A gun that looks like a cellphone isn't the only tone deaf thing on display at the NRA annual meeting

A gun that looks like a cellphone isn't the only tone deaf thing on display at the NRA annual meeting

Blog ››› ››› CYDNEY HARGIS & TIMOTHY JOHNSON

Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

The National Rifle Association is holding its annual meeting in Dallas, TX, this year. The event kicked off on May 3 with an evening banquet and is now in full swing with a three-day exhibition at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center. In addition to exhibiting guns, ammunition, gun accessories, tactical gear, and other merchandise, the event features speeches, seminars, and workshops.

The preeminent event at the annual meeting will be the NRA-ILA Leadership Forum, which will begin at noon CST on May 4. (The Institute for Legislative Action, or ILA, is the NRA’s lobbying wing.) NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre, chief lobbyist Chris Cox, and national spokesperson Dana Loesch are scheduled to speak at the forum. Elected officials speaking at the event include President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, and Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, and several conservative media figures will round out the lineup. The following day will feature the event’s official “Annual Meeting of Members,” where the election results for the NRA's board of directors will be announced and other NRA business will be conducted.

There are many notable facts about the event, but none highlight the disconnect between the NRA and public sentiment on firearms regulation and the role of guns in society more than a pistol featured in the exhibition hall that can be disguised to look like a cell phone:



The pistol is manufactured by Ideal Conceal, whose website says, “Smartphones are EVERYWHERE, so your new pistol will easily blend in with today’s environment.” A demonstration video shows that the weapon can be pulled from a pocket, unfolded, and fired in just seconds.





The display comes less than two months after Stephon Clark was shot and killed by police in Sacramento, CA, after the cops mistook the cellphone he was holding for a gun. As Jaclyn Corin, a survivor of the mass Parkland, FL, shooting, noted on Twitter, the existence of the firearm could be used as a pretext to justify police shootings of unarmed people:

Here are some other highlights of the NRA’s annual meeting:

Speeches, seminars, and other events

  • Trump’s will give a speech at the meeting for the fourth year in a row. The Kremlin reportedly sought to use the 2016 annual meeting as a venue to attempt to make “first contact” with Trump’s presidential campaign.

  • The meeting will have a “Women’s Leadership Forum” and the keynote speaker will be white nationalist favorite Tucker Carlson, a Fox News host. This isn’t the first time a Fox host has keynoted the event; Sean Hannity was the featured speaker in 2013.

  • The NRA announced that pro-Trump media figures Diamond and Silk will speak at the event’s NRA-ILA Leadership Forum. The announcement came just days after the duo appeared before Congress and made false statements under oath.

  • NRA board member Ted Nugent will be attending the meeting. Nugent has made several controversial statements this year including saying the Parkland shooting survivors are liars who “have no soul.” Nugent has been a regular figure at NRA annual meetings, where he’s talked about shooting former Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) and called then-President Barack Obama “Osama Obama” and offered to “pilot” a boat to send him to Kenya.   

  • Discredited gun researcher John Lott will give a seminar on “false and misleading claims that will be made to advance gun control this year” ranging from “claims about Australia’s and the UK’s gun laws to … the true costs of expanded background checks to mass public shootings and gun-free zones.” His group, the Crime Prevention Research Center, will also have a booth.  

  • During the meeting’s “Youth Day,” the NRA will introduce children to firearms by using “nerf guns.” The NRA was previously criticized for pushing an ineffective program to teach kids gun safety and for rewriting children’s fairy tales to include pro-gun narratives.

  • The NRA has stated that no guns will be allowed in the arena during appearances by Trump and Pence at the behest of the Secret Service, undermining the NRA’s frequent claims that so-called “gun-free zones” imperil people’s lives, enable mass shootings, and draw terrorists.

The exhibition hall

  • Smith & Wesson, the maker of the assault weapon used in the Parkland, FL, school shooting, will exhibit several products in the “Featured Product Center & Demo Area.” Smith & Wesson has donated more than $1 million to the NRA.

  • Aagil Arms, a sister company of TuffZone and the “official manufacurer (sic) of the Ted Nugent Signature Series upper assemblies,” will have a booth on the exhibit floor that will feature a line called “Ted Nugent’s American Spearchucker Series AR15-style Upper kits,” which reference an obscure racial slur.

  • Trump-supporting Liberty University, conservative Hillsdale College, and right-wing think tank the Heritage Foundation -- entities with no direct connection to the gun industry  -- will all have booths at the meeting.

  • U.S. Border Patrol will also have a booth at the meeting, even though members of NRA leadership routinely demean and attack immigrants.  

  • There will likely be a lot of men. Eighty-five percent of attendees last year were men, according to information posted on the NRA annual meeting website for potential exhibitors.

  • According to The Texas Tribune, the NRA is “getting a free ride” for this event and will not pay the usual $410,000 rent for the space.

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