Charlotte: The Good and the Bad

Charlotte was a record setting city, so it would be hard to argue that the Annual Meeting just held there was anything other than successful. But I wanted to take a minute to talk about the venue, since more than a few people had issues with it. Now that I’ve attended four annual meetings, I believe I have enough information to compare venues.

Let’s start with the good:

  • Everything in Charlotte was close. I felt like I hardly had to do any walking, and certainly no driving. In Louisville, we had a lot of room, but everything was spread out. You had to drive between downtown and the convention center to go between events.
  • The food in Charlotte was great. I didn’t eat at any place I thought sucked.
  • The people of Charlotte were great to us.
  • It was obviously close to a lot of NRA members, because it set a record.
  • It was probably the safest downtown we’ve had a convention in since I’ve attended them. The Charlotte Police and County Sheriff did a very good job keeping up patrols.

Now the bad:

  • North Carolina’s carry laws suck. Technically, I’m not even sure I could carry up to my hotel room, because the hotels all have bars in them, and you can purchase and consume alcohol anywhere in the hotel. I did not carry at any point in Charlotte, and had to leave my pistol in a broken hotel room safe. No other venue has also been as in your face with us that carry is prohibited. Technically it was in St. Louis too, but St. Louis folks were discreet about it.
  • The Time-Warner Arena sucks as a venue. Not only could we not have an Annual Banquet, but they wanded down our members, and I heard a story from a reader that they wouldn’t let him in because his camera was “too professional looking.” We rented this venue for a private event. As far as I’m concerned, Time-Warner can take their venue policies and shove them up their ass when we’re the ones forking over our member dollars to use it. As far as I’m concerned, wanding down and disrespecting members does not make us feel welcome in the city.
  • The city is expensive. When I pay 12 dollars for a drink, I start to feel like I’m in New York City. Beer was cheap in Charlotte, roughly comparable to Philly, but Philly is still a cheaper city to drink in, and that’s sad. Food was expensive too, but I’m willing to shell out for good food, and I had nothing bad in Charlotte.
  • There was police presence in weird areas. Now it’s possible the convention center has a make work project for cops, in that you’re required to hire police officers for events, but a board member gave us some tickets to a cigar and brandy reception which had several Charlotte police officers patrolling. There was also two officers stationed just outside the Firearms Law Seminar, obviously based on rumors Dave Hardy was going to ride in on a Carthaginian War Elephant. Are they worried we’re going to get drunk and shoot up the place? Get rowdy? Maybe back in the old days of NRA you’d have to worry about that (things were more exciting then), but not now. I like a beefed up police presence, especially if you’re going to disarm me. Charlotte felt very safe because the CPD had a heavy presence on the street, but I found their presence at private events odd. I like feeling safe, not feeling watched.
  • The media was hostile, and some of the local businesses weren’t all that friendly. I heard one restaurant chime to an NRA staffer “You’re with NRA? You know you can’t carry a gun in here right?” The Charlotte Observer also made is feel so welcome when they asked us not to shoot them. We’re used to papers making policy arguments against us during the Convention, but most other cities media and businesses at least make it clear our presence (and money) is welcome in their city.

Overall, I am very happy NRA set a record in the city, but I am not a fan of going back until the State of North Carolina fixes the problems with their carry laws, and the various Charlotte authorities that are responsible for getting big conventions make sure their businesses and media understand the kind of business we’re bringing to the table. We know we have to follow the law, but don’t be dicks about it. Don’t insult us, do various things to disrespect members, and then expect us to come back with a smile. Phoenix was a much more welcoming city. Louisville was a much more welcoming city. St. Louis was as well.

Next year we’ll be in Pittsburgh, another city that will want our money. There won’t be any problems with Pennsylvania’s carry laws, which are among the best in the nation, but lets hope their businesses and media make us feel more welcome than Charlotte’s did.

32 thoughts on “Charlotte: The Good and the Bad”

  1. Yep, I’ll agree with all of the above, my motel didn’t have a bar, so carry wasn’t an issue. I didn’t care for the attitude ether, the motel clerk said she hoped I had left my “6 Shooters” at home, I said not hardly. Nor the Observers comments on their hope we wouldn’t shoot them

  2. Best would be to do it in Richmond. Virginia’s laws are awesome. OC is fine nearly anywhere as is concealed. You can even carry in the state house!

  3. Let me guess, you’ve never been to an Annual Meeting, Chirol. There is no facility in the entire state of Virginia that can hold the meeting.

  4. That was a good summation of the pluses and minuses of Charlotte.

    We stayed in the Summerfield Suites and had no anti-gun comments aimed at us. Indeed, the Randolph Macon Academy group was there as well (nice, polite kids!).

    We went to the Time-Warner Arena Saturday night and I think they cared more about my wife’s half-empty bottle of water than my Benchmade knife. I did find them rude and officious – it was like they were pissed at us because the speakers were going to diss Obama.

    Finally, Paul Valone brings up a very good point about the Charlotte Marriott where we had the GRNC dinner.

