DALLAS (AP) — More than 70,000 members of the National Rifle Association are expected in Dallas for the group’s annual meeting, which will feature an appearance by President Donald Trump. The event is also drawing protests, including by those who have lost loved ones to gun violence.
Those attending the meeting of the United States’ most powerful gun lobby will listen to political speeches, check out the latest firearms, attend gun training courses and socialize. The meeting runs through Sunday.
A look at what to expect:
BIG NAME SPEAKERS
Trump will headline the group’s leadership forum on Friday, making his fourth consecutive visit to the NRA meeting. He’ll be joined by Vice President Mike Pence, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn.
NRA officials Wayne LaPierre, Chris Cox and Dana Loesch will be among the about a dozen speakers at the forum that’s expected to last for about three hours. Also appearing will be Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts and U.S. Rep. Richard Hudson.
YouTube personalities Diamond and Silk, who frequently appear on television to promote Trump, will be at the forum, as will Charlie Kirk, founder of Turning Point USA, a group that maintains a watchlist of professors it accuses of promoting “leftist propaganda,” and Mark Geist, a Marine Corps veteran who survived the deadly 2012 attack on the American diplomatic consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
The meeting will provide a window into the NRA’s message and strategy ahead of this year’s midterm elections.
The NRA spent millions to help elect Trump, one of the nation’s most gun-friendly presidents, and members had been hopeful that more firearms restrictions would soon be eased.
But in the last 12 months, Americans have witnessed the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history, a gut-wrenching attack at a Florida high school and bitterly divided politics in Washington. Those factors gave fresh momentum to gun-control advocates and stalled the NRA’s agenda, despite firm GOP control of Congress and the White House. Corporate America has also reacted, dropping scores of discount programs for NRA members or refusing to sell gun-industry products.
For the NRA, the meeting provides an opportunity to unite around the idea that members must push back against a liberal agenda that seeks to trample their Second Amendment rights. The audience consists mostly of hardcore gun-rights supporters.
The NRA’s top priorities — allowing gun owners with a state-issued concealed-carry permit to carry a handgun in any state and easing restrictions on the sales of suppressors — remain unfulfilled. At the same time, the group has not lost any ground in Congress. Lawmakers have struggled to make even minor adjustments to background check systems.
And just this past March, the NRA posted its highest fundraising totals in more than a decade.
Several groups have announced plans to protest during the weekend.
The protesters will include parents who lost children in the deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida and during other shootings. Teenagers from the Florida high school began pushing for gun restrictions almost immediately after a former student killed 17 people at the school in February. The survivors have led a series of rallies and marches, most notably an event in Washington in March that was the anchor for a national day of protest.
The students have pressed to raise the legal age to purchase a rifle, curb access to AR-style firearms and adopt other gun restrictions. While there’s been no movement at the federal level, several states have enacted tougher gun laws.