The launch of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign in April set the stage for high drama — not that there hasn’t been plenty of political antics before the no-surprise announcement. This would almost be fun to watch, if there wasn’t so much at stake for the future of our country.

The Clinton announcement added an extra dose of anti-Hillary commitment on the closing day of the 2015 NRA Annual Meeting gathering in April. More than 70,000 packed the Music City Center in Nashville, Tenn., to handle thousands of firearms and related products, and to begin the battle for the White House.

A host of Republican presidential hopefuls took the NRA stage to present their pro-gun message, along with plenty of criticism for the Obama administration’s attack on guns, gun owners and the Second Amendment. Clinton’s presidential run was also noted.

“This weekend Hillary Clinton is announcing for president. Well, I’ll tell you, if Hillary Clinton is going to join with Barack Obama and the gun grabbers and come after our guns then what I say is ‘come and take it,’” said Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), in addressing NRA members.

Yes, there’s going to be plenty of high drama between now and November 2016.

Morale Booster

The NRA’s annual gathering is a tremendous morale booster. The crowded booths and hard-to-navigate aisles reinforce the strength of the consumer market and American’s passion for firearms, gun ownership and the Second Amendment.

And the NRA event is fun. It’s a delight to see all types of consumers swarming booths, eagerly handling products and asking endless questions of exhibitors.

From seasoned gun owners to young families with infants in carriers, they all had a seemingly unquenchable desire to visit every booth to make purchases — and collect pins, patches, hats and other branded free-bees.

There were also many celebrities in attendance, providing plenty of handshaking, autographs and selfies. The speeches, concerts and rallies are unabashedly red, white and blue — a celebration of Americana.

The takeaway from the 2015 NRA Annual Meetings & Exhibits: The consumer base is strong and passionate about the Second Amendment — and hang on, because it’s going to be a wild ride to the White House.

Slight Recovery Signs

From an industry standpoint, there were a lot of positives at the NRA gathering. Many companies are beginning to see signs of a recovery from the downturns of 2014 and earlier this year. It’s not significant. In fact, in most cases, it’s very slight. But given the significant downturn, any increase is encouraging.

In March, NICS conducted 1,187,823 (NSSF-adjusted) background checks, a 3 percent decrease compared to March 2014. However, the total number of background checks for this year’s first quarter was the second highest first quarter in the history of the NICS system. The 3,521,089 (NSSF-adjusted) background checks during the quarter were a 1.8 percent increase over the first quarter of 2014. Not surprisingly, the most checks conducted in a first quarter took place in 2013, with 4,926,193 (NSSF-adjusted).