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A Perennial Issue

Sailorcurt is not alone in his disappointment that NRA has picked an off limits venue for the Annual Meeting. I would obviously rather be at a venue that allows carry as well, and this has been a constant complaint I’ve heard from members. It was nice in Kentucky and Phoenix because it was allowed. But NRA has competing interests to deal with in this regard.

NRA moves its Annual Meeting every year so that every once in a while, if you’re an NRA member, one will be coming to your neighborhood and you’ll have an opportunity to attend. They try to have it in places where as many NRA members as possible are within the radius of a day’s drive. Because the NRA Annual Meeting draws approximately 60,000 to 70,000 people, prominent political figures, a fair amount of media, and has some very significant space requirements, the number of venues that are capable of handling it is very limited, and it’s getting more limited as the meeting gets larger. For instance, Phoenix’s convention center is brand new and was built large enough to handle a convention of our size, and that opened that city up as a possibility which NRA took advantage of last year. We set a record for the largest single meal ever served in the history of Arizona. The Annual Members Banquet drew, if I recall, something like 6000 people.

The fact is there just aren’t that many venues scattered around the country that can handle a convention that large, with NRA’s room and space requirements, that also don’t have issues with carry. NRA’s alternative would be to always have the convention in Pittsburgh, Louisville, Houston and Phoenix. That would be great for people who carry, but would kind of suck for people who would never get to go because there was never any venue that was good enough.

I would also consider that the amount of money NRA brings to an area is not an inconsiderable incentive to improve laws in an area. Governor Jan Brewer, at the Phoenix Convention, announced support for cleaning up the restaurant carry situation while we were in Phoenix, and it wasn’t that long after we left that we had a fix. If we go back to Phoenix, that’s going to be nice not to have to deal with having to run back to the hotel to dump off a gun because you go to a place for lunch that serves alcohol, even if you don’t plan on drinking. I’m not saying we’ll be able to repeat that performance with North Carolina, but it’s not outside the realm of possibility. If politicians are impressed enough with the amount of money we bring into the region, and the positive publicity we get for their convention center (a favorite pork project of state level pols everywhere), they just might come asking what they have to do to get us to come back.

Just some things to keep in mind before getting angry about the situation. Nobody really likes it, but choices are limited, and someone is going to end up getting stiffed one way or another, no matter which direction you go.

29 Responses to “A Perennial Issue”

  1. Bitter says:

    Milwaukee also served as the launch for the Dump Doyle campaign that, if it had been successful, was supposed to be the final straw for passing concealed carry. Sometimes those locations are chosen for a purpose.

  2. *cough*ORLANDO*cough*

  3. Sebastian says:

    I’m actually surprised they haven’t chosen Orlando. I mean, SHOT is hosted there, and Orlando is more than capable of handling NRA if it can handle SHOT. Also a good location, since you can pull NRA members from Florida, Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina. All within a days drive.

  4. FatWhiteMan says:

    I would agree except that the NRA used the same argument against the city of Columbus, OH. In 2005, Bloomberg buddy Mayor Coleman was pushing for an assault weapons ban. The NRA was scheduled at the Columbus Convention Center for 2007 and said they would pull if the ban was passed. It passed and the NRA cancelled the Annual Meeting there as promised. If they are going to pull a convention for a local ban then book into a location with a local ban, what message does that send?

    Now, I understand your argument about the tremendous size and impact our meeting has and that limits venue selection. However, assuming that the Charlotte Convention Center is not a legislated CPZ and this is a matter of local policy, shouldn’t the NRA make sure to have such private bans lifted for the event as part of the negotiations? Shouldn’t we use the magnum sized scope of our show to our advantage?

  5. Sebastian says:

    The problem there was that the local ban woud have interfered with their ability to have the convention at all, since there are assault weapons on the floor. That’s also a slap in the face to NRA once the convention is already scheduled. That’s a really tough card to play for a lot of reasons, but in a case like that you have to play it.

    Phoenix Convention Center actually banned carry because it was licensed to serve alcohol, but they were willing to get the state to suspend their liquor license for all parts of the convention except the Annual Banquet (which you had to check your guns for) because you can buy wine and beer at the banquet.