    That does make me angry!

    PS: We could use your help in getting our laws changed!

    1. What do you mean you could use our help to get your laws changed? That’s up to the people of North Carolina, first and foremost. If gun owners there aren’t signing up to help pro-gun candidates, then I would say they have no interest in changing the laws.

  5. *looks at map*

    I coulda swored that North Carolina was in the South. What is WRONG with people there? :)

    On the bright side, Arizona passed concealed carry in restaurants, cleaned up our vehicle carry laws and will soon have Alaska-style concealed carry in the few weeks. Each of these laws were created and passed since we had the NRA convention here. Maybe thousands of gun owners NOT shooting up things can be the impetus needed to open up gun laws and give people their freedoms back.

  6. There is no facility in the entire state of Virginia that can hold the meeting.

    However, there are several in Florida that can. Just sayin’.

  7. ExurbanKevin,

    Bohemian liberal types from New York, California, and Massachusetts saw a few too many reruns of Andy Griffith and then decided to make NC their home because it’s ‘rustic’ and ‘authentic’ and ‘charming’ — but then they bring their condescending progressive yuppie attitudes (and politics) with them, inevitably changing the culture.

    They’re trying to turn NC into a Southern clone of Vermont without the long brutal winters. There’s a reason why NC’s most famous public university is nicknamed ‘Commie Hill’ and Duke’s social sciences department is Marxist to the bone — and it’s not because of the natives, I can assure you.

  8. I live in NC, didn’t get to go to the convention, but I agree that our state laws are a bit weird. I’ve not gotten a CCW (gasp!) because of the lack of distinction between open and concealed carry in our laws, and that we are pretty free on open carry. There are circumstances where OC is permitted that CC is not, and by strict interpretation of the law, a CCW permittee is held to the higher standard regardless of mode of carry. I.e., a permittee cannot carry with any trace of alcohol, but OC is fine at least up to the legal limit.

  9. Is there a posting somewhere outlining what is necessary to hold an annual meeting?

  10. I think you are dead on accurate on every point, pro and con. I got the impression that the beefed up police presence was for our benefit though. Can’t have the disarmed visitors being mugged. I haven’t been to downtown Charlotte for years but I felt like maybe the Brute Squad had cleaned out the forest ahead of time.

    I am not worried at all about Penn carry laws. But will the NRA make sure the convention center doesn’t have their own policies in place?

  11. We stayed on the Executive Floor (#22) at the Hilton across the street. A VIP (?-Newt) with two posted bodyguards was across the hall Saturday afternoon. Met Ambassador John Bolton and a few other notables in the lounge.

    Chuck Norris had three (3) bodyguards during his visit to the NRA-ILA auction held at the Speedway (an awful venue, BTW).

    Never saw a line at the Registration area, but the Will Call booth was grossly understaffed — usually >50 waiting in line.

    NRA ought to add an extra day (Thursday) to the Exhibits. Lots to see, but plenty of schedule conflicts.

    Richard Childress (an NRA Board member) bought the restored ’50 pickup truck at Thursday’s FoNRA auction, for about $22k.

    “Uncle Ted” Nugent is a gem!

  12. Sebastian, I have to agree with pretty much everything…
    Bitter, as for us being the ones that keep electing them, take a look at how they gerrymander the districts and you will see that the majority of gun owners dont live in districts where the majority of the population lives. Take a gander at this one:

    And to change the districts here in NC we have to get permission from the federal government.

    Unfortunately, the population of gun owners and people that care about these things are well outnumbered by those people that profit by racially separating populations and continuing the long history of screwing the people.

  13. “Chuck Norris had three (3) bodyguards during his visit to the NRA-ILA auction held at the Speedway (an awful venue, BTW). “

    You have it backwards. Chuck Norris was guarding everyone and those three were taking notes.

  14. With cleanup of the public gathering nonesense, I wonder if Atlanta will become a more attractive location.

    Transportation hub, lots of facility. If we could do something about the panhandling, downtown would be quite attractive.

    I don’t think the new mayor, seeing the city bank balance, would argue against it.

  15. Dixie said: “However, there are several in Florida that can. Just sayin’.”

    Any where between Tampa and Miami would be nice. The Fort Lauderdale Convention Center would fit just about any size crowd and plenty hotels all over the place. If the NRA makes the convention in January, I am sure more then one blogger will have an excuse to escape from the cold.

    1. NRA won’t move their convention time since it is tied in with organization calendars. Remember, there’s a legal annual meeting that goes along with this, it’s not just a random exhibit hall. The other issue is that Ft. Lauderdale is way too small. They would have to seriously cut it down to fit, and that would be miserable. There wouldn’t be as much stuff to see and we’d be so cramped in there that it would be a nightmare to see what little they would have on the floor. I didn’t even bother to look for space for the other mega-events like the Leadership Forum, banquet, and members meeting that require at least 2 more major spaces beyond the exhibit hall.

