In late April, Regina “Gina” Roberts of Valley Center attended the annual meeting of the National Rifle Association of America, observing “some issues going on.”
She spoke to nearly half of the gun-rights group’s directors at that Indianapolis convention. They were all “very positive [about] my joining them,” saying things like: “Yeah, do it, go for it. It’s the right thing to do,” she said.
So this month she’s pulling the trigger: Running for the 76-member NRA Board of Directors.
“The next [presidential] election’s a big one,” she said Friday in a phone interview. “You listen to the 20 … people on the [Democratic debate] stage, every single one of them saying we want to take your guns away from you — in one way or another.”
But she’s not a fan of an initiative under his watch.
“I’m not real upset that they’ve killed off NRATV,” she said regarding the online outlet that “wasn’t pushing only a Second Amendment message. It was pushing a lot of other social agendas, which weren’t helping the cause.”
A life member for nearly 40 years, she wants the financially challenged NRA to have a single focus: “Second Amendment. Period.”
Roberts says she believes the easiest way to fix things is from the inside, “instead of screaming at people from the outside,” she said. “That’s my approach in the Republican Party.”
For example, Roberts has advocated for transgender Americans. She underwent gender reassignment surgery just before Donald Trump was inaugurated.
To make a January ballot, she’ll need at least 709 signatures of lifetime NRA members or those who’ve paid annual dues the past five years. But she’s shooting for 1,500 to make sure. She created a dedicated Facebook page and will call on friends across the country to share her profile via email lists.
The hardest part is reaching the 2.4 million NRA voters (even though only 150,000 returned ballots in the most recent board election.)
She says buying ads in the voting edition of the NRA magazine — American Rifleman — is “not a cheap date.”
She’s also seeking the coveted blessing of the NRA Nominating Committee — a group that generally recommends about 30 candidates each year. (Twenty-five are elected.)
“I do kind of represent a demographic that’s not strongly represented in the organization,” she said. “However, I’m not typically the kind of person who pulls that card. … People kind of know it already.”
She would be the only San Diego County NRA board member — and one of only a handful from California. (She’d serve a three-year term, which is unpaid except for certain expenses. Final results will be announced at a mid-April 2020 meeting in Nashville.)
Roberts can count on backing from San Diego County Gun Owners, led by executive director Michael Schwartz.
Roberts is a dedicated activist who would make a great leader at NRA, Schwartz told Times of San Diego, declaring: “SDCGO will do everything we can do legally and ethically to support her election!”
He said this was the first time his group has considered boosting someone’s campaign for the NRA board and would help gather signatures or contribute financially “if we find out there is no legal or ethical conflict.”
Roberts is acutely aware of NRA infighting over its legal battle with longtime PR firm Ackerman McQueen and says canceling that company’s contract “was a huge thing.”
An NRA lawsuit alleges the firm — which supplied fiery spokeswoman Dana Loesch — refused to comply with New York attorney general requests to justify its billings in a probe of the NRA’s tax-exempt status.
“[Directors] have had contracts with Ackerman McQueen and recused themselves,” Roberts noted. “In some cases, I think they may have overstepped, and they’ve gone off the wrong path. Right now, they’re doing a much better job of pulling things back together and getting back on the right path.”
But she stressed that the board has some “phenomenal” directors now, and “I don’t want to even take away from them.”
One impressing her is Ted Nugent, the singer-songwriter and conservative activist with a penchant for outrage. (He called survivors of the Parkland shooting “mushy brained children” and referred to Heidi Prescott of the Fund for Animals as a “worthless whore,” asking “Who needs to club a seal, when you can club Heidi?”)
Roberts said she’d had quite a few interesting conversations with Nugent.
“He is a character,” she said. At a board meeting, “he was nailing questions when I was watching him. He was like asking the right questions, doing the business side of it.”
Despite the potential risk of being on the wrong end of a lawsuit, Roberts said: “If you’re going to fix something, you gotta fix it at the time that it needs the most help. If somebody’s down, is that the time you walk away from them? Or is that the time you pick them up? I’m a pick-’em-up kind of person.”
An engineering consultant, Roberts boasts reliability and “doing what’s right.”
“Being right isn’t easy,” she says. “Sometimes you need to take a stand that’s not necessarily the way other people think.”
In San Diego, Roberts is president of the Log Cabin Republicans — conservative members of the LGBTQ community. She’s a life member of the California Rifle & Pistol Association and belongs to the Single Action Shooting Society (cowboy style shooting), Gun Owners of America, Gun Owners of California and “about half the ranges of San Diego County.”
She helps teach people firearms safety — “I do it as an icebreaker.”
A member of the San Diego County Republican Central Committee, Roberts has failed in several attempts at local office, most recently a seat on the Valley Center Pauma Unified School District board.
Twice honorary mayor of unincorporated Valley Center, she has been president of the the local Kiwanis Club and the Valley Center Western Days Committee, putting on the parade in recent years.
Local gun owners leader Schwartz says he’s known Roberts for more than five years.
“She is an honest, hard-working person who genuinely cares about people,” he said via email. “She was one of the first people I approached about SDCGO when we began. She is good at communicating a message and doing the work it takes to be successful as a community leader and policy maker. … [Her] passion, knowledge, and track record of effective leadership on Second Amendment issues and helping SDCGO grow makes her highly qualified to serve the NRA.”
Roberts says she brings to the table her levelheaded, rational thinking.
“And I’m very, very good at enforcing accountability and responsibility on people,” she said. “That’s what I think the organization needs at this point.”
Times of San Diego editor and publisher Chris Jennewein contributed to this report.