Whenever gun control advocates move to limit firearms in any given public space — universities, malls, movie theaters, schools — there seems to be a chorus of NRA-related voices saying that guns are what make spaces safe, not the other way around. However, they're now running into a little issue with their 2018 convention. While firearms will be allowed at most of the event, the NRA isn't allowing guns at Mike Pence's speech at their convention.
The "Firearms Policy" section on their convention website makes it clear that "lawfully carried firearms will be permitted" at the site of the convention center. However, Pence's speech falls under different rules. "Due to the attendance of the Vice President of the United States, the U.S. Secret Service will be responsible for event security at the NRA-ILA Leadership Forum," the event page for Mike Pence's speech reads, in bold print. "As a result, firearms and firearm accessories, knives or weapons of any kind will be prohibited in the forum prior to and during his attendance."
Pence is only appearing for one event during the convention, the NRA-ILA Leadership Forum — and for that event the rules are a little different. Although the NRA makes it clear that they're only playing by Secret Service rules regarding keeping the vice president safe, the NRA's detractors quickly called out the double standard.
Never Again movement leader Cameron Kasky posted a picture of the text banning guns on Twitter with a caption calling the NRA "a hilarious parody of itself," and then his colleagues from Parkland quickly jumped onto that boat.
"Wait wait wait wait wait wait you’re telling me to make the VP safe there aren’t any weapons around but when it comes to children they want guns everywhere?" fellow Parkland shooting survivor Matt Deitsch tweeted in response to Kasky. "Can someone explain this to me? Because it sounds like the NRA wants to protect people who help them sell guns, not kids."
Fred Guttenberg, the father of Parkland victim Jaime Guttenberg, also had a response for Kasky. "On so many levels, this is enlightening. According to the NRA, we should want everyone to have weapons when we are in public," Guttenberg wrote on Twitter. "But when they put on a convention, the weapons are a concern? I thought giving everyone a gun was to enhance safety. Am I missing something?"
Although the NRA hasn't personally responded to any of the Parkland community's comments, a Twitter user labeling himself as a "longtime former NRA member" responded to Guttenberg with a likely explanation of the NRA's position. "The Secret Service is in control of security. The NRA is yeilding to them. That said, the NRA should uninvite Pence," the former NRA member wrote. "My point being, too bad the NRA isn't as concerned about the safety of students as they are about the Veep's."
The Secret Service security announcement for the Pence event also announces that there will be no storage for firearms, which makes it even more difficult for attendees to that event to have them at all. When you look at the short list of other places when even the most stringent gun rights advocates agree to gun-free zones, though, it fits right into the pattern. Salon compiled a list, which includes such lofty addresses as the White House, Mar-A-Lago, the Capitol Building, and the last several Republican National Conventions — all currently havens for numerous Republican politicians — Pence and Trump included — who have been vocal in their support for guns all over the place. The Secret Service likely wouldn't agree with Trump's proposal to arm teachers, at least if the president was visiting one of those armed schools. In order to invite the vice president, the NRA had to go against its own principles and agree, at least this once, that guns to not make a situation safer.