INDIANAPOLIS — 70,000 attendees are anticipated at the annual NRA conference in Indianapolis through Sunday.
The conference, one of the four largest conventions in the city this year, is expected to have a $36 million impact on the local economy, filling up virtually every hotel room in downtown Indianapolis and housing attendees in the surrounding communities.
”This is such a massive citywide convention that they book anywhere from five to seven to even ten years in advance,” said Visit Indy Vice President Chris Gahl who recalled this is the third time in ten years Indianapolis has hosted the guns rights group. ”We have eleven exhibit halls in the Indiana Convention Center. They’re using nearly every single square inch of the Indiana Convention Center for a massive trade show with more than 800 exhibitors so there’ll be firearms and art and camping gear.”
There’ll be no gun sales at the conference and tradeshow though attendees are permitted to carry loaded firearms on the premises.
”In accordance with Indiana state law, those coming in with a badge and are NRA members to attend the conference can carry a firearm,” said Gahl. “On Friday there is an exception when the building is in use for the dignitaries to speak like President Trump and Vice President Pence, no firearms will be allowed within that space during that time frame.”
IMPD has conferred with the U.S. Secret Service on providing security for Trump and Pence as well as Governor Holcomb and other top political figures who are slated to speak in Exhibit Hall A tomorrow afternoon.
”We’re looking at what is happening on the national stage. We’ve just had two high profile incidents in Tennessee and then in Louisville, Kentucky, and people feel a certain way about that,” said IMPD Deputy Chief Joshua Barker.
Hudnut Commons, across Maryland Street from the convention center, has been designated as a safe zone for protestors.
”In addition to staffing the area with added resources from our special operations bureau, I think that its important for the public to also be aware that we’ve stepped up our routine patrol numbers on the downtown district especially during those peak hours,” said Barker who will assign more officers to patrol parking lots downtown as many gun owners are expected to leave their weapons in their vehicles during the course of the conference. ”My message to the public is, to the responsible gun owners who are coming down to the convention to enjoy what the NRA is bringing I ask you to be extra responsible with the storage of your weapons. Don’t leave unsecured weapons inside of a vehicle because there are people down there who will try to exploit what they know is coming to the convention center and that’s going to run the risk of increasing once legally possessed firearms into the hands of criminals.”
Barker said Indiana’s history of favorable gun laws and recent legislation to dismiss the state’s gun permit system makes Indianapolis a favored location for the NRA’s annual conference.
”We have pushed out reminder information to our officers about how to responsibly come into contact and interact with persons who are openly carrying. I think one of the draws of the NRA coming to Indianapolis is Indianapolis has always been a concealed carry state. Now with the new legislation we’re a permitless carry state, we’re a constitutional carry state so I think that’s appealing to the convention. I think that bodes well for us because our officers are used to dealing with that.”
Gahl said Visit Indy would meet with NRA officials to determine if they will be returning to Indianapolis in the years to come.