Fact check: The Secret Service, not the NRA, is prohibiting attendees of Trump speech from carrying guns

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The claim: NRA is banning guns at its annual conference

The National Rifle Association has advocated for more armed personnel in schools,  a position it appeared to be maintaining in a statement about the massacre of 19 children and two teachers at a Uvalde, Texas elementary school on May 24

This position has been central in recent social media posts accusing the organization of hypocrisy for supposedly banning guns from its own annual conference, held in Houston from May 27 to May 29. 

“The NRA wants guns in schools, but they’re banning guns at their conference in Texas this weekend due to safety concerns,” reads a Facebook post from liberal political organization Occupy Democrats shared more than 4,900 times. “Hypocrisy on parade.” 

Tens of thousands of people shared similar claims about the NRA’s supposed ban, including liberal commentator Brian Tyler Cohen

“Hey @NRA, why are guns banned at your conference in Houston?” Cohen tweeted.

But the claims are off-base. 

Visitors to the NRA’s Annual Meetings & Exhibits can carry firearms “in accordance with Texas law,” a spokesman said, referencing the conference website.

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The exception to this rule is the NRA-ILA Leadership Forum, where former President Donald Trump will speak on May 27. ILA refers to the Insitute for Legislative Action, the lobbying arm of the NRA. The Secret Service, not the NRA, is banning guns at that portion of the event, along with numerous other items.

NRA allows open-carry at conference; Secret Service banning guns at Trump speech

The Secret Service – not the NRA – is requiring visitors to relinquish their arms in order to secure the building, according to /information online about the event and a spokesman for the NRA.

“Restrictions are in place exclusively at the NRA-ILA Leadership Forum at the direction of the United States Secret Service,” spokesman Lars Dalseide wrote in an email to USA TODAY. He called the claim that the NRA is banning guns at its conference “incorrect.” 

This mandate isn’t recent or related to the Texas school shooting, contrary to what some posts suggest. Archives of the event’s webpage show this information has been posted since May 14, two days after the NRA announced Trump would be speaking at the event.

The announcement linked to an online flyer that listed other banned items, including backpacks, drones, toy guns, knives, selfie sticks and umbrellas.

The exact same notice was posted by the NRA in 2018 to inform visitors of the Secret Service’s no-firearms mandate for speeches by Trump and then-Vice President Mike Pence. The event’s gun prohibition was similarly scrutinized by news outlets and social media critics at the time, leading then-NRA spokesperson Dana Loesche to send a fiery response to one Associated Press report on Twitter.

“NRA banned nothing,” she wrote. ”The media does this every year. It’s Secret Service SOP (standard operating procedure) and they supersede all start and local control (sic). Don’t complain about your eroding credibility and people calling you ‘fake news’ when you publish things like this.”

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Occupy Democrats told USA TODAY the source for its post was a Business Insider article, though the article attributes the ban to Secret Service guidelines.

Cohen said he was aware the guns were banned per Secret Service protocol, but he wanted to highlight that they present an obvious safety issue.

“The NRA… is hellbent on insisting that more guns equate to more safety,” he wrote to USA TODAY in an email. “If more guns truly made a situation safer, then why in the world wouldn’t the Secret Service and the NRA insist that all attendees bring guns?”

Our rating: Partly false

Based on our research, we rate PARTLY FALSE the claim that the NRA is banning guns at its annual conference. The NRA authorizes visitors to the conference to carry firearms in accordance with local, state and federal law and did not order any bans or limitations of its policy. Rather, the Secret Service mandates that attendees at the Leadership Forum, where Trump will speak, not carry firearms or other dangerous items.

Our fact-check sources:

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