The NRA is choosing to host the pinnacle event of its annual meeting at a venue that does not allow members of the public to carry firearms, a decision that stands in sharp contrast to claims from NRA leadership that “gun-free zones” are not safe and should be avoided.
The NRA will hold its annual meeting April 10 through 12 in Nashville, Tennessee, with events primarily occurring at the Music City Center, which is an exhibition hall, and the Bridgestone Arena.
Some attendees are upset that they will not be allowed to carry guns at the Bridgestone Arena during the event, due to the venue's policy prohibiting firearms, according to Nashville Public Radio.
The NRA frequently tells supporters that gun-free zones imperil their lives, enable mass shootings, and invite terrorists.
For example, during the 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference, NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre told the crowd that the Islamic State is “carving a bloody trail that leads to our doorstep” and suggested it is not a matter of “if” but “when” a terrorist attack will occur at “the supposedly gun-free zone of the Mall of America.”
In remarks following the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, LaPierre also compared the practice of announcing no-gun policies to placing an advertisement for an “insane killer.”
Nevertheless, the NRA has booked event space on multiple occasions for its annual meeting in places where firearms are not allowed.
According to the NRA, the biggest event of the 2015 annual meeting will be performances by musician Alan Jackson and comedian Jeff Foxworthy, both at the Bridgestone Arena. (In years past the NRA's Saturday night event has featured speeches -- including remarks by Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin -- but no speaker has been announced at this time.) The NRA's website describes the event thusly: “To be clear, this is THE marquee event and culmination of the 144th NRA Annual Meetings in Nashville.”
In booking the Bridgestone Arena, the NRA is inviting its most loyal members into the type of place that it has argued is not safe. Fortunately, no evidence exists that “gun-free zones” -- a term used by the NRA and conservative media to describe anywhere civilians are not allowed to carry guns -- are actually unsafe compared to anywhere else.
According to an analysis of 62 public mass shootings by Mother Jones, there is no evidence that any of the gunmen chose their targets because of a policy that prohibited the carrying of guns. For example, 20 mass shootings included in the analysis took place at workplaces because they “involved perpetrators who felt wronged by employers and colleagues.” Furthermore, none of the 62 shootings were stopped by an armed civilian.
Gun violence prevention group Everytown for Gun Safety tracked all mass shootings between January 2009 and July 2014 and found that just 17 percent of incidents occurred in “gun-free zones,” while the rest occurred where guns can legally be carried.
Still, members of the NRA leadership have argued that a policy not allowing guns to be carried is tantamount to an invitation for mass murder:
NRA Frequently Equates Gun-Free Zones With Great Danger
- During an NRA press conference following the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre argued that putting up a “gun-free zone” sign was an invitation to an “insane killer.” Speaking in the context of schools, LaPierre said, “Politicians pass laws for gun-free school zones, they issue press releases bragging about them. They post signs advertising them. And, in doing so, they tell every insane killer in America that schools are the safest place to inflict maximum mayhem with minimum risk.” At CPAC 2015, LaPierre said, “The Islamic State is consolidating power, with beheadings, rapes, murders, and atrocities. They're carving a bloody trail that leads to our doorstep. They're already here. How much longer before the horrors that we witnessed in Paris or in Copenhagen come to the supposedly gun-free zone of the Mall of America. Think about that. Or for that matter the mall in your town, wherever you live.”
- NRA board member Ted Nugent has called gun-free zones “the most dangerous places in the world,” wrote that the “gun-free zone policy” of Virginia Tech “enabled” the 2007 mass shooting at that school, and claimed that “gun-free zones” are “are really engineered slaughter zones.” In a recent column Nugent wrote of keeping a gun handy: “If you choose not to have a weapon to defend yourself and home-invading meth-heads rape, torture and murder you and your children, that is a dumb and irresponsible choice.”
- Speaking on the fact that most colleges are “gun-free zones,” past NRA president and current NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer recently wrote: “Too often, college campuses are gun-free zones where murderers, rapists and other violent criminals can commit their crimes without fear of being harmed by their victims.”
- At last year's NRA annual meeting in Indianapolis, top NRA lobbyist Chris Cox argued that gun-free zones “encourage criminals and psychopaths.”
- Following the Sandy Hook mass shooting, the NRA released an advertisement that criticized the fact that the children of President Obama and other “elitist hypocrite[s]” have armed security, arguing, “Protection for their kids, and gun-free zones for ours.”
Image via Wikimedia Commons user Victorgrigas.