildren Jay and Eliza in the amount of nearly $23 million—representing the tremendous amount MidwayUSA has donated to the NRA since they established the NRA Round Up program in 1992. It gives customers the option to “round up” their purchases to an even dollar amount and donate the change to the NRA-ILA National Endowment for the Protection of the Second Amendment. NRA-ILA takes out 5% every year to support its efforts.

From Left: NRA-ILA Executive Director Randy Kozuch joins Eliza, Brenda, Jay and Larry Potterfield of MidwayUSA on stage for a check presentation to NRA-ILA showing the funds raised for NRA-ILA through MidwayUSA's Round Up program since its launch 32 years ago.  Donating nearly $23 million to date, the Potterfields remain out front in encouraging us all to do our part to protect our cherished Second Amendment.

By evening’s end, it was never more evident how the NRA WLF unites women of influence—and, in this case men—to defend Second Amendment freedoms and secure the NRA’s future through philanthropic leadership. The WLF’s live and silent auctions raised funds essential to strengthening NRA-ILA’s fight to protect freedom and amplified its grassroots efforts. As Hegseth shared, “Our precious Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights are what separates us”—which is why every person in the room understood we are blessed to be Americans.

From Left: Phil and Karen Mehall Phillips and outfitter Kaan Karakaya of Shikar Safaris were just a few of the hundreds of hunters and shooters in attendance at the WLF Gala & Auction. As an NRA donor and member of the NRA Hunters' Leadership Forum, Karakaya flew all the way from his home in Turkey to stand with the NRA and support freedom.

About the NRA Institute for Legislative Action
No single organization stands with America’s law-abiding gun owners to protect freedom and the Second Amendment more than the NRA. As the NRA’s legislative powerhouse, the NRA Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA) was established in 1975 to preserve the right of all law-abiding Americans to purchase, possess and use firearms as guaranteed by the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Nearly five decades later, the NRA’s strength and political firepower comes from its membership as it continues to preserve our firearms freedoms into the future. All proceeds from the NRA WLF Gala & Auction will support NRA-ILA’s efforts to protect our mainstream American traditions as we prepare for the most critical election day in history on Tues., Nov. 5. 

About the NRA Women's Leadership Forum
The NRA Women’s Leadership Forum (WLF) began more than a decade ago with a vision to establish a community for the women of the NRA. Since then, it has become one of the NRA’s largest philanthropic groups. With few causes having such a direct impact on our lives, our families and America’s future as the Second Amendment, the NRA WLF works to shape the future as leaders and defenders of freedom, family and of America’s treasured firearms freedoms. 

About the NRA Hunters’ Leadership Forum
As the NRA Hunters’ Leadership Forum’s (HLF) director of communications and a lifelong hunter, it was no surprise to see numerous members of the NRA HLF in attendance as the NRA HLF was launched in 2014 under then-NRA President Jim Porter to address the cultural, political, demographic and technological challenges facing the future of hunters, hunting and wildlife conservation. The HLF brings together dedicated hunters who have distinguished themselves as leaders in their professions, communities and in the field as we go on the offense to save hunting's future. The NRA HLF marches in step with one of the NRA’s five key purposes and objectives: “to promote hunter safety, and to promote and defend hunting as a shooting sport and as a viable and necessary method of fostering the propagation, growth, conservation and wise use of our renewable wildlife resources.”