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 raise