In the wake of a school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 people dead, Dallas Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway asked the National Rifle Association to relocate its annual convention. The largest gun lobby in the United States currently has a three-day meeting planned in Dallas for May 4-6, which now, Caraway warned, could be met with "marches and demonstrations" if they went through with it.
"It is a tough call when you ask the NRA to reconsider coming to Dallas, but it is putting all citizens first, and getting them to come to the table and elected officials to come to the table and to address this madness now," Caraway said at a press conference on Monday. "At the end of the day, we need to connect the dots. The NRA needs to step up to the plate, and they need to show leadership."
After the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14, a lot of gun control advocates have been calling out the NRA for lobbying politicians to keep lenient gun laws in place. Following the Las Vegas massacre in 2017, when 58 people were killed, not much has been done at the national level to restrict access to semi-automatic weapons like AR-15s, used in both the Las Vegas and Parkland shootings, or bump stocks, which convert regular firearms into semi-automatic rifles.
"I am saddened the fact that every time that we turn around is some type of gun violence," Caraway, a self-proclaimed "believer" in the Second Amendment and owner of five guns, continued. "We should not allow people to possess assault rifles and weapons. While we are worrying about terrorists, we're living in a terrorist society amongst us Americans today."
The 147th NRA Annual Meetings and Exhibits is currently expected to take place at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center. It's projected to attract more than 80,000 gun enthusiasts, according to the organization's website; relocating the conference will cost Dallas as much as an estimated $40 million.
While it's a sacrifice, Caraway feels now is the time to "put the heat on" the NRA. In addition to addressing the gun lobbying organization, he also called on President Donald Trump, and all elected officials, to begin working on legislation that bans assault weapons.
AR-15-style semi-automatic rifles were used in five of the six deadliest shootings in the past six years in the United States, The New York Times reported — and they're currently easier to purchase than handguns in the state of Florida.
However, Caraway's request for the NRA to move cities isn't shared by fellow council members, local ABC affiliate WFAA reported. District 13 council member Jennifer Staubach Gates said that while she doesn't side with the NRA on every aspect of gun control, she feels the organization has a right to meet in Dallas.
"They're constitutionally protected to be in the convention center," Staubach Gates said. "It's a public building. We can't be in the business to censor who uses that building."
The NRA has since responded to Caraway's plea to come to the table and discuss serious gun reform. In a statement, NRA managing director of public affairs Andrew Arulanandam said:
Dallas, like every American city and community, is populated by NRA members. Our members work in fire stations and police departments. They save lives in local hospitals and own businesses in communities urban and rural throughout this country. No politician anywhere can tell the NRA not to come to their city. We are already there.
Arulanandam didn't provide a reason as to why the NRA is resistant to discussing ways to prevent mass shootings in the future. And included at the organization's Dallas exhibition in May will be the legal selling of guns.