Police ready for NRA convention in downtown Dallas

Dallas police say they are ready for the 80,000 National Rifle Association convention attendees and protestors coming to downtown Dallas this weekend.

The convention begins Thursday and runs through Sunday with President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence speaking on Friday.           

On Monday, the Department of Public Safety swept the facility. Tuesday, a helicopter similar to ones used to carry government dignitaries was spotted overhead. Helicopters flew over the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center on Wednesday.

The president and vice president addressing convention goers Friday ups the level of security. Friday is the only day guns are not allowed -- a standard request by the Secret Service.

“Certainly with an event like this we have our concerns but we are not going to infringe on anybody's rights,” said DPD Assistant Chief Paul Stokes.

Police are bracing for numerous protesters and counter-protesters similar to those recently at Dallas City Hall by groups pressing for tougher gun laws. One group is permitted for Saturday morning at city hall and another in the afternoon. More are expected around the convention center.

“They will not able to take the street. We will not tolerate property destruction. We will not tolerate violent behavior,” Stokes said.

In anticipation of the crowds, police are closing two downtown streets all day Saturday.

Young Street will be closed in both directions from Griffin to Ervay and Akard will be closed from Young to Canton.

Lou and Eunice Esposito arrived in Dallas on Wednesday from Maryland and are NRA Convention regulars. They expect everything to go just fine in Dallas.

“I’ve been a police officer for 39 years, I'm always concerned about security. But I would imagine a police force like Dallas, they've got it under control,” Lou said.

Eunice agreed that safety won’t be a problem.

“They've always been safe. With all the conventions we've gone to with 70-75,000 people attending, they are always, always safe,” Eunice said.

Bill Hayes is part of the NRA's California delegation. He expects more protesters this year and more discussion at the convention about what's happening politically.

“It's not this evil organization that's promoting gun violence. Nobody who did any of that shooting were members of the NRA,” he said. “The pushback against the NRA and against all gun owners is stronger now than I've ever seen it. It's like the division in the country.”

Dallas police say they will not prohibit open or concealed carry. They will not infringe on anyone's rights, even if it does give them concern.

Police say they will have intelligence officers embedded during the protests to make sure everything stays calm. They’ll release more information about short-term road closures on Friday through their social media.