More than 70,000 people are expected to attend the National Rifle Association's annual convention that kicked off Friday, just weeks after a bill proposing to expand background checks on gun sales was torpedoed in the Senate.
Victims of gun violence and pro-gun safety groups are slated to provide a passionate counter to the massive NRA event with their own media appearances and ads in attempts to mount an anti-gun violence collective against the influential lobbying group.
"Nobody ever underestimated the stranglehold that the NRA and the other special interests have in this process because they have spread myths and misconceptions so artfully and aggressively and assiduously over the years," Sen. Richard Blumenthal D-Conn., said on msnbc's Jansing & Co. Friday.
Blumenthal went on to say that a "very profound and historic change" will turn the tide on the NRA's influence. He insisted that gun-safety groups are geared up for a long-term fight; they're better organized and funded. At least one relative of a Newtown victim is expected to attend the NRA convention. Another group plans to set up across the street and read 4,000 names of victims of gun violence. Mayors Against Illegal Guns will air an ad in the Houston market on background checks.
The NRA sees the annual convention as a way to keep membership engaged and fired up. The speakers include Senator Ted Cruz, Sarah Palin, and Ted Nugent and the NRA slogan this year is "stand and fight".
Senators who voted in favor of the defeated background checks are seeing some political rewards. New polling shows voters are more likely to support Sens. Kay Hagan and Mary Landrieu, both Democrats, because of their vote for background checks. And Sen. John McCain received 19 roses and a round of applause from Tucson shooting victims for his vote at a town hall meeting.
"The moment with Sen. McCain was a hugely powerful one, those roses and the support that he's receiving along with Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Kay Hagan of North Carolina reflect something profound happening to the American public," Blumenthal said. "They are not letting this issue go away."