Get all your news in one place
100’s of premium titles. One news app. Zero ads. Just $10 per month.
Al Jazeera

NRA convention explained: What to know about this year’s meeting

Donald Trump will be speaking at the NRA-ILA Leadership Forum [Shannon Stapleton/Reuters]

The National Rifle Association (NRA)’s annual meeting is scheduled to take place in Houston on Friday.

Leaders of gun rights lobbying groups are expected to attend along with several notable conservatives, including former President Donald Trump.

The meeting comes three days after a gunman killed 19 children and two teachers at a primary school in Uvalde, Texas.

Here is what we know:

What is the NRA?

The NRA is the most powerful organisation lobbying for gun owner rights in the United States.

It was founded by two US civil war veterans in 1871. According to the group, the primary goal was to “promote and encourage rifle shooting on a scientific basis”. The association began promoting shooting sports among young Americans in 1903.

In 1934 it began writing to members to inform them about what it described as “repeated attacks on the second amendment” – the amendment to the US constitution that protects the right to keep and bear arms. The group formed its legislative affairs division that year.

However, the group’s president at that time, Karl T Frederick, professed support for certain gun regulations. “I have never believed in the general practice of carrying weapons, I seldom carry one,” Frederick has been quoted as saying.

Four years later, the group supported the Gun Control Act of 1968.

In 1975, it increased its political profile and formed a lobbying arm, the Institute for Legislative Action, and two years later it formed its own Political Action Committee (PAC) to pool political campaign contributions from members.

The BBC reported that in 2020, the association spent around $250m, and officially spends about $3m a year to influence gun policy, although that does include spending via PACs and individual contributions.

The NRA’s day-to-day operations are run by its executive vice president Wayne LaPierre. The NRA says it currently has more than five million members.

The group meets annually but the 2020 and 2021 conventions were cancelled due to the COVID pandemic.

When and where is the convention this year?

The association is due to meet from May 27-29. The event starts at 2pm [19:00 GMT] on Friday.

The forum, labelled by the NRA as “one of the most politically significant and popular events in the country,” will take place in Houston’s George R Brown Convention Center.

The George R Brown Convention Center will host the NRA meeting from May 27-29 [Shannon Stapleton/Reuters]

Who is expected to speak this year?

According to its organisation page, the convention will host the NRA’s executive president LaPierre, its executive director Jason Ouimet, and former President Trump. It says it will also host the “nation’s top Second Amendment supporters”.

Senator Ted Cruz, South Dakota’s Governor Kristi Noem, Senator John Cornyn, and Republican congressman Dan Crenshaw are among those expected to speak at the convention.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott said he will not attend the convention and instead will head to Uvalde. Abbott is expected to record video remarks that will be shown at the event, a spokesman for the governor told NBC News.

Four musicians who were scheduled to perform during the convention cancelled their performances. Don McLean, Larry Gatlin, Larry Stewart and Lee Greenwood cited the shooting in Texas as the reason for their cancellations.

After the Texas shooting, what is the NRA’s position?

The association has been under intense scrutiny after the mass shooting in Texas on Tuesday.

The NRA condemned the mass shooting in a statement on Wednesday, calling it an “horrific and evil crime”.

“Although an investigation is under way and facts are still emerging, we recognise this was the act of a lone, deranged criminal,” the group said. “As we gather in Houston, we will reflect on these events, pray for the victims, recognise our patriotic members, and pledge to redouble our commitment to making our schools secure.”

The attack at Uvalde was the deadliest shooting at a school since the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre in Connecticut, in which 26 people were killed.

What challenges does the group face?

The shooting has renewed a national debate over gun control laws, with the killings also taking place just 10 days after a mass shooting at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York.

President Joe Biden and fellow Democrats have called for new gun restrictions. Biden is expected to travel to Uvalde on Sunday.

The NRA is also in the middle of a legal battle after New York Attorney General Letitia James filed a lawsuit seeking to dissolve the organisation for illegal conduct due to an alleged diversion of millions of dollars away from charitable funds.

And the US Supreme Court is expected this year to deliver a decision on a Second Amendment case. The court is considering whether to change a New York gun law that places restrictions on carrying a concealed gun outside the home.

Groups including the Harris County Democratic Party are also planning to rally outside the convention hall on Friday to demand gun control restrictions.