The National Rifle Association capped its convention Sunday by hosting a “Youth Day” — encouraging children to join free six-month memberships.
Billed by the NRA as a family-fun outing, the event drew much attention from hundreds of children and their parents. Some of the youngsters were the age of the Newtown massacre victims, otherswere too small to see the difference between a toy gun and a real one.
“Spend the day exploring 400,000 square feet of exhibit hall containing over 550 exhibitors from across the country. Share the excitement with spectacular displays and fun-filled events for the entire family,” the NRA wrote on its website.
The event was hold the next day after the association welcomed its youngest member, 3-year-old Elaih Wagan, whose grandfather purchased the membership.
Activities inside Houston’s George R. Brown Convention Center prompted outrage outside, reports The New York Daily News.
“They shouldn’t be teaching kids how to use guns. What happens when they get older? They might become like that Connecticut killer,” said Cal Castille, 24, of Houston, referring to Newtown gunman Adam Lanza.
There were some anti-gun protests with people reading names of gun-violence victims across the street from the convention center. Protesters said the NRA event was akin to “brainwashing these kids to love guns.”
“This is indoctrination,” said Jose Sequeiros, 67, of Houston. “These kids are too young to see that guns are wrong.”
“It agitates me that these people don’t think it could happen to their children,” added Heather Ross, 27, of Austin. “This is just beyond words.”
Meanwhile, the board of the NRA is expected to elect as its president Monday a culture warrior who has worked for decades to make the association a more aggressive political force.
As USA Today claims, the election of James Porter is one of many defiant steps coming from the NRA’s annual meeting in Houston over the weekend. The organization vowed to continue to fight any compromise on gun-control legislation in Congress.
“Revenge is what’s motivating the president’s unrelenting attacks on gun owners today,” Porter told the group’s meeting Saturday amid news that the NRA’s membership had grown to a record 5 million.
“Millions of Americans are becoming first-time gun owners,” Porter said. “The media calls it fear. That’s not it. It’s a sense of natural outrage that’s been building for quite some time.”
The weekend also saw various speeches from politicians such as Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas — who challenged Vice President Biden to a debate on gun violence — and the NRA’s crowd-pleasing executive vice president, Wayne LaPierre.
“We will never surrender our guns. Never,” LaPierre said. “The media and the political elites can lie about us and demonize us all they want, but that won’t stop us.”
According to observers, id the tone of the convention wasn’t surprising, given the debate over universal background checks in Congress, which the NRA has fought bitterly.
“The rhetoric has been ramped up,” said Josh Sugarmann of the Violence Policy Center. “They’ve doubled down on their absolutism.”