The National Rifle Association’s annual convention kicks off in Nashville this week, with 70,000 people expected to participate in the three-day gathering.
Attendees can expect to find the usual NRA fare and exhibitors at the 350,000-square-foot Music City Center, but they shouldn’t expect to find functioning weapons. The Tennessean reports this week on the “multilevel security plan,” which includes an important safety measure: “All guns on the convention floor will be nonoperational, with the firing pins removed, and any guns purchased during the NRA convention will have to be picked up at a Federal Firearms License dealer, near where the purchaser lives, and will require a legal identification.”
The New York Daily News sees some irony in the convention policy:
The National Rifle Association wants guns at schools, but not its own annual convention. […]NRA boss Wayne LaPierre has called repeatedly for allowing guns in schools, and other facilities. LaPierre says arming teachers and guards will help prevent gun violence. At least, outside the NRA’s own events.
Of course, there’s also a political angle to keep in mind as the far-right group gathers in Tennessee.
As the local report noted, at least eight likely Republican presidential candidates are scheduled to speak at the NRA-ILA Leadership Forum: Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, Bobby Jindal, Mike Pence, Rick Perry, Marco Rubio, Rick Santorum, and Scott Walker.
Donald Trump and Sarah Palin are also expected to appear.
Correction/Update: Rather than leaving a confusing series of updates, let’s summarize what we now know. The original report from the New York Daily News, which said the NRA had “banned working guns” from the convention, was inaccurate – Tennessee’s open-carry laws still apply at the NRA event. The Memphis Daily News published a piece explaining Tennessee gun laws in more detail. Similarly, when The Tennessean reported, “All guns on the convention floor will be nonoperational,” that referred to the guns on display at exhibitors, not the guns attendees bring themselves.
This does not mean, however, that convention attendees face no limits on where and when they can carry loaded firearms. We learned late Wednesday, for example, that no guns are allowed in the convention room during performances from Alan Jackson and Jeff Foxworthy. There’s also an expectation that gun owners will have the proper permits before bringing loaded weapons to see speeches from presidential candidates.
We’ve also since learned that Sarah Palin and Mike Pence have canceled their scheduled appearances.