INDIANAPOLIS – For the third time in the past decade, the National Rifle Association is bringing its annual convention to Indianapolis.
Several prominent Republicans and roughly 70,000 NRA members are expected to attend the group’s annual convention. Former President Donald Trump and former Vice President Mike Pence will be among the speakers.
The event comes amid a renewed debate over gun violence following recent mass shootings.
“There are all these very well-funded organizations trying very, very hard to restrict Second Amendment rights, and we need a counter to that at the national level,” said Guy Relford, an attorney who runs the pro-gun rights organization The 2A Project.
Relford said he believes the NRA plays an important role in pushing back on calls for gun control, arguing red flag laws and stronger school security are better alternatives to prevent violence.
“This idea that we’re going to restrict law-abiding citizens from possessing certain types of firearms, that’s suddenly going to stop shootings or stop mass shootings or stop school shootings, it’s ridiculous,” Relford said.
Not everyone is excited to see the NRA in town this week.
“The NRA is doing an incredible amount of damage,” said Nikki Trojanowski, an Indianapolis leadership team member for Moms Demand Action. “They are making it easier to get more guns on the streets.”
Trojanowski points to the money the NRA has spent supporting mainly Republican politicians across the country.
“We don’t want anyone to be able to go to the store and buy an AR-15 today,” Trojanowski said.
But political experts say the NRA’s power and influence have declined in recent years for several reasons.
“One is sort of a series of high-profile events, shootings around the country,” said Martin Sweet, a political science professor at Purdue University. “Two, leadership of the organization. Wayne LaPierre has had a number of difficulties.”
Still, the campaign among conservative Americans for gun rights remains as strong as ever, Sweet said.
“Politicians are mostly concerned about the people who support the NRA, about their voters,” Sweet said.
Last year, Congress passed bipartisan legislation that expanded background checks for gun buyers under age 21 and set aside money for red flag programs, mental health and school safety. The National Rifle Association opposed the measure.
Sen. Todd Young (R-Indiana) joined 14 other Senate Republicans and all Democrats in supporting the legislation. Sen. Mike Braun (R-Indiana) was among the majority of Republicans to vote against it.
Braun “doesn’t let lobbyists tell him how to vote,” a spokesperson for the senator said of his voting record.
The NRA convention starts Friday and runs through Sunday.