What To Expect As Trump, NRA Converge On Atlanta
The National Rifle Association will be in town for four days at the Georgia World Congress Center starting Thursday. It’s the first time the group’s annual convention has been held in Atlanta since the 1970s. President Donald Trump is scheduled to speak.
The NRA said some 70,000 of its members will converge on Atlanta. Almost two-thirds are coming from Georgia and surrounding states, according to spokesperson Jason Brown.
“We’re going to have about 800 exhibitors from the firearms, outdoors, hunting and gear industry, and then, of course, a jam-packed schedule of seminars, workshops, special events and celebrity meet-and-greets,” Brown said.
Trump is set to speak Friday. Unlike the rest of the convention, members won’t be allowed to carry their firearms into that event.
“We want to encourage everyone to not worry about NRA members coming in with concealed carry. These are law-abiding citizens. They’re patriots. They love this country, and they want to keep themselves and others safe,” Brown said.
Trump will be the first sitting president to address the annual gathering since Ronald Reagan in 1983. Reagan, who was the first presidential candidate to be endorsed by the NRA, had previously supported gun control as governor of California. This was during a period when Oakland’s Black Panther Party began carrying their guns in public.
“When you read Reagan’s speech, you can see how different the gun debate really was back then,” UCLA law professor Adam Winkler said. He wrote the book, “Gun Fight,” a history of the debate over gun rights in U.S.
“He spent much of his speech talking about conservation efforts and the important role of hunters and outdoorsmen in helping the environment,” Winkler said. Another large chunk of the speech focused on Reagan’s foreign policy aims in the Middle East, El Salvador and fighting drug-trafficking.
“Now the NRA is really focused solely on self-defense and fighting against government tyranny,” Winkler said.
He said today a big part of that fight is against what the NRA calls “gun-free zones.”
“They believe that guns should be allowed just about everywhere because so long as law-abiding people have those guns, they believe those areas will be safer,” he said.
“During the campaign, candidate Trump talked often about the silliness of ‘gun-free zone’ policies and the need to have law-abiding people who are armed almost everywhere.”
Georgia Republican state Rep. Mandi Ballinger sponsored a bill meant to legalize guns on college campuses.
“Right now, the current penalty for carrying on college campuses in the state of Georgia is a $100 fine,” Ballinger said. “You know, it strips people of their right to defend themselves.”
The bill’s waiting on a signature from Gov. Nathan Deal, who vetoed a similar measure last year. Back then, the governor called the idea that guns on campus would make students safer “highly questionable.”
Ballinger said Trump’s mere presence at the convention is a good sign for Second Amendment supporters. But she’ll be listening for the president to weigh in on the fate of “campus carry” in Georgia.