ST. LOUIS – The National Rifle Association, citing shifting political winds in Congress after the 2006 elections, urged its members Saturday to unite against “the storm that lies ahead” for gun owners.

“Today there is not one firearm owner whose freedom is secure,” the group’s executive vice president, Wayne R. LaPierre, told thousands gathered for the annual national convention here.

“You will rise and stand and we, together, we will fight them all.”

The NRA’s meetings and exhibits are expected to draw about 50,000 persons to America’s Center convention hall by its close tonight.

St. Louis reeled in the event after the group dropped its original host – Columbus, Ohio – because that city in recent years pursued stricter firearms ordinances.

LaPierre announced at the annual members’ meeting that groups representing firearms makers, distributors and dealers have agreed to include NRA promotional flyers in shipments and on store walls to help boost membership. The NRA currently has about 4 million members.

“Starting today, for the first time ever, the entire industry is rising up to fight alongside us,” he said.

Christopher Cox, who heads the group’s Institute for Legislative Action, said many Democrats taking leadership positions in Congress are “the dinosaurs of gun control,” even though their party has soft-pedaled the issue the past few years.

“Has their rhetoric (for stronger gun laws) changed? Absolutely,” he said. “But do I think they’ve changed or modified their true positions? Absolutely not.”

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AP-NY-04-14-07 2013EDT

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