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No Guns Allowed During NRA Convention Speech By Trump, Pence

Vice President Pence will deliver the keynote address at the annual NRA convention in Dallas on Friday in front of an audience that won't be carrying any guns.
Chuck Burton
Vice President Pence will deliver the keynote address at the annual NRA convention in Dallas on Friday in front of an audience that won't be carrying any guns.

Updated at 9:05 a.m. ET

Victims of the Parkland, Fla., high school shooting and their parents are criticizing the after it announced that gun advocates won't be allowed to bring weapons to watch Vice President Pence deliver the NRA-Institute for Legislative Action's leadership forum keynote address in Dallas on Friday.

The NRA says the ban was ordered by the U.S. Secret Service.

"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, wroteon 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.

A notice posted on the NRA 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 prohibited items, including selfie sticks, backpacks, signs, drones, laser pointers, toy guns and weapons of any kind.

It is standard operating procedure for the Secret Service to coordinate security wherever the vice president travels, 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.

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.

Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter, Jaime, was among the 17 people 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 criticism from NRA members who view the restrictions as a violation of the organization's core tenets, including those of Pence, whom the NRA describes as "a lifetime supporter of the Second Amendment" with "a long 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 [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 that President Trump will be attending the convention later this week, though it's unclear when he will speak.

It will be the fourth year in a row that Trump 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 — more than $30 million.

He has told the gun rights group that it came through big for him and he would come through big for the NRA. But after the Parkland school shooting, his views on certain gun laws appeared to shift somewhat from the NRA's long-held positions. Trump brought up 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 people's guns.

Editor's note: The headline and text for this story were changed to clarify that the NRA says the Secret Service made the decision to ban guns from convention events where Vice President Pence and President Trump are expected to appear.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Vanessa Romo is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She covers breaking news on a wide range of topics, weighing in daily on everything from immigration and the treatment of migrant children, to a war-crimes trial where a witness claimed he was the actual killer, to an alleged sex cult. She has also covered the occasional cat-clinging-to-the-hood-of-a-car story.