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Sunday, May 26
The Indiana Daily Student

politics

'I’m freedom’s safest place': Crowds gather in Indianapolis for NRA convention

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INDIANAPOLIS – It was the Lollapalooza of Republican gun politics.

The headliners: President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.

The details: A leadership forum at 11 a.m. Friday in Lucas Oil Stadium.

The crowd: NRA members from all across the country who had flocked to the NRA Annual Meeting and Exhibits convention to buy guns and support protection of their Second Amendment rights. There were about 15,000 in total, according to a statement from the NRA.

The rest of the GOP-heavy lineup included NRA leaders, Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb and Sens. Todd Young and Mike Braun, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and House Minority Whip Steve Scalise — the Louisiana representative who was shot in June of 2017 while practicing for the Congressional baseball game.

Members of the crowd were there as early as 8 a.m. as they waited for the event.

Dustin Blume, 16, said he came down alone from a town near Lafayette, Indiana, to attend the convention. Firearms are important to everyone in his family.

“Pretty much all of us have guns,” he said.

He said he was excited about the convention, but Trump was the real draw. Blume said he had never seen the president before.

Because Trump would be there, Blume and thousands of others had to go through Secret Service security. Among other weapons and dangerous items, no guns were allowed at the gun rights forum.

Country singer Luke Hoge played a pre-show set, and before he finished, he flipped over his guitar to reveal a Trump 2020 bumper sticker to the crowd to hype them up before the event began.

Videos showing men and women telling their NRA support stories played on giant screens.

“I’m freedom’s safest place,” they said.

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A man wearing a football jersey with Trump’s name across the back walks toward the stage to take a photo April 26 at the NRA-ILA Leadership Forum in Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. Colin Kulpa

Many people in the audience wore Make America Great Again hats, an occasional pink or black cap found among the red ones. A few members of the crowd sported Trump 2020 T-shirts.

One man’s shirt, accented with American flag patterns, looked like a baseball jersey. The number on the back was 2. The name was Amendment.

For Kyle Wallace, a 31-year-old who traveled from Louisiana, guns are part of everyday life. It’s his job to sell them at his father’s Spotted Dog Sporting Goods store.

He said he was was raised on guns and hunting and feels like he’s an expert in the field. Along with his job, he also helps his church security team and with 4-H rifle and shotgun programs for children.

Although Wallace said he’s never had to use one defend himself, he thinks guns are important to give people who are smaller or weaker the opportunity to be safe.

“The only way to level the playing field is a firearm,” Wallace said.

Leigh Robison and her husband said they came to the convention to see Trump and because they live in Indianapolis, so it was so close.

Robison, 49, said the Second Amendment was important to her because of the dangers people face.

“The world is getting worse and worse,” Robison said.

Christians, she said she believes, are being targeted across the world. She noticed this again just last week, during the Easter bombings that killed more than 320 people in Sri Lanka.

Leigh Robison said she trains other women she knows how to shoot guns so they can protect themselves, especially if they are single mothers. It’s all about safety and knowing that when she handles a gun, she should always assume it's loaded and not draw it unless she means it.

She said she doesn’t think serious gun restrictions will help anything because people who want to use guns illegally will.

“It’s a heart issue,” she said.

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A woman claps for a speaker April 26 at the NRA-ILA Leadership Forum in Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. Colin Kulpa
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