The NRA said it was expected 80,000 freedom-loving patriots in Dallas and the prospect of gun-control protests did little to stifle the mood
Texas makes no secret of its preoccupation with size.” Everything is bigger in Texas ,” runs the country motto.
This weekend, inside the cavernous Kay Bailey Hutchison convention center in Dallas, something predictably big is pas: the National Rifle Association Annual Meetings and Exhibits.
Visitors arriving on Friday were greeted by imposing vinyl flags featuring headshots of NRA notables- Wayne LaPierre, Chris Cox and Dana Loesch. The posters also disclosed the theme for the group’s 147 th summit:” A depict of strength for second amendment liberty .”
The NRA’s framing of its convention to its implementation of strength in numbers- it expected 80,000″ freedom-loving patriots” to attend, it told- came in the face of increased activism by its adversaries. Since the last NRA gathering, the deadliest shooting in modern American history saw 58 people killed in Las Vegas in October. That was followed in November by 26 deaths in a Baptist church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. The February shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school in Parkland, Florida, in which 17 students and lecturers were killed, touched off a national youth-led movement proponents hope will turn the tide in favor of tighter gun control.
The Florida school massacre galvanized criticism of the NRA and its lobbying limb, the Institute for Legislative initiatives. Calls for a boycott of the NRA and its corporate partners led businesses- from hotel chains and car-rental companies to major retailers and airlines- to sever relationships and repeal benefits once extended to its five million members.
” Your second amendment rights are under siege ,” Donald Trump duly said on Friday, addressing the NRA for a third year operating. “But,” he added, in a seeming contradiction,” they will never ever be under siege as long as I’m your chairman .”
Trump’s predilection for Texas-style superlatives served him well.” This is a record crowd, you know ,” he told. “All-time record crowd!” He added:” Can you imagine if we called for a rally in Washington? There wouldn’t be enough room !” That brought thunderous applause.
Outside, a small number of gun-control advocates gathered in protest. Larger demoes were expected on Saturday. But there seemed little prospect of dampening the mood among convention attendees. Soon after the doors to the exhibition hall opened in mid-morning, thousands flooded what was hyped as” 15 acres of firearms and gear “.
‘ I’ve got my AR decked out precisely the way I want it’
This was a true mall of America, where patriotic motifs including the stars and stripes of the US flag and the Revolution-era maxim” Don’t tread on me” were emblazoned on apparel, holsters and handgun grips. A 24 -year-old artist from Austin, Stuart Maue, paraded through the foyer with a figure of Trump made from 50 balloons; he had also made a large-scale Glock that sat in one of the banquet dormitories.
The accessories section was stockpiled with scopes and laser sights and suppressors( silencers ), and even a lingerie holster, in black with hot-pink lace. Outfitters hocking hunting escapades in Alaska or Pakistan displayed eye-popping taxidermy. Down a hallway, the NRA wine club asked attendees to” support with every sip” by signing up for a $29.99 membership that includes two wines mailed each month. Nearby was the Eddie Eagle Zone, where the eponymous mascot posed with kids and handed out informational packets on a gun safety program for children. The official NRA store, in a carpeted lair of its own, trafficked all manner of merch: mugs, belts, shot glasses. Splashed across the chest of a gray hoodie was the line the late actor and NRA president Charlton Heston uttered at the close of his convention speeches, hoisting a flintlock long rifle over his head:” From my cold, dead hands .”
At the heart of the exhibition area were the handguns, traders displaying every conceivable attain, model and caliber. In every direction, white men behaved like children in a plaything store: plucking handguns from display cases, cocking them, aiming them at nothing and dry-firing them with metallic pings that in concert rendered a cacophony.
Alex McCandless, 27, and Amy McIlroy, 26, were a couple from Gunter, Texas, an hour’s drive away. They had dropped by the bustling Smith& Wesson booth to browse the company’s line of AR-1 5 semi-automatic rifles. There is perhaps no firearm that inspires more love and hatred. Variants of what the NRA has called ” America’s rifle” were wielded by gunmen in Las Vegas, Sutherland Springs and Parkland. They were also used in Orlando, San Bernardino, Aurora and Newtown.
Fans like McCandless and McIlroy say the handgun is unfairly maligned. Precise and lightweight, it is a multipurpose tool, they say, for target shooting, self-defense and hunting.
” It’s a hobby. It’s fun ,” McCandless told.” I’ve got my AR decked out precisely the way I want it .”
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