For a final article concerning the NRAAM, I wanted to post my general observations about the conference.
First, the protesters, or lack of protesters. I am aware that about 100 protesters staged a “die-in” at Woodruff Park, but that’s a few blocks away from the Georgia World Congress Center where the NRAAM was being held. Therefore, I doubt many people attending the event even knew that there were protesters, other than reading about it in the news. I did not personally see any protesters when I was there on Friday. The only people I saw were attendees, police, and members of the press. Compare the 100-odd protesters with the 80,000 NRA attendees and you get a sense of why someone could miss that they were even around. Add to that the fact that the protesters were blocks away lying on the grass in a park, and you can see how they were easily missed, except by those who knew where to go looking for them.
Second, when attending an NRA event like this you really get a sense of the diversity of those who support the Second Amendment and enjoy firearms as a hobby, for hunting, for sport, and for self defense. I saw people of all ages, backgrounds, and ethnicities. The NRA has also sought in the last few years to recruit spokespeople who better reflect this diversity. People like Colion Noir and Dana Loesch have joined Wayne Lapierre as the public faces of the organization. The professional shooting community also continues to flourish as sports such as IPSC, USPSA, and 3-Gun continue to grow in popularity (as well as their stars, such as Julie Golob, Jerry Miculek, Doug Koenig, Michelle Viscusi, and others).
Third, on the floor of the exhibit hall, watching the mass of people excitedly go from booth to booth, I also realized the falseness of the left’s characterization of the NRA as some sort of behemoth which seeks to push gun rights on an unwitting public. The NRA is its people (about 5 million members), and it pursues the policies it does because its members want it to. If the left continues to insist on calling the NRA “evil” and blaming it for the actions of criminals, it will only further alienate its members as well as the broader pro-Second Amendment community.
Fourth, the firearms industry is very large. The exhibit hall had over 800 exhibitors, spread over 15 acres of floor space. There were firearms manufacturers, ammunition manufacturers, accessory makers, collectors clubs, and many others in attendance. The industry’s market size is about $16 billion per year and employees nearly 38,000 people. Needless to say, the industry is the size it is because there is a large demand for its products.
Fifth, if you’ve never been to the NRA Annual Meeting, I highly recommend it. Admission to the exhibits is free to NRA members, and you can join the NRA on the spot if needed. In the exhibit hall you have the chance to meet people in the firearms community, view and hold various types of firearms, and talk with others who share similar interests. There are also other events such as the NRA-ILA Leadership Forum, various lunches and dinners, and concerts; tickets to these are extra, however.
One last note about the NRAAM this year. It was erroneously reported by some media outlets that the NRA had prohibited concealed carry of firearms at the exhibits. This is incorrect; lawfully carried firearms were allowed in the exhibit hall. In addition, the original plan was to allow concealed carry in the separate meeting hall which hosted the NRA-ILA Leadership Forum. However, with President Trump’s attendance that plan had to be altered due to the presence of the President and his Secret Service detail; thus, firearms were prohibited at the Leadership Forum and all attendees had to go through security to enter the room.
The NRAAM is in Dallas next year. Hope to see you there!