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Protesters plan to honor mass shooting victims at the NRA convention

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

The National Rifle Association holds its annual meeting beginning today in Indianapolis. The convention takes place on the 104th day of this year. You know how many mass shootings there have been in that time? At least 151, more than the days that we've lived this year. I'll list a few recent ones. There was a shooting you may not have heard of at a funeral here in D.C. three days ago. There was the high-profile mass shooting at a bank in Louisville four days ago and the killing of children and adults at an elementary school in Nashville, Tenn., 18 days ago. So how will this impact or not impact this convention? To discuss, we're joined by Ben Thorp of member station WFYI in Indianapolis. And he'll be covering the convention.

Hi, Ben.

BEN THORP, BYLINE: Hi. Good morning.

FADEL: Good morning. So what kind of reception is the NRA convention getting this year?

THORP: You know, there have been a mix of reactions to the NRA convention, as I think you'd expect. On the one hand, the event is expected to bring some 70,000 people to Indianapolis, with estimates of up to $30 million in economic benefit to the region. Republicans at the state House also passed a resolution honoring the NRA earlier this week. But Indianapolis is also just two years out from a mass shooting at a FedEx distribution center that killed eight people in 2021. And some, you know, particularly state Democrats, have criticized the heavy involvement of Republican leadership at this event.

FADEL: So that's to be expected, pushback from Democrats in the legislature. But we're hearing about some protests that are planned, right?

THORP: Yeah. You know, there are a couple of planned demonstrations throughout this weekend, with police kind of designating a space for peaceful protests across from the convention center. One protest expected Saturday will read the names of every child killed by gun violence in 2022. And then on Sunday, the Indiana chapter of Moms Demand Action is planning an event where they'll have the shoes representing all of the people killed by gun violence in Indianapolis. I do kind of want to add that these protests so far seem like they could be small. There hasn't been a lot of kind of local chatter here.

FADEL: So we know the NRA has faced high-profile lawsuits, financial issues in recent years. But the convention is definitely attracting big names in Republican politics. Tell us more about who's expected to make an appearance.

THORP: That's right. I mean, there's a long list of people who will be speaking today. Some of them have officially announced runs. And some of them are still exploring runs. Those names, of course, include former President Donald Trump, former Vice President Mike Pence, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. And we're also going to hear from former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, who is a 2024 presidential candidate. The Second Amendment, I think, has always been a major issue for the GOP, with many touting their approval ratings with the NRA. Some candidates, like Indiana's former Governor Mike Pence, have even walked back support of red flag laws as they've neared this potential run for president.

FADEL: Now, Ben, Indiana is now one of the 26 or so states that do not require people 18 and over to have a permit to carry a firearm. Are there any concerns about that becoming a talking point this weekend?

THORP: It's hard to say, you know? In the lead-up to the passage of Indiana's so-called constitutional carry, the move was met with opposition by a number of state law enforcement groups who worried it was going to infringe on their ability to do their jobs and identify people who shouldn't be armed. Ahead of this weekend's convention, you know, speaking with Indianapolis Metropolitan Police, they said that there will likely be more guns downtown. But they are also not that worried and say that they are used to hosting large crowd events like this. I do think it's also worth mentioning that guns are banned in the room where speakers like Donald Trump are going to be but are otherwise allowed at this convention.

FADEL: WFYI's Ben Thorp in Indianapolis.

Thank you, Ben.

THORP: Thank you so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.

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