The president of the National Rifle Association is the featured speaker for a Republican rally in west Kentucky the night before an annual political picnic in the region.
The Marshall and Calloway County Republican parties jointly host the ‘Night Before Fancy Farm’ on August 3 featuring Lt. Col Oliver North.
Marshall County Republican Party Chair Danny Holt said securing such a high-profile figure was not something the local party ever thought would happen, but said members decided to "shoot for the stars" and lucked out. "It's the most expensive Night Before Fancy Farm we've ever done," Holt said, but declined to say how much the contract cost.
He anticipates North will talk about the NRA and gun rights, his military service and support for local Republican candidates.
The event, also called the 'Lakeland GOP Rally,' will be at Murray State University. The university is about 30 minutes south of Marshall County High School, where a deadly shooting occurred in January. Last December marked the 20th anniversary of another deadly school shooting in the region - at former Heath High School in Paducah.
When asked about how bringing the president of the NRA to the region in the wake of the recent shooting could be perceived, Holt said, "The majority of Marshall Countians here understand that some of these rallies that have been calling for more gun control will not stop what took place here."
"Nothing that has been suggested other than taking all the guns away will ever stop anything like this. And not even that will take all of the risk out, if you took all the guns away, because people are going to find a gun or find a way to kill somebody if that's what their motive is going to be," he said.
The only good answer to preventing school shootings, Holt said, is more security. "Our school facilities have to be more secure than they have been in the past. That's the best option that anyone has for taking care of the school violence that is taking place."
Holt said sponsorships for the event are coming from NRA members excited about having their president come to the region. He urged those who want to attend the event to get tickets early. VIP tickets that include a reception, photo, signed book and Hors D'oeuvres and VIP seating are $120. General admission tickets are $50 in advance or $60 at the door.
The event begins at 7 p.m. in Murray State's Lovett Auditorium on August 3.
Local Democratic Party Response
Calloway County Democratic Party Chair David Ramey said the decision to bring North is a “puzzling” and “disturbing choice."
“It’s going to open up old wounds for victims in their community,” Ramey said, "Still dealing with the aftermath of a school shooting."
When asked about Democrats who are members of the NRA, Ramey said, “It’s pretty clear that the NRA decided a few years ago that they’re a partisan organization.” He said many Kentucky Democrats, including himself, own firearms and believe in the second amendment, but are concerned about teenagers having access to military-grade weapons. He also said more funding for mental health should be part of a broader conversation addressing gun violence.
Looking ahead to the Fancy Farm Political Picnic
Danny Holt said Republicans will likely focus on the economy and how things have progressed in Kentucky over the past three years and during the Trump administration.
"Some of them are going to talk about the pension and how they have voted to continue to support the pensions and take care of the teachers and government workers in the state," Hold said. An issue of concern, he said, is the recent increase in state taxes. "That's not something that personally I'm proud of seeing. I think that's against what I stand for as a Republican, but that's what they did."
As for the local Democratic focus at Fancy Farm, David Ramey said public education, public employees and higher education funding will be big issues this fall. He pointed to teachers running Democratic campaigns in the region and noted momentum following the frustration expressed during this year's legislative session. Ramey is also a candidate for 5th District state House Representative.