The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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May 3, 2013

Fresh off victory, NRA holds convention in Houston

(Continued)

AUSTIN, Texas —

NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam predicted the convention will draw the largest crowd in its history.

"The geography is helpful," Arulanandam said. "The current (political) climate helps."

For NRA member Mike Cox, a concealed handgun license instructor from rural Wimberley, the recent Senate vote showed not only the NRA's power, but demonstrated to its members the need to dig in and recruit.

"There's a lot of enthusiasm right now," Cox said. "This isn't over by any means."

Gun control advocates say they will have a presence around the convention, with plans for a vigil for victims of gun violence, a petition drive to support background checks and a Saturday demonstration outside the George R. Brown Convention Center.

Sandy Phillips, whose daughter Jessica Ghawi was killed in the Colorado theater shooting last July, met privately with Cruz in San Antonio this week. Phillips said Cruz refused to budge on expanding background checks and told her he considered it the first step toward government confiscation of guns.

"They're always good at saying the right thing, 'I'm so sorry for you loss and da da da da da,'" Phillips said. "If you're really sorry for my loss, do something about it."

In an interview Thursday with The Associated Press, Cruz called efforts by Obama and gun control advocates to push for expanded background checks an attempt to "undermine the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms."

Despite polls that show most Americans favor some background checks expansion, Ladd Everitt, spokesman for the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, said a big challenge facing gun control advocates is matching the NRA's grassroots organizing, or as he called it "closing the passion gap."

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