The National Rifle Association’s annual leadership forum later this week will feature Vice President Mike Pence on Friday, and while members can carry their firearms at all other times, the U.S. Secret Service will not allow any weapons into the convention center during Pence’s speech.
“Due to the attendance of the Vice President of the United States, the U.S. Secret Service will be responsible for event security at the…Leadership Forum,” the NRA said in a statement. “As a result, firearms and firearm accessories, knives or weapons of any kind will be prohibited in the forum prior to and during his attendance.”
While it’s a Secret Service security protocol, the move triggered criticism of the NRA from their loudest opponents of late — students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and their families.
Cameron Kasky, one of the most outspoken survivors of the Parkland. Fla., shooting, immediately ripped into the NRA for becoming what he said was “a hilarious parody of itself.”
Matt Deitsch, an organizer of the March for Our Lives, replied to Kasky’s tweet by bashing the gun lobby for wanting to “protect people who help them sell guns, not kids.”
Wait wait wait wait wait wait you’re telling me to make the VP safe there aren’t any weapons around but when it comes to children they want guns everywhere? Can someone explain this to me? Because it sounds like the NRA wants to protect people who help them sell guns, not kids.
— Matt Deitsch (@MattxRed) April 28, 2018
The survivors of the Parkland shooting are chastising the NRA for what they see as the group’s hypocrisy for prioritizing the vice president’s safety over the Second Amendment — albeit temporarily — and for not affording students and schools the same level of security.
Fred Guttenberg, father of Jaime Guttenberg, one of the 17 people murdered on Feb. 14, also went after the NRA.
“According to the NRA, we should want everyone to have weapons when we are in public,” he wrote. “But when they put on a convention, the weapons are a concern?”
He added, “I wish my daughter and others murdered by guns had the same protection.”
On so many levels, this is enlightening. According to the NRA, we should want everyone to have weapons when we are in public. But when they put on a convention, the weapons are a concern? I thought giving everyone a gun was to enhance safety. Am I missing something? https://t.co/f4wgNhJ7RI
— Fred Guttenberg (@fred_guttenberg) April 28, 2018
NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch took to Twitter to lambaste the news media for mischaracterizing the NRA’s role in prohibiting weapons in Pence’s presence.
“NRA banned nothing. The media does this every year. It’s Secret Service SOP and they supersede all start and local control. Don’t complain about your eroding credibility and people calling you “fake news” when you publish things like this,” she wrote.
Jennifer Baker, an NRA spokesperson, reiterated to ABC News that this is “standard protocol” for an event featuring the vice president. Attendees are “not under NRA jurisdiction” during Pence’s speech, she said. “This is the Secret Service.”
Stoneman Douglas student David Hogg responded Sunday by posting a link to a MoveOn.org petition calling for the vice president to cancel his speech entirely, which is set for Friday. The petition has 45,739 signatures towards it 50,000 goal.
A White House official confirmed Monday to the Associated Press that President Donald Trump, a frequent advocate and ally of the gun lobby, will address the NRA’s annual meeting this week.
Trump met with NRA officials at the White House twice in less than a week following the Parkland massacre, and about a week after the attack on the Florida high school, Trump called the NRA leadership “great people and great American patriots” on Twitter.
What many people don’t understand, or don’t want to understand, is that Wayne, Chris and the folks who work so hard at the @NRA are Great People and Great American Patriots. They love our Country and will do the right thing. MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 22, 2018
Alex Wind, a Marjory Stoneman student and a founding member of the Never Again movement, responded to reports that the president also will speak at the NRA meeting.
On Twitter, the high school junior delivered a warning directly to the president: “There truly are no words anymore for the way you have handled this situation. The people are watching. The people will soon be voting. Don’t be on the wrong side of history.”
The NRA-ILA Leadership Forum will begin Thursday in Dallas, Texas.