Inside the NRA’s annual meeting: Guns, ammunition, family and politics

DALLAS — Joe and Connie Henderson packed up their car in Arizona earlier this past week and drove nearly 1,000 miles across desert and high plains to the National Rifle Association’s 147th annual meeting here. The couple came to their first meeting for two reasons: both to check out the latest firearms and to stand up for an organization they believe is under attack.

“We really wanted to be able to see this someday,” Joe Henderson said, gesturing to a massive convention center filled with guns and ammunition. “We really wanted to come because of all the negative press.”

The annual NRA convention is a huge trade show, where firearms enthusiasts ogle the newest products: holsters, scopes, rifles, cowboy boots, commemorative coins. It is a massive marketing opportunity for the NRA, with mammoth photos of its leaders hanging throughout the convention center, offers of discount membership, T-shirts and other swag for sale and booths set up to promote perks such as its wine club.

There are seminars on firearm safety and Second Amendment law. And there is a major political element to the event, with the president and vice president this year asserting their support for an organization that since a February school shooting that left 17 dead in Parkland, Fla., has been directly challenged by students, activists, corporate America and politicians.

About 80,000 people are expected to attend the meeting, which runs through the weekend. Some said they were here just to see guns and wanted nothing to do with politics. Others said they believe the minimum age to buy high-powered firearms such as the AR-15 semiautomatic rifle should be raised to 21, a proposal the NRA has rejected.

[The allure of the AR-15: ‘I know I don’t need it,’ says one recent buyer, but that’s not the point]

Many said they wanted to come this year to show solidarity with the organization and affirm their right to bear arms, which many believe is threatened. They also want to loudly reject what they say is the assertion that anyone linked to the NRA is complicit in mass shootings.

“It just makes me angry when people try to demonize gun owners and NRA members,” said Scott Glenn, a retired law enforcement officer from Salida, Colo. “They try to look at all of us like baby killers and we’re not.”

Glenn and his wife, Lynn, have been NRA members for 18 years. Lynn Glenn is just getting into firearms and purchased a brown purse with a pocket for a concealed weapon. She roamed the floor to see what type of gun she might like to purchase and thinks she probably will get a .38 pistol. The couple sat at a table near a rack of .22 rifles in candy colors: red, purple and yellow.

Scott Glenn is disabled, and he wants Lynn to learn how to shoot should the couple have to defend themselves. He thinks what many here said: Before additional gun-control laws are added, the ones on the books must first be enforced. His Second Amendment…

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