Fact Check

Did the NRA Ban Guns at Their Own Convention?

A popular claim about the NRA confused that organization's rules with those of the venues at which they held events.

Published April 7, 2015

 (AP Photo/Seth Perlman, File)
Image courtesy of AP Photo/Seth Perlman, File
The NRA banned the carrying of guns at their own national convention.

Ahead of the National Rifle Association's annual national convention, scheduled to take place in Nashville from 10 to 12 April 2015, an online rumor began to spread holding that the organization had paradoxically banned attendees from carrying guns at that gathering:

If you would believe the logic the NRA has used to justify guns everywhere from inside capitol buildings to bars to schools, more guns equal more safety. With that premise, one would think an NRA convention — a place where thousands of gun-owners congregate to buy, sell, and talk weaponry — would be the safest place in the world. The NRA disagrees. In fact, they'd rather you kept your guns at home, please.

Oddly, the NRA has decided that it wouldn't feel safe allowing 70,000 people packing heat to mill about. According to local paper The Tennessean, the organization put together a plan that they say will keep people safe — namely, "no guns."

Editorials and online memes started popped up decrying the NRA's purported dissonant and hypocritical standards of gun regulation, as reflected in the following passage from the (original version) of a 10 April 2015 New York Times editorial:

Seventy-thousand people are expected to attend the National Rifle Association's convention opening in Tennessee, and not one of them will be allowed to come armed with guns that can actually shoot. After all the N.R.A. propaganda about how "good guys with guns" are needed to be on guard across American life, from elementary schools to workplaces, the weekend’s gathering of disarmed conventioneers seems the ultimate in hypocrisy.

There will be plenty of weapons in evidence at the hundreds of display booths, but for convention security the firing pins must be removed. So far, there has been none of the familiar complaint about infringing supposedly sacrosanct Second Amendment rights — the gun lobby's main argument in opposing tighter federal background checks on gun buyers after the 2012 gun massacre of schoolchildren in Connecticut. Anyone interested in buying the guns on display, many of them adapted from large-magazine battlefield weapons, will have to apply later at a federally licensed gun dealer where, sensibly enough, background checks are required.

The referenced report in the The Tennessean that apparently kicked off the rumor misleadingly suggested that it was part of the NRA's own security plan to require that all guns shown on the convention floor be rendered nonoperational (through the removal of firing pins), and that any guns bought at the convention would have to be picked up elsewhere by their purchasers:

A multilevel security plan went into works not long after Nashville was chosen as the convention destination. All guns on the convention floor will be nonoperational, with the firing pins removed, and any guns purchased during the NRA convention will have to be picked up at a Federal Firearms License dealer, near where the purchaser lives, and will require a legal identification.

However, the NRA did not in any way ban the carrying of guns at their convention; rather, the rumor to that effect stemmed from a misunderstanding of varying convention practices, local regulations, and existing laws.

The NRA convention is a very large event, with expected attendance in the range of 70,000 to 80,000 persons, and will sprawl multiple venues. At the primary venue, Music City Center, gun owners with proper carry permits can indeed bring their guns with them during the association's convention. However, one of the auxiliary venues, the Bridgestone Arena (which will be hosting an NRA-sponsored concert by country music artist Alan Jackson and comedian Jeff Foxworthy), is a private venue that prohibits the possession of firearms, and attendees are bound to follow its regulations when they are in that particular arena. When attendees are at other convention locales, such as the main exhibit hall, they will be free to carry firearms in a manner consistent with state law.

Moreover, the NRA did not mandate that any firearms displayed on the convention floor have their firing pins removed, nor that guns purchased at the convention be picked up elsewhere. It is common safety practice for guns put on display by their manufacturers at such shows to be non-operational, and state and federal laws govern the sale and buyer pick-up of firearms. The NRA did not originate or insist on these practices for their convention, as Bob Owens, the editor of the gun rights web site BearingArms.com, noted:

This year in Tennessee, that means that attendees can indeed carry firearms in the Music City Center with the proper license in accordance with Tennessee law. Bridgestone Arena prohibits the possession of firearms, and always has. Attendees to the concerts held there are not allowed to carry weapons according to these pre-existing laws. Is it really news that the NRA asks members to follow laws?

The only guns to have their firing pins removed are the display guns put up by the vendors, not the self-defense weapons of attendees. It is a common safety practice at every sporting goods show or convention for firing pins to be absent from weapon displays being handled by thousands of people. Don’t quote me on this, but I seem to recall that this is an insurance requirement.

As for gun sales at the convention, they are simply following — once again — federal and state laws on the purchase and possession of firearms. Vendors typically only bring representative display firearms to large outdoor shows like the NRA annual meetings, and attendees can order firearms that they like at the event. The vendors will take these orders, and then send the ordered firearms to the customer’s specified local gun dealer, at which point they will have a NICS background check and any additional local checks before the firearm is transferred to them.

The NRA also published a message on to their official Twitter account confirming all of this:

"Lawfully carried firearms will be permitted in the Music City Center with the proper license in accordance with Tennessee law," the tweet said.

The NRA also published a statement on its page for the Annual Meetings & Exhibits, www.nraam.org, that weapons are not allowed in Bridgestone Arena on Saturday when an NRA-sponsored concert is scheduled to be held there.

"Bridgestone Arena prohibits the possession of firearms," the statement said. "When carrying your firearm, remember to follow all federal, state and local laws."


Friedman, Dan.   "NRA Bans Working Guns from Being Displayed at Convention."     New York Daily News.   8 April 2015.

Grigsby, Karen.   "6 Things to Know About NRA Convention."     The Tennessean.   8 April 2015.

Owens, Bob.   "No, the NRA Isn't Banning the Carry of Guns at Its Convention."     BearingArms.com.   8 April 2015.

Kim LaCapria is a former writer for Snopes.

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