A National Rifle Association official on Tuesday urged members of the Lehighton 912 Project to encourage gun-owners to vote to protect their right to own firearms.

"We need to make sure we get rid of the lawmakers who are anti-gun and elect pro-gun lawmakers to office," Suzanne Anglewicz told the group. She is the manager of Political and Legislative Activities for NRA-ILA's Grassroots Division.

Anglewicz spoke passionately about the Second Amendment.

"A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed."

Pennsylvania, she said, is "ground zero" in the fight to ensure Americans will keep the right to bear arms.

Both Anglewicz and 912 Project member Dan Geissinger, who is the group's Second Amendment Focus Group leader, spoke about the need for a concerted grassroots effort among gun owners to defeat federal legislation aimed at stripping citizens of their firearms.

Apathy, Anglewicz said, is the greatest threat to the Second Amendment.

About 80 million people in the United States own guns, Anglewicz said, but only about 4 million are NRA members. Lehighton 912 Project member Rich Garlicki urged people to apply for right-to-carry permits even if they don't plan to tote guns to let lawmakers know there is a groundswell of support for pro-gun legislation.

"Numbers talk," he said.

Anglewicz pointed out that crime rates are lower in states where citizens have the right to bear arms.

Anglewicz' speech Tuesday was right on target: The state House Judiciary Committee today is considering a bill, introduced by state Rep. Brian Lentz (D-Delaware), that would prohibit residents from carrying concealed firearms with a license issued from another state.

Some recent legislation supports gun owners' rights.

On May 25, the House Judiciary Committee passed a bill dubbed the "Castle Doctrine," which would allow law-abiding citizens to use force, including deadly force, against an attacker in their homes or any other places where they have a legal right to be. The legislation would also protect the citizen from lawsuits filed by the attacker or the attacker's family. A decision on the legislation, sponsored by state Rep. Scott Perry (R-York/Cumberland), is expected within weeks.

Geissinger brought home the need for grassroots efforts to protect the Second Amendment by recounting the plight of a retired man, an 80-year-old Korean War veteran, who lives in Chicago, where citizens are forbidden from owning guns.

In the wee hours of May 26, he said, an intruder, Anthony "Big Ant" Nelson, whom police said has a long criminal record, tried to break in to the man's house, where he, his 83-year-old wife and their 12-year-old great-grandson were sleeping. Failing to break the lock, Nelson, whom police said wore stockings over his hands to avoid leaving prints, fired his own handgun through the elderly couple's bedroom window.

"The homeowner grabbed his unregistered handgun kept in Chicago against the law and fired back. Nelson died on the scene," Geissinger said. "Let's think about the obvious outcome had the homeowner obeyed the Chicago law, and could not defend himself and his family."

The would-be victim was not charged, "thanks to a 2004 Illinois statute that protects homeowners who use handguns to protect themselves," he said.

A Supreme Court ruling expected this month could overturn the city's ban.

Geissinger suggested anti-gun activists instead be called "anti-self-defense groups."

Anglewicz said the Second Amendment guarantees the right of individuals to own guns. That right first came under fire in the late 1960s, she said, leading to the Gun Control Act of 1968. The legislation followed the assassinations of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King.

"The typical government (procedure) is to panic ... and we have to create really bad laws, without any forethought," she said.

The NRA is fighting hard against small towns' efforts to ban gun ownership, Anglewicz said.

"Pennsylvania is notorious for ignoring pre-emption laws," she said.

Anglewicz praised the proposed Second Amendment Enforcement Act, which would restore gun ownership rights to citizens living in crime-ridden Washington, DC. The legislation was introduced to Congress in April by Senators John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.), and Representatives Travis Childers (D-Miss.) and Mark Souder (R-Ind.). She asked the audience to contact their lawmakers to support the proposal.

Later in the meeting, Anglewicz fielded questions from the audience, including why NRA caps are made in China. The answer, she said, is that the organization needs to spend its money wisely. The foreign-made caps are cheaper, allowing the NRA to allocate more money to more important efforts.

She also spoke about the United Nations' Small Arms Trade talks, going on now in New York City. The proposal would regulate firearms worldwide. Former U.N. Representative John Bolton has said that the United States would not accept any agreement or treaty, nor would it become involved in any effort that would result in one, that would threaten Americans' Second Amendment rights.

Dozens of people, including members of similar groups in Lehigh and Schuylkill counties, attended the meeting, held at Penn's Peak. Members enjoyed the musical talent of singer Jeann Andrews, who sang the national anthem, God Bless America and two other selections.

The Lehighton 912 Project was formed in May 2009.