    The Charlotte Convention center might not have as much flexibility in that regard. There are a few problems with North Carolina law, in regards to carry, that the CC could possibly have. Legal sticking points are harder to get around. NRA did in Phoenix because state liquor authorities were wiling to be flexible.

  6. Jujube says:

    What about Las Vegas? Denver?

  7. Bitter, I know. I just think they should do it there more often. Think about it…
    “Honey, I think we should take the family to the NRA convention in Whereeversville for our annual vacation.”
    – versus –
    “Honey, I think we should take the family to Disney/Universal Studios/Orlando for our annual vacation (and stop at the NRA convention while we’re there.)”

    Of course, I don’t have any personal motives for wanting the convention back in Orlando. Nope. None at all. *g*

    Unfortunately I won’t be able to make it to Charlotte this year. But I’ll still be surrounded by neat guns… in Iraq.

    • Bitter says:

      On Disney/Orlando: Considering how many kids are still in school during the usual months the convention is held, I don’t know that it would make a substantial difference in the number of families able to attend. If the excuse is a family vacation, most folks probably aren’t going to pull their kids out of school to travel across the country for a combined NRA/Disney/other FL sightseeing trip in April or May. I’d say if you’re going to pull your kids out of school to haul them to an NRA meeting across the country, you probably don’t need the excuse of Disney. :)

      On Denver: I can’t say I’ve ever heard a specific reason why not, but I would presume it would not be on a top list of places given the shitty way they acted about the last time NRA went there. Unfortunately, the 1999 meeting was scheduled for Denver. Exhibitors were already shipping displays and vendors had been booked months and even years out. (These kinds of events are planned very early on given the scope and limited date range.) Then Columbine happened. NRA did what they could and – as I seem to recall – cancelled everything but the actual members meeting itself. It is required by at least the bylaws that they have the meeting, so they literally did everything to turn it away from the celebratory atmosphere into business only, as required. But even then, the Denver press and politicians tried to paint NRA as evil doers targeting their city on purpose after the tragedy when that wasn’t the case at all.

      On Vegas: There is the upside in that Vegas knows how to do conventions. And they have tons of hotels – far more in walking distance than any other city NRA visits. But I’m assuming legal issues. Though, to be honest, I wouldn’t be shocked if there’s a bit of a social conservatism streak that keeps it from Vegas. There are a lot of religious folks who are pro-gun – usually represented by the large prayer breakfast they host at every Annual Meeting. Sin City doesn’t seem like a great place for a Prayer Breakfast. And some folks would probably refuse to go because of the location. I don’t know this from any NRA source, but that would be my concern in planning it there. They did do Reno in 2002.

  8. Sebastian says:

    The main problem with Vegas is probably Clark County’s registration requirement for pistols. Other than that, the other issue would be the number of NRA members within the radius. But I would imagine Phoenix would have had that issue too, and Phoenix was good.

    • Bitter says:

      Well if you’re going to choose between two cities in the middle of the desert, Phoenix is probably a better choice. It’s not as “naturally busy” as Vegas. Anyone who walks out of that airport for the first time to see the taxi line in Vegas probably has a near heart attack. Granted, I’m sure that’s not the case now that the economy is in the shitter, but considering we’re talking about the earliest possible unscheduled convention being somewhere post-2015, we can at least hope that there’s enough economic recovery going on to warrant a line in Vegas.

      If I were on the site location committee, I would probably avoid any location where there’s a significant travel gap in populations for the next decade or so.

  9. “If they are going to pull a convention for a local ban then book into a location with a local ban, what message does that send?”

    You’re missing the strategy. “Change”

    For instance, Columbus was enacting a new, negative, change…and they cancelled.

    Phoenix was a PITA with their restaurant prohibition. But the NRA meeting was held, and in fact helped push for a concerted change.

    A second point, the convention center where the NRAAM in Phoenix was held, was in fact a NO CARRY zone. Due to the serving of alcohol. The NRA worked it out by having the venue temp. suspend their liquor permit.

    Perhaps the NRA is also working with Charlotte to grant a special exception. Arguing, that if someone were to attempt to engage in a firearm related crime, they would find themselves surrounded by numerous trained professionals and laymen.

    LOL

    This is why we need a national reciprocity and a defeat of local gun bans.

