The National Rifle Association came to Atlanta over the weekend and made a little news as President Trump and other speakers addressed the convention on Friday. For the vast majority of attendees though, that was not necessarily the focus of the weekend. The focus of the weekend for them was the 15 acres worth of booths spread out over the floor of Building B in the Georgia World Congress Center. An estimated 80,000 attendees perused the offerings of some 800 companies selling everything from a $48,000 antique Gatling gun to truck bed liners.
Lest the name fool you, the firearms on offer at the convention were far more than rifles. Besides the aforementioned Gatling gun, also available were pistols, revolvers, shotguns, semiautomatics and every type of holster, sight, grip, and any other firearm accoutrements you can imagine. All the names from Big Gun were there – Beretta, Glock, Sig Sauer, Smith & Wesson, Ruger, Remington. Not to mention all the knives, jewelry and Kubota tractors. If it had to do with the outdoors – hunting, fishing, camping, farming – or people who are married to people who are into the outdoors, it was probably on sale over the weekend.
Talking to attendees about politics, some of whom were skeptical of talking to media (or immediately inquired as to the partisan affiliation of this non-partisan outlet), there was a surprising level of, not quite apprehensiveness, but guarded optimism about the president. No one was a Hillary fan by any means but several had not been Trump supporters originally. John from Alpharetta was a longtime Cruz fan and optimistic about Trump. He said despite some of Trump’s “stupid statements”, what has he really done? According to John, the country is too divided and we need to give Trump a chance. In John’s view, those statements from Trump are what we knew we were getting – “He’s Hollywood.”
Karen, from outside Memphis, was sitting outside of the Exhibit Hall, waiting on her husband. She did not seem so interested in the exhibit hall but was not shy about sharing her opinions on the president. “We gave Obama a chance and he screwed it up. We need to give Trump a chance. He’s the president now.” She was also not originally a Trump supporter but was enthusiastically so after the primaries. He’s the guy now and deserves a chance. Asked about the biggest issue on her mind, she talked about the importance of improving the vetting on immigration and clamping down on the border.
Robert from Johns Creek (out of 80,000 people, a number of them were apparently from Atlanta), said that he was never really into guns but he has two daughters and has been thinking the last few years about being able to protect them. He bought a gun a couple years ago and compared it to getting a tattoo, once you get one, you’ll probably want more. He’s tired of politics but, as with most attendees, discussed the need to give Trump a chance.
There were certainly a few MAGA hats on the exhibit floor but not as many as you might think from the media coverage considering Trump’s appearance. The NRA has had a long history of partnership with law enforcement and it was apparent. Most of the shirts on the floor had police department logos from around the country on them, not political statements. Ultimately, the focus of the event was on the “R” in NRA.