Jason Pohl

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January 26, 2013
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Gun lobbies call Windsor home, spark controversy with 'AR15 Giveaway'

While Windsor’s quaint downtown district may seem like it couldn’t be any more isolated from the nation’s roaring gun control debate, two of the country’s driving pro-gun forces have quietly claimed a downtown bank building as their headquarters.

But if you’re like many of the town’s residents, you probably didn’t know that.

The National Association for Gun Rights — one of the nation’s largest and fastest growing gun lobbying groups — has called the office at 5th and Main Streets home for about a year and half, said Dudley Brown, the group’s executive vice president.

NAGR shares the posh, second story offices with Rocky Mountain Gun Owners — Colorado’s largest gun advocacy lobby, which Brown founded in 1996. Under his leadership, the two groups keep a finger on the pulse of state legislatures and politicians who, they say, have been launching an all-out attack on citizens’ rights in light of a series of deadly shootings.

“We are unapologetic about our views on the Second Amendment,” Brown said adamantly during a phone interview. “It means what it says. And we are not kind to politicians who vote to restrict that right.”

He explained that much of the Windsor and northern Colorado community has stood behind the two groups, despite the recent tragedies. He said NAGR itself has more than 2 million members nationally and their numbers continue to soar as the gun issue dominates daily headlines.

Despite the strength in numbers, the unsigned building across from Pike’s Auto Care Center, doesn’t draw attention to itself.

“I had no idea it was here,” said Louis Beard, a longtime Windsor resident.

Beard, 66, has lived in the community since 1980 and considers himself reasonably well-informed. He identified himself as an unaffiliated voter, acknowledging that he has “probably” voted for more Republican presidents in the past.

Though admittedly not a fan of having such a powerful group in town, he said the group does have every right to be in the community. The apparent secrecy did make him suspicious that it was “something less than savory” and could bring an added charge the town might not desire.

“It certainly isn’t something that I would have an interest in having in my town,” he said.

NAGR is not afraid to make its mission known. Its Facebook page is lined with pro-gun photos and advertisements, many criticizing Democratic lawmakers on their recent legislative efforts. With more than 746,000 “likes” on the social media site alone, it has become a powerhouse since forming in 2001.

The group prides itself on grassroots efforts and is often critical of the National Rifle Association’s compromise on gun issues.

“NRA publicly has always supported some of the things the White House is talking about,” Brown said. “We don’t. I make no qualms about it. We think the NRA is quite weak on the gun issue.”

To make its message known, NAGR draws on its membership dues. Tax records from 2011 indicate the group earned $3.76 million — double what it collected in 2010 — signaling its rapid growth. Most of that money goes toward lobbying across the state and includes direct mailing and person-to-person outreach. They also sponsor concealed carry and gun safety classes.

The group hosts weapon and ammunition “giveaways,” announced through social media alerts and email blasts that have apparently increased as lawmakers grapple with potential changes.

Brown splits responsibilities between NAGR and the “no-compromise” RMGO. That group has come under fire repeatedly for its relentless gun advocacy. Throughout January it advertised its AR-15 giveaway with the help of Loveland’s Jensen Arms.

The winner was announced Friday as about 50 gun supporters and numerous media outlets crowded in the small shop. Nearly 30,000 eligible applicants from across Colorado vied for the weapon, Brown said, which has become increasingly rare in shops across the state.

The bare racks and shelves at Jensen Arms were indicative of that.

“It is not a stretch or an exaggeration to say our rights are literally on the chopping block right now,” Brown told the group Friday. “I’ve never seen anything like this happen. It’s like wildfire.”

Brown said the Colt AR-15 and 100 rounds of ammunition were picked for the giveaway simply because it is “the firearm most likely to be banned.”

“It’s the one everybody wants right now,” he said.

When asked whether he thought the move was insensitive considering a series of mass shootings using the assault rifle, he didn’t waver, instead urging everyone to make their presence known to their elected representatives.

“Anytime we do anything, the liberals and gun-grabbers always whine and moan and say ‘that’s terrible,’” he said.

Beard, the Windsor resident, saw things a little differently.

“To me, a handgun is just as distasteful as an AR-15,” he said of the giveaways, adding that the assault rifle was “much more emotionally charged.”

“It’s insensitive but not untypical,” he said.

Together, NAGR and RMGO employ about 20 people in Windsor — easily making it one of the largest establishments in the downtown area, filled mostly with hair salons, coffee shops and clothing boutiques.

There’s no pomp and circumstance — no banners on the front door. Just a sign that says “501 Main St.” It would otherwise look abandoned and forgotten if not for vehicles occasionally parked in the rear with pro-gun bumper stickers.

Upon entering through the front door, stairs leading to the second floor are labeled with the groups’ logo. The first floor is used for storage, lined mostly with mouse pads, T-shirts and stickers, Brown said. Upstairs, employees focus on outreach, legal questions and legislative monitoring in offices lined with rich hardwood floors and ambient lighting.

No gun sales happen in the office, Brown said.

He admits that having such large gun groups set up in the quaint, 20,000-person, community may “change the face of sleepy downtown Windsor.” He explained there was no real need to fly a flag or drape a banner across the front, adding that it wouldn’t necessarily help the groups’ mission, which is to educate gun owners and supporters on firearms issues.

The move to town, he said, was simple — it was a great deal on a great location not far from his Severance home, where he has lived for the past four years.

Regardless of its rationale, Beard said it was critical that the community begin talking about the group that many may not have ever known existed.

“I think that is the problem with having this kind of organization in Windsor — it’s a lightning rod — it could be a divisive business to have in town,” Beard said. “I don’t think it does the town any good to have it. I don’t think it does the town’s reputation any good.”

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My Windsor Now Updated Feb 1, 2013 10:49AM Published Feb 2, 2013 12:03AM Copyright 2013 My Windsor Now. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.