  10. FatWhiteMan says:

    I’m not real thrilled but I sure won’t let it stop me from going. I hope my hotel room has a safe. :)

  11. Heather from AK says:

    “On Disney/Orlando: Considering how many kids are still in school during the usual months the convention is held, I don’t know that it would make a substantial difference in the number of families able to attend. If the excuse is a family vacation, most folks probably aren’t going to pull their kids out of school to travel across the country for a combined NRA/Disney/other FL sightseeing trip in April or May.”

    ___

    Clearly you’ve never met the parents of the kids at my school, who regularly pull them out for a month at a time and then wonder why their kid is failing… ;)

  12. Sailorcurt says:

    I would also consider that the amount of money NRA brings to an area is not an inconsiderable incentive to improve laws in an area.

    How, exactly, is it an incentive to improve things, if the NRA has no problem bringing all that money into the area with the restrictions still existing?

    What would be an incentive would be for the NRA to point to how much money they brought into Louisville or Phoenix and tell Charlotte “we’d love to hold our convention there except for… Look at what you’re missing out on”.

    With current NRA policy, there’s no incentive at all.

    BTW: I’m not angry. I know that no one can please everyone all the time and I don’t expect the NRA to bend to my will.

    But I’m not as willing to compromise my principles as they obviously are.

    I won’t support an anti-gun venue. I don’t do it in my personal life and I won’t do it as a member of the NRA.

    End of story.

  13. JKB says:

    While it is reasonable to end up hosting the convention in hostile localities for the influence factor as well as convenience, it is enhanced when a reasonable number of members choose not to attend due to the hostility toward gun owner of the host city. That way, the host cities can see that they get more visitors (nee: money) when they are accommodating and lose out when they are hostile to gun owners.

    Let’s face it, if the NRA chose Chicago and only a couple a hundred members showed up, that would be a really big hint.

  14. Sebastian says:

    Your choice Sailorcurt. I don’t begrudge it. Like I said, I’m not happy about the venue banning guns either. I’m also not happy about North Carolina’s carry laws.

    But when it comes to building some credibility with locals, it helps to have actually had a convention in the city. You can tell the politicians and hacks at the convention/visitors borough all day long that you bring great things to the city, but when local business start saying “We made a ton of money off those folks and we want them back,” and when the police say “They were the easiest conventioneers we’ve ever had to deal with.” (and that does happen) it speaks louder than promises.

  15. Sebastian says:

    While it is reasonable to end up hosting the convention in hostile localities for the influence factor as well as convenience, it is enhanced when a reasonable number of members choose not to attend due to the hostility toward gun owner of the host city.

    Chicago would definitely turn out a really small crowd because you wouldn’t be able to have the show floor with all the guns that would be illegal in Chicago. But you’re overestimating how many NRA members care about the venue restricting carry. It’s happened before, and NRA has set attendance records at some of those venues.

    • Bitter says:

      NRA set the record in Milwaukee. If you are going to technically count St. Louis for their half-assed, not really binding attempt, then the only two events we couldn’t beat were the Pope and the Super Bowl. I don’t know about places before that since 2004 was my first meeting.

  16. Peter O says:

    Well, hopefully the Ohio Supreme Court will uphold Ohio preemption, and we’ll be able to get the convention back here.

  17. Sailorcurt says:

    But when it comes to building some credibility with locals, it helps to have actually had a convention in the city. You can tell the politicians and hacks at the convention/visitors borough all day long that you bring great things to the city, but when local business start saying “We made a ton of money off those folks and we want them back,” and when the police say “They were the easiest conventioneers we’ve ever had to deal with.” (and that does happen) it speaks louder than promises.

    That would have some merit if there was any evidence that the NRA would put caveats on a return trip.

    Have they ever in the past?

    As you said, changing the venue out of Columbus was an imperative because their new law would preclude many of the exhibitors from participating. Same with Chicago or many other venues. Refusing them is not a statement of principle but a practical requirement.

    Will the NRA tell Charlotte, or St. Louis or any of the other places they’ve visited “we’ll be happy to come back if….”

    I haven’t seen any evidence of that so far. Again, I ask, what’s the incentive to change if there are no consequences for not doing so?