      As for Atlanta, I assumed the reason I’d never heard it mentioned as a possibility was some kind of space issue. Assuming those are air walls in the exhibit areas that could be removed, Atlanta could fit.

      First rule for commenting on annual meetings: Before announcing that NRA could just go anywhere, double check their convention hall website. Most spaces are not nearly as big as you think they are. I just ask that you do the math for exhibit hall first, then we’ll figure out if there’s room for the other major events. For the exhibit hall, 6 acres is really the minimum for a good event. The last time they reduced the size of the event – Milwaukee with only 4.3 acres – it was so tight in the aisles. Everywhere was packed, and the number of exhibits seemed way down. With the bigger halls, you get the really cool stuff like those circular safes and more fun displays. If NRA is going to voluntarily reduce the size of the event to visit a certain location, it probably needs to be with a political goal in mind. In Milwaukee, they launched the Dump Doyle campaign to keep up the push for concealed carry. Smaller sites aren’t off the table, there just need to be other considerations.

  16. RE: meeting space – the South building at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando is 23 acres, the North building is almost 24, just sayin’…..there are several issues with finding sites, among them availability, desirability, convenience, location relative to membership – which probably precludes using the same place every year – and, not to be ignored, capacity of both the meeting facility and the community (think hotel rooms, eateries and transportation). Those requirements produce a pretty short list of suitable sites for an event attracting 100K people. Bitter’s point about a legally-required annual meeting goes at the top of the list, anything else that may come with that is a plus, which is a “plus” that has to fit within the parameters above.

    1. Oh, I know there are so many more factors, Homer. But DAMN! I had no idea there was that much space at the convention center. I just looked, and that’s insane! I almost think that would be “too big” since many of the attendees are pretty old. I never thought I would say that about any space. Though there’s also the issue that it’s in California. :)

      Someone at the meeting asked me about Vegas, and I would personally LOVE Vegas – tons of hotels, lots to do, direct flights from just about every corner of the US, great food, and surprisingly family friendly. But the big thing I could see about Vegas would be the “Sin City” reputation. I suspect that NRA would field a lot of angry phone calls about that choice, but maybe not. You’re right about how there is just so much more than most people ever realize in picking a site. Add on to it that the site selection committee has the same issues we even see here – “I want it near me,” “No, it should be near me,” “I think my buddy the Governor would help us out here,” etc. I think Great Satan, Inc. put it very aptly that sitting in on the board meeting on Monday was just a chance to see the organizational sausage made.

      But the very first hurdle has to be the exhibit space, and that’s something you guys can check out on almost all of the convention websites. It’s a fascinating numbers game, that’s for sure.

  17. Oh, I know there are so many more factors, Homer. But DAMN! I had no idea there was that much space at the convention center. I just looked, and that’s insane! I almost think that would be “too big” since many of the attendees are pretty old.

    The Orange County Center was the one I had in mind when I said “Florida,” but I didn’t want to prejudice anybody. (chuckle) As far as being “too big,” that *is* a factor, but then again, everything is on site– over 100,000 hotel rooms, restaurants, banquet hall, and a movie theater. Which would help, because South Florida in summer is not a comfortable walking environment.

  18. Another consideration is geography. I think Louisville and Charlotte were record setters because of the number of members that are within a day’s drive. I bet Pittsburgh gets 80,000.

    With your locations out west that are large enough to accommodate us you are a day’s drive from like the next gas station :)

  19. Two words: Grapevine, Texas. Google “Gaylord Texan” to see why. Also: two minutes from a Bass Pro, and 30 minutes from Cabela’s. Let the convention coincide with a gun show (not difficult: there’s one almost every weekend in the DFW area), and have some serious gunny fun.

    And maybe, just maybe, we’ll have got round to legalizing OC by the time y’all get here. It’s about the only thing we do wrong with the gun thing.

    Hell, I might even attend… even though I think the NRA is hopelessly soft. (And yeah, I am a member anyway.)

  20. Grapevine’s facilities are way too small. Their convention center is half an acre. You can’t drop 60-70,000 people there. Though, Fort Worth’s convention center looks like it might be big enough. The other big variable is hotel space.

  21. “Another consideration is geography. I think Louisville and Charlotte were record setters because of the number of members that are within a day’s drive. I bet Pittsburgh gets 80,000.”

    Actually I bet that Pittsburgh gets 100,000+

    You are talking about an easy one day drive from all of New England, most of the Midwest, A good chunk of the South and even the large population centers of Canada.

    1. It’s nice to think big, but don’t get too excited. There will not be 100,000 people in Pittsburgh. We’ll be lucky if we break the record. Sure, NRA has gotten much better about reach more people in advertising the event, but you’re still assuming that most people give a shit. Not to mention, we’re not exactly clear of the recession at this point. More than a few people have told me that tight wallets get in the way. By the time you add up hotel nights, parking, eating, and possibly drinking, it’s not cheap to attend one of the things.

  22. More than a few people have told me that tight wallets get in the way.

    Which can be worked around… somewhat. (Carpooling, sharing rooms, etc.)

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