Opportunity to unite


NRA hosts annual meeting this weekend in Dallas

Associated Press

DALLAS

A year ago, the nation’s most powerful gun lobby was riding high: The millions the National Rifle Association had spent to help elect Donald Trump, one of the nation’s most gun-friendly presidents, had paid off, and members were hopeful that more firearms restrictions would soon be eased.

Oh, how things have changed.

In the last 12 months, Americans have witnessed the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history, a gut-wrenching attack at a Florida high school and bitterly divided politics in Washington.

Those factors gave fresh momentum to gun-control advocates and stalled the NRA’s agenda, despite firm GOP control of Congress and the White House.

Then corporate America began turning its back on the group, dropping scores of discount programs or refusing to sell gun-industry products.

When the NRA hosts its annual meeting this weekend in Dallas, the gathering will provide a window into the organization’s message and strategy ahead of this year’s midterm elections. The convention will also have a return guest: Trump, making his fourth- consecutive visit to the meeting.

For the NRA, the meeting provides an opportunity to unite around the idea that members must push back against a liberal agenda that seeks to trample their Second Amendment rights.

The thousands of people in attendance will listen to political speeches, check out the latest firearms, attend gun training courses and socialize.

The audience consists mostly of hardcore gun-rights supporters.

Gun-control groups have been spurred on by a younger generation impatient with inaction. Teenagers from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida began pushing for gun restrictions almost immediately after a former student killed 17 people at the school in February. The survivors have led a series of rallies and marches, most notably an event in Washington in March that was the anchor for a national day of protest.

The students have pressed to raise the legal age to purchase a rifle, curb access to AR-style firearms and adopt other gun restrictions. While there’s been no movement at the federal level, several states have enacted tougher gun laws.

The NRA’s top priorities – allowing gun owners with a state-issued concealed-carry permit to carry a handgun in any state and easing restrictions on the sales of suppressors – remain unfulfilled.

But at the same time, the group has not lost any ground in Congress. Lawmakers have struggled to make even minor adjustments to background check systems.

Still, the leading manufacturer of bump stocks, which allow a semi-automatic long gun to mimic the firepower of a fully automatic weapon, is going out of business. Several states have enacted “red flag” laws that make it easier to confiscate firearms from someone considered to be a danger to themselves or others, including two historically gun-friendly states: Florida and Vermont.

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