Victims of the Florida high school shooting and their parents are criticizing the National Rifle Association after it announced gun advocates won’t be allowed to bring weapons to watch Vice President Mike Pence deliver the NRA-ILA’s leadership forum keynote address in Dallas on Friday.
“Wait wait wait wait wait wait you’re telling me to make the VP safe there aren’t any weapons around but when it comes to children they want guns everywhere?,” Matt Deitsch, a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School who helped organize the March For Our Lives protest, wrote on Twitter.
“Can someone explain this to me? Because it sounds like the NRA wants to protect people who help them sell guns, not kids,” he added.
The national convention “brings together our nation’s top Second Amendment leaders in government, the media, and the entertainment industry,” according to the NRA. It is expected to draw 80,000 members to explore more than 20 acres of firearm exhibits over three days.
A notice posted on the event page explained that, “Due to the attendance of the Vice President of the United States, the U.S. Secret Service will be responsible for event security at the NRA-ILA Leadership Forum. As a result, firearms and firearm accessories, knives or weapons of any kind will be prohibited in the forum prior to and during his attendance.”
A second page lists in detail all of the items that will be prohibited, including selfie sticks, backpacks, signs, drones, laser pointers, toy guns and weapons of any kind.
It is standard operating procedure for the U.S. Secret Service to coordinate security wherever the vice president travels, U.S. Secret Service officials told NPR. And the agency has “authority to preclude firearms from entering sites visited by our protectees, including those located in open-carry states,” it said in a statement.
Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter Jaime was among the 17 killed in the massacre, noted the irony in the policies concerning the vice president’s welfare and those of the general public.
“On so many levels, this is enlightening. 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?,” he asked on Twitter.
But the advisory is also drawing fire from NRA members who view the restrictions as a violation of the organization’s core tenets, including those of Pence, who the NRA describes as, “a lifetime supporter of the Second Amendment” with “a long a record of fighting to defend our freedoms.”
Members of a Texas gun rights advocacy group called Texas CHL posted concerns to an online forum.
“If I was a [democrat], I’d have a field day with this,” one member wrote. “Obviously even republicans and so called leaders don’t trust the ‘good guys.’ I realize it’s the VP, but still makes our whole argument look foolish. 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.
On Monday, NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch dismissed any claims of hypocrisy by the organization after linking to a story about the temporary gun ban by The Associated Press on Twitter.
“NRA banned nothing. The media does this every year,” she wrote, adding that the Secret Service’s rules supersede all start [state] and local control. “Don’t complain about your eroding credibility and people calling you “fake news” when you publish things like this.”
White House officials confirmed to NPR’s Mara Liasson President Trump will be attending the Dallas convention later this week, though it’s unclear when he will speak.
It will be the fourth year in a row that he addresses the NRA, one of his strongest and most loyal supporters.
As Liasson reported, the NRA spent more than any other outside group on Trump’s presidential campaign — over $30 million.
He has told the gun rights group that they came through big for him and he would come through big for them. But after the Parkland, Fla., school shooting his views on certain gun laws appeared to shift away from the NRA’s long-held positions. Trump raised the possibility of raising the age to buy a long gun from 18 to 21 and the administration is moving to potentially implement a ban on bump stocks.
But at recent rallies, Liasson reported, Trump has been warning his supporters that if Democrats win in November, they will take away their guns.