NRA could get $1 million in state, local money for holding annual meeting in Dallas

Gun Rights

The National Rifle Association could receive up to $1 million in state and local money as an incentive for holding its annual meeting in Dallas this week, state records show.

According to the Texas Economic Development and Tourism Department, Visit Dallas applied in January for state aid to helpbring the NRA meeting to the city’s Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center. The city contracts with Visit Dallas to serve as its tourism and visitors bureau.

The state initially estimates it will pay the NRA around $862,000 and Visit Dallas estimates it will pay almost $138,000, state records show. The funding is part of the state’s event trust funds program that accepts applications from cities, counties and authorized nonprofits to get financial aid to attract events to Texas.

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The state requires local contributions match state funding at a rate of $1 for every $6.25 the state puts in.

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The final tally in incentives could change based on the state’s calculation of economic impact. The governor’s office determines the final amount, which is then given as a reimbursement. The final payout could be less than $1 million if the economic impact of the convention is less than expected.

The state and Houston initially estimated they would pay the NRA $470,000 when the annual meeting was in Houston in 2022, around $405,000 was slated to come from the state, according to event trust fund program online data. Ultimately, the total paid was $320,000, according to the state program.

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The convention was last in Dallas in 2018. The News reported that year that Visit Dallas used hotel room rental tax money paid to the city’s Tourism Public Improvement District to cover around $387,000 in the NRA’s convention center rental costs.

Craig Davis, Visit Dallas’ president and CEO, said he couldn’t yet determine how much the NRA would be receiving this year because part of the amount paid from the Tourism Public Improvement District was based on how much money is spent on hotel room rentals during the convention.

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“The NRA, because of their size, qualify for an incentive opportunity that is based upon the materialization of the amount of bedroom business that they bring in after the fact,” Davis said. “After we do an audit of their actual pickup, then we do give them a lump sum payment.”

As many as 75,000 people are expected to turn out at the gathering that starts with a soft opening Thursday. The exhibit floor is open Friday through Sunday. Former President Donald Trump, who is in the midst of running for election and a criminal trial, is scheduled to give the keynote speech.

Concealed carry of guns will be allowed during most of the convention, said Nick Perrine, an NRA spokesman. People will not be allowed to carry firearms while attending Trump’s speech, he said.

“It’s Secret Service rules that no firearms or weapons be permitted at that time,” Perrine said.

Convention center officials declined to say whether they are granting the NRA any exemptions to typical rules for the city-owned convention center.

Rosa Fleming, director of the city’s convention and event services, referred questions about the building’s firearms policy to management firm Oak View Group, which the city contracts to run the facility. Liz Chreene, an OVG spokeswoman, told The Dallas Morning News to “please direct all inquiries to” the NRA.

Convention center policies listed online do not cite specific rules that cover firearms.

“The KBHCCD follows all applicable state and local laws regarding weapons in the facility,” according to the convention center’s website.

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Ariel Wallace, a city spokeswoman told The News on Wednesday that open and concealed carry of handguns are allowed at public city facilities except municipal courts and during city meetings. For instance, people are not allowed to attend Dallas City Council meetings with firearms.

“All city buildings are public buildings and allow open/conceal carry,” Wallace said. “Restrictions will not occur at city facilities, with the exception of municipal courts or a city facility that is hosting an open meeting.”

She also said open and concealed carry is not allowed in areas in city-owned buildings not open to the public.

State lawmakers passed a law in 2021 no longer requiring Texans to have a permit or training to carry a handgun in a public place. The law allows people to carry a handgun in a holster without a permit openly or concealed. But state law also allows open carry of firearms to be banned in hospitals, churches and government buildings with open meetings.

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Davis said 87,000 people attended the NRA’s convention over three days in May 2018, leading to an estimated $25.6 million in spending from convention goers and a total economic impact of $40.6 million. He estimated the turnout this year to be closer to between 60,000 to 75,000 and said it would be one of the larger conventions held in the city.

Since 2013, Dallas has been one of six cities in the NRA’s rotation to hold its annual convention. The others have been Atlanta, Houston, Indianapolis, Louisville and Nashville. The convention was canceled in 2020 and 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“What makes it attractive to Dallas is that they bring good business with them,” Davis said. “They bring a lot of spending through hotel stays and usage of restaurants.”

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Trump and then-Vice President Mike Pence spoke at the 2018 convention. The gathering drew public criticism from then-Dallas Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway, who said he felt it was inappropriate for the city to host the annual meeting after 17 people were killed in a school shooting in Parkland, Fla., that February.

“Obviously folks have a First Amendment right to express their views, the same as our membership will be doing over those three days, gathering and using their First Amendment rights to celebrate freedom and the Second Amendment,” he said.

Perrine said there will be an estimated 14 acres of display space for guns, gear and other exhibits. Firearms and ammunition will not be sold on site, he said.

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