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NRA Convention's Leadership Forum Kicks Off In Dallas

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Let's go to Dallas now where there are 20 acres of displays of firearms and hunting accessories. This is all for the National Rifle Association's annual conference. It goes on all weekend. Today is the leadership forum, and there's some high-profile speakers, including Wayne LaPierre who heads the NRA, Vice President Pence and President Trump himself. And for now - for more, let's turn to reporter Alain Stephens from member station KUT. He is at the convention. Hi, Alain.

ALAIN STEPHENS, BYLINE: Hi. Hi. Good morning.

GREENE: Good morning. So what is the scene like? I'm thinking - I'm trying to imagine 20 acres of displays and so forth. I mean, this is a massive convention.

STEPHENS: Correct. It is big, and it is busy right now. People are beginning to pour in. There are people carrying around rifle cases. There are a lot of people signing up for registration right now, which is just kind of beginning to start. But yeah, this is a large event. There's 900 vendors here. There's also National Guard recruiting. There's Border Patrol recruiting and, of course, a lot of law enforcement. So there are scores of Dallas police. There are scores of state troopers and a lot of canine officers, as well, trying to secure the scene in preparation for Trump. Outside, it's a little bit quieter. A thunderstorm is going on outside, so it's pretty wet.

GREENE: You know, I was talking to an NRA member earlier this morning - interviewing him. And he said he was bringing his three daughters to the conference starting tomorrow. I mean, is this a family affair, in many ways, for some people?

STEPHENS: Yeah, you know, I've seen children out here. I've seen people bring their entire family. People are very friendly and accommodating because, you know, they're coming from all across the nation - possibly all across the world. And, you know, again, it's just kind of a place - a vacation for many people to get out who support guns and Second Amendment rights.

GREENE: And you've have been speaking, I gather, to some people at the conference this morning in terms of what it's been like to be members of the NRA and affiliated in the wake of the school shooting in Parkland, Fla., which felt like a moment that certainly changed the gun debate in this country.

STEPHENS: Right. Right. You know, and I was asking them if they felt - if this push was different than previous pushes. But right now, you know, the feeling is generally of confidence. They say that if President Trump is here, that if Vice President Pence is here, that really - that's an affirmation of their goals - of their beliefs that - you know, that - politically right now - that they're holding the reins when it comes to gun control. Another thing, though, however, that they brought up is that, you know, they see this as kind of a generational divide - that this is something where it's a youth movement that's pushing for gun control. And maybe it's mired in a youthful naivety about the realities of crime. I actually spoke to a man named Jim Flint (ph). He's a rifle-maker from Oklahoma, and this is what he had to say about some of the protests.

JIM FLINT: Unless you lose your nihilism, your narcissism - your generation's going to be shooting each other until they're in their 50s. You're going to have to change. You know, we had, believe it or not, the AR back in the '70s when I was in high school. It's not the guns. It's the people.

STEPHENS: And that right there, you know, it - that was kind of indicative of some of the voices that I was hearing out here when we were talking about the Parkland shootings.

GREENE: OK, so President Trump is arriving. He's speaking at lunchtime. What kind of reception do we expect him to get?

STEPHENS: This is going to be a very warm reception. Again, as I said, this is an affirmation. This is a confirmation that, you know, that the political powers that be are very much for Second Amendment rights. However, you know, I did go around, and I talked to people about possible Trump-Russian collusion. The NRA has been brought in saying that, you know, they possibly have been an intermediary. When I brought that up, you know, they thought that there was nothing to it. I spoke to John Rumpole (ph) who's a real estate agent from North Carolina, and this is what he said about that.

JOHN RUMPOLE: There's groups that will lie, cheat and steal and that deeply hate Trump, and that's mainly because their person wasn't elected.

STEPHENS: So, you know, that's kind of a feeling that a lot of people were saying. But, you know, they're welcoming Trump here. So...

GREENE: All right. Talking with Alain Stephens from the public radio program "Texas Standard." Thanks a lot.

STEPHENS: All right. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.