Pro-Gun Grassroots Groups Taking the Lead in Gun Rights Fight

Gun enthusiasts push the boundaries of gun rights.

ByABC News
August 3, 2010, 10:53 AM

Aug. 3, 2010 — -- The statistics tell the story: There are about 50 million gun owners in America. Close to half of all American households possess guns -- more than 200 million guns all told, and we buy 4.5 million more guns every year.

Whether you like it or not, for better or worse, it's a fact: America is an armed nation. And to gun owners -- the vast majority of whom are law-abiding citizens -- that's the way it was meant to be.

Now, more than ever, many gun owners are proudly, aggressively asserting their rights to keep and bear arms.

At a barbeque in Portland, Maine, a small grassroots organization meets to promote one goal: the right to carry weapons openly in public.

"We're just out here, exercising our rights," said event participant Scott Walker. "We're just here to have a good time."

Shane Belanger, 20, a pre-med student at the University of Southern Maine, organized the open-carry event. He said the group faces a huge task in convincing their fellow Mainers that the Second Amendment -- the right to bear arms -- should not be confined to the home.

"I think that it's just they're not used to it, and it's lack of knowledge. The more they know, the more comfortable they'll be with it, and that's really why we're here," Belanger said. "We are showing them that law-abiding citizens carrying handguns is completely fine and completely normal."

NRA Bypasses Campaign Reform

In many ways Belanger is the new face of the gun rights movement.

For decades, the National Rifle Association has been fighting gun-control efforts in Congress and across the country on behalf of its 4.3 million members. But the old "guns vs. no guns" debate that was once the face of the American gun movement is being transformed into a "guns vs. more guns" issue, and the NRA is now feeling the heat from its own backyard.

Small, focused, pro-gun, grassroots groups like Belanger's believe the enormous organization has become too bureaucratic and conservative to focus on their local issues, such as fighting for more open-carry laws.

"It's a massive organization that's kind of an umbrella organization for all gun owners and firearm enthusiasts," Belanger said. "What we are is more of a[n organization for the] right to carry openly as well as concealed, every day."