    No offense intended, but I think you just defend the NRA by reflex because you’re so emotionally invested in the organization. In this case you’re grasping at straws to rationalize that support.

    As you said of me: I don’t begrudge your support of them on this matter, I just don’t agree with it.

    BTW: Thanks for the link.

  18. Sailorcurt says:

    No offense intended, but I think you just defend the NRA by reflex because you’re so emotionally invested in the organization. In this case you’re grasping at straws to rationalize that support.

    To clarify: I probably should have said you “have a tendency to defend…”.

    I didn’t mean to imply that you never disagree with the NRA because I know that you do. But I do think you have a tendency to support them, sometimes based upon shaky reasoning, as a result of your emotional investment in the organization.

    I am similarly emotionally invested in VCDL and I have, on occasion, rationalized support for that organization for the same reasons.

    My observation is not intended as a criticism; it’s nothing more than human nature and I understand where it comes from.

  19. Harvey says:

    It’s not just the Charlotte Convention Center’s ban on firearms in NC that’s a problem. NC laws, in general are the most restrictive of any southeastern state. Permits(or a CHL) are required for any handgun transfer. The list of either no carry and/or no concealed carry is extensive, undermining the value of obtaining a CHL. There’s been no success in passing either a Castle Doctrine, or parking lot bill, and the NC politicians couldn’t care less about the 2nd Amendment. For the NRA to reward this region by bringing the annual convention business here is unconscionable. Given the current times, any organization bringing this type of economic boost to an area wields tremendous influence. Find a city and state that deserves such a reward, and not support any jurisdiction that fails to support the goals of the NRA. Granted, due to the size of the event, certain criteria must be met, but other accommodations could have been found, and, I’m sure, the membership would accept a little inconvenience, such as multiple sites, rather than hold the event in an area so unfriendly to the firearms community. I hope the NRA leadership will begin to realize their responsibility to the members in future site selections.

  20. Sebastian says:

    What about their responsibility to their North Carolina members who might want to attend an Annual Meeting, and don’t have the money or the time for a plane ticket or long drive and hotel? Fuck em, I guess.

    • Bitter says:

      I love the mention of the current economic times. Does this mean that we should now demand that the site selection committee see into the future? Perhaps we should load it with traders and economists instead? This event was planned years ago – long before the recession started. This type of event is not the kind you randomly reward or punish with spontaneously. The plans start at least 5 years out.

  21. Harvey says:

    My car’s NC license plate is a NRA edition, and in which I would gladly drive to GA, SC, or VA for example. I don’t believe the response to choose another location, more friendly to gun owners is an attitude of, as you put it, “fuck em” to NC members. The organization has tremendous political and economic powers, which, I believe should be taken into consideration when choosing a venue. Even without the ability to see into the economic future, the convention, and its benefits will always provide a substantial impact to the host city. I was merely pointing out that this years convention could pack a greater impact than others due to the current times. I simply would like to see this impact be considered, just like any other lobbying effort, used by the NRA to further the cause.

  22. Sebastian says:

    The nearest convention center that could fit the NRA AM is in Greenville, South Carolina. But then maybe I should complain that NRA chose to have their convention in a place that has such anemic reciprocity laws, preventing me from carrying there at all, not just at the annual meeting. Also consider that South Carolina enforces, by law, signage. So if Greenville’s convention center is posted, it’s no go there too.

    No state has perfect carry laws. Everyone needs to get over themselves on this issue. No matter where you have it, someone is going to feel screwed because of some imperfection or another.

    • Bitter says:

      I might add that the Greenville option was based on a quick glance at convention space. It may work out that their facility wouldn’t actually hold all of the events. Just saying NRA should move it to the next state isn’t as easy as people who have never planned a large meeting would like to believe it is. Given the number of massive rooms we need, few cities in the country can actually fit us. And, I might add, I will likely bitch about Charlotte when we get there because they are splitting it up across venues again. I really hate when they do that.

  23. Sailorcurt says:

    Get over ourselves?

    Sounds like something an anti-gunner would say.

    The same retort could be (and is) used every time we lobby for relaxations on the unwarranted restriction of our right to be properly armed for self defense.

    That’s not a point, that’s an immature insult. But I suppose if that’s all you’ve got…

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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