We’re back from a great weekend of Second Amendment camaraderie at the 2017 NRA Annual Meetings and Exhibits. The 146th annual event was held over the weekend in Atlanta, Georgia, drawing some 80,000 people to the city. More than 800 vendors were set up in the Georgia World Congress Center, including Sporting Classics.
The convention was a historic event for several reasons, not the least of which was President Donald Trump’s speech at the NRA-ILA Leadership Forum. Trump thanked the NRA for its unwavering support in the 2016 presidential election, crediting them with helping defend the Second Amendment.
Trump’s address touched on multiple items, including issues close to hunters’ hearts. Trump celebrated Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke’s overturning of a last-minute order from former Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Dan Ashe that banned the use of lead ammunition on wildlife refuges. Trump added that his administration would make hunting access a priority during his time in office.
Trump was the first president since Ronald Reagan to speak at the NRA-ILA forum in person. No sitting president has done so in the last 34 years.
Also historic was John Seerey-Lester’s auctioned painting, which set an NRA all-time record. Seerey-Lester’s Jungle Impasse, a magnificent depiction of Theodore Roosevelt—also a presidential NRA member—staring down a bull elephant with the sort of ivory modern hunters can only dream about, was auctioned off Friday night at the NRA-ILA Dinner and Auction. He expected the painting to go somewhere in the five-figure range, but after a bidding war the price climbed to its final $235,000.
The NRA conventions are a lot like SHOT Show, with manufacturers of any and everything gun related debutting new products. But where the two differ is the fact SHOT is closed to the public, while the NRA convention is open to all NRA members. Whether the attendees were lifetime members or had just joined at the show’s registration booth, they were all welcomed with open arms.
And so were their guns. As the champion of concealed and open carry, the NRA allows anyone who can legally carry a handgun to do so on the show floor. Imagine walking into your local gun shop—smiling faces, guns on every hip, ballistic knowledge flying everywhere—and multiply it by 80,000. That’s the NRA Annual Meetings and Exhibits.
What’s more, not only was it totally safe, it felt safe. While I’m sure the media agencies that were on hand to cover the event disagreed, it was very relaxing to be among people who knew what they were doing with a firearm, proving that the NRA really is the safest place for freedom.