The National Rifle Association (NRA) is pretty pro-gun-ownership. I mean, it's right there in the name. But Vice President Mike Pence is set to speak at a May 4 NRA forum in Dallas, Texas (an open-carry state) — and guns won't be allowed inside. That's right. Mike Pence's NRA speech will be gun-free. Several Parkland survivors had the best response.
The event details were announced last week on the NRA's Facebook page, and with it came the announcement that the U.S. Secret Service would be handling security. That meant that "firearms and firearm accessories, knives or weapons of any kind will be prohibited in the forum prior to and during his attendance," per the NRA.
In the wake of the Parkland, Florida shooting on Feb. 14, however, the NRA and the White House quickly began singing the refrain that teachers should be armed to deal with potential threats (a solution that has since been widely-rebuked by teachers). The principle of the NRA argument is that more guns was a solution to gun violence. But the implied contradiction here is that the NRA is willing to acknowledge that guns are only dangerous at events attended by powerful politicians but not for America's schools.
Jennifer Baker, a spokeswoman for the NRA, explains to Elite Daily that the NRA does not control the venue, the U.S. Secret Service does. Baker says,
The NRA’s policy is to allow carry in accordance with local laws at NRAAM, including leadership forum. When the Vice President or President is on site that venue is no longer under NRA jurisdiction it is under the control of the United States Secret Service.
Baker adds that the Secret Service sets the rules when the president or VP are on site and that once they leave, "NRA rules apply and people will be permitted to carry in accordance with local laws."
Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter, Jaime, was killed in the Feb. 14 attack, was confused by the news of the gun ban at Pence's speech.
"On so many levels, this is enlightening," Guttenberg tweeted on April 28. "According to the NRA, we should want everyone to have weapons when we are in public. But when they put on a convention the weapons are a concern? I thought giving everyone a gun was to enhance safety. Am I missing something?"
It is hardly atypical or unreasonable for the Secret Service to take such precautions at presidential or vice presidential speaking engagements or public appearances — after all, the service took over the duty of protecting the president after William McKinley was assassinated by a gunman. The Washington Post reported that a similar ban was imposed at past NRA speaking engagements by Trump by the Secret Service.
However, the Parkland survivors aren't arguing that the president and vice president should not be protected. Their contention has been, and remains, primarily with the NRA for touting policies like giving guns to teachers while agreeing to terms indicating the threat they pose when the president or vice president gives a speech somewhere.
Even law-abiding gun owners were apparently irritated by the firearms ban at Friday's rally. The Post reported that several gun enthusiasts were posting about the Dallas event in a gun forum known as Texas CHL Forum.
“You may disagree … but in my opinion the very people that claim to protect the 2A should never host an event that requires disarming the good guys. Sad. No excuses for this … it makes us look stupid,” the Post reported that one commenter said.
Others in and out of the Parkland circle took to Twitter to rebuke the NRA and politicians whom they label as willfully ignorant to the root of the problem: political allegiances to the gun lobby.
Parkland student David Hogg created a petition calling on Pence to cancel his planned speech at the NRA convention, which racked up more than 45,000 signatures.
President Trump is also reportedly planning to speak at the conference, per the Post. Last year, he became the first sitting president to address the NRA.
Trump has sort of flip-flopped on guns issues ever since the Feb. 14 shooting. The Post reported that Trump has said he was personally moved by the shooting. He has called for raising the minimum age for purchasing an AR-15 or similar semi-automatic rifles from 18 to 21 years old.
“Now, this is not a popular thing to say, in terms of the NRA. But I’m saying it anyway,” Trump said in a Feb. 28 meeting with lawmakers, per the Post. “You can buy a handgun — you can’t buy one; you have to wait until you’re 21. But you can buy the kind of weapon used in the school shooting at 18. I think it’s something you have to think about.”
It will be interesting to see how Trump and Pence address what will be the elephant in the room on Friday, May 4 — the overwhelming support for common sense gun laws and the March For Our Lives, which last month drew thousands to call on lawmakers to act. My guess is that it will be clumsy.