Trump and Pence to speak at NRA convention

Gun Rights

The Second Amendment shapes one of America’s most essential freedoms — the right to keep and bear arms.

The 152nd National Rifle Association’s Annual Meetings and Exhibits convention, the biggest Second Amendment weekend of 2023, will take place April 14 to 16 at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis.

Former President Donald Trump and former Vice President Mike Pence are two of the confirmed speakers for the NRA-ILA’s Annual Leadership Forum set for April 14.

They will be sharing the stage with Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb, U.S. Sen. Mike Braun, NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre and more. Information and updates on addition speakers can be found online at nraam.org.

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Trump and Pence also headlined the 2019 annual NRA convention in Indianapolis.

Chris Gahl, executive vice president and chief marketing officer of Visit Indy, said this year’s NRA convention will be the fourth largest convention Indianapolis will host in 2023 in terms of economic impact – $36.4 million with an estimated 70,000 people attending over the three days.

“In 2010, the NRA booked Indy to host its annual convention for 2014. Within six months of hosting the NRA for the first time in 2014, the NRA asked to rebook for 2019 and 2023,” Gahl said. “As in the past, for those looking to voice opposition, there will be a peaceful protest zone created on Hudnut Commons at Capitol and Maryland streets, the grassy area across from the Maryland entrance to the convention center.”

Thousands of dues-paying NRA members and others will gather for the family-friendly event featuring approximately 800 exhibitors, events, receptions and demonstrations, according to nrablog.com.

State District 69 Rep. Jim Lucas, R-Seymour, said he has been to several NRA conventions, including the last one held in Indianapolis in 2019.

Lucas said it’s a huge deal, and he’s excited about it and believes Indianapolis is a very good convention city, where most everything downtown is within walking distance and there are a lot of great restaurants.

“There are a lot of great venues, too, and the Indiana Convention Center is very well set up to host about any size convention, from the small ones to the very large ones, like the NRA’s,” he said. “This is one of the largest ones that Indianapolis will see, and I already have my tickets.”

He said it’s a great crowd and they are respectful, polite and not afraid to spend money. It’s not only great for Indianapolis but for Indiana, too.

“The NRA is perhaps the largest, most well-known group that stands up for our gun rights on a consistent basis,” Lucas said. “Of course, there are other groups, like Gun Owners of America, Second Amendment Foundation and others.”

He said the NRA has been around for a long time, and it is recognized as having the most power and influence in Washington, D.C.

“It’s not just gun rights, but they’re all about responsible gun ownerships and gun safety, which firearm safety is the most important thing,” Lucas said. “That’s one of the things they’ve been promoting since Day 1, and that’s a great thing.”

He encourages people to take some time out and go visit the NRA convention and see what it’s all about, and not just the convention but the lifestyle and culture, and he said it’s a chance to meet new people and they’re some of the best on Earth.

Joe Hardesty, owner of Acme Sports Inc. in Seymour, said he grew up in the gun business and has been around it his entire life.

“The business dates back to 1987 and began as a part-time business my dad, Steve Hardesty, started,” he said. “I became partners in the business with my dad about 22 or 23 years ago. Then he retired at the end of 2018, so I run 100% of the business now.”

Acme carries a variety of firearms, ammo, optics, accessories and more, but another side of its business is law enforcement distribution, which is huge, Hardesty said.

“We service five states in the Midwest just for law enforcement and government sales, and we have employees that work in different states for us,” he said. “We’ve seen a 200% increase just in that area.”

Hardesty said he has given some thought about possibly reserving a booth at the NRA convention in Indianapolis because of their sales in law enforcement to get that out in front of everyone.

“After thinking about it, I’m not quite ready to get to that level yet because we are so busy and our resources are pretty tight,” he said. “I think Indianapolis is a great place to have the NRA convention, though.”

Hardesty and store manager Alex Wheeler both attended the convention in 2019 in Indianapolis.

Wheeler said the NRA spotlights the industry, so having the event in our home state is great.

“The NRA serves many purposes, such as dealing with legislation, gun rights, training and educational classes,” he said. “Also, they keep shooting sports relevant.”

Bite the Bullet LLC, owned by Mark Hopkins, is located at 101 E. Second St. in downtown Seymour.

Sales Manager Craig Lehman said the original shop on North U.S. 31 was owned by Bob Trueblood and his wife, Shirley.

Mark and Lauren Hopkins purchased the gun shop around 2011 and continued operations there until they moved to the current downtown location in 2014.

Lehman started working at Bite the Bullet in late 2018, and throughout 2019, he saw the ebb and flow of traffic through the shop, he said.

“Things would pick up around October and close to Christmastime and hunting seasons and different times,” he said. “I saw the complete cycle, and then 2020 came in with the pandemic and threw out that model.”

Lehman said things started coming back a little bit in 2021 and 2022, and what he’s seeing now is close to pre-pandemic in traffic. He said there were X number of gun owners pre-pandemic, and there is a higher number of gun owners post-pandemic.

“Some of the most popular items here are handguns because most people carry outside of the home for self-defense. Next would be rifles for home defense and hunting and then probably shotguns,” he said.

Lehman said he has never been to an NRA convention, but he would like to go someday, and he encourages everyone to be part of some type of professional organization involving firearms.

“Whether it’s Gun Owners of America, NRA or USCCA (U.S. Concealed Carry Association), all those bodies help promote legislation to protect our Second Amendment rights, and that’s what we believe in,” he said.

Information about the NRA can be found on the home.nra.org website, and updates on the NRA convention can be found at nraam.org.

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