May 4 (UPI) — President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence will address the National Rifle Association’s annual convention in Dallas Friday, and hundreds of protesters are awaiting their arrival.
Tens of thousands of NRA members are expected to attend the event, where a capacity crowd will hear the president speak just after noon Central Time.
“Going to Dallas (the GREAT State of Texas) today. Leaving soon!” Trump tweeted Friday.
“People see the NRA for what it stands for,” group spokesman Andrew Arulanandam said. “We are the premier group that champions freedom in this country. More people are joining the NRA than ever before. People realize that we’re the good guys.”
Demonstrators are already planning rallies, and a “die-in,” outside the Dallas convention center — with relatives and classmates of the students killed in Parkland, Fla, this year expected to be among the protesters.
Friday will mark the fourth straight year Trump has spoken at the annual event, and he’s expected to deliver a strong sign of support for the NRA.
Thursday, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said safety is a “big priority” for the Trump administration.
“We also support the Second Amendment and strongly support it and don’t see there to be a problem with speaking at the National Rifle Association’s meeting,” Sanders said.
Following the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Trump hosted televised meetings with survivors of the shooting, victims’ families, police officials and members of Congress.
At one point, the president called out lawmakers for not going far enough in a proposed gun safety bill.
“You know why?” Trump said to lawmakers after the shooting. “Because you’re afraid of the National Rifle Association. Some of you people are petrified of the NRA. You can’t be petrified. You can’t be petrified.”
The NRA, which spent over $30 million to help elect him in 2016, endorsed Trump to conservatives.
David Hogg, a student activist from MSD, told Pence on Twitter Friday the vice president’s “heart and wallet” were in the same place — at the NRA convention.