DALLAS - President Donald Trump will speak on Friday at the National Rifle Association’s convention in Dallas.
Thousands are expected to attend the event at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention center between Thursday and Sunday.
It will be the president’s third consecutive address at the NRA’s annual meeting. Other scheduled speakers include Gov. Greg Abbott, Sen. John Cornyn, Sen. Ted Cruz and Vice President Mike Pence.
The NRA said it's an honor to have the vice president attending, saying in part:
"He is a lifetime supporter of the Second Amendment and he has a long record of fighting to defend our freedoms. Now more than ever we need principled people in public office who will fight to defend the Constitution."
The vice chair of the Dallas Public Safety Committee, Councilman Philip Kingston, says the city will be burdened by the cost of security for the NRA convention now that both the president and vice president are planning to attend. Nearly two-dozen state troopers could be seen sweeping the grounds Monday morning, a sign of a very high-security event.
"I'd very much prefer that the President and VP go somewhere else,” Kingston said.
Kingston also said it's a difficult time for an emotionally strained police department. DPD is still mourning the loss of one officer who was shot and killed last week and continues to pray for the recovery of another officer still hospitalized.
"Not only is it coming out of your tax dollars in order to pay for a convention that isn't paying us any money to be here. It's also straining a police department that by everybody's measure is understaffed,” Kingston said.
City records indicate the NRA was invited several years ago to hold its 2018 event in Dallas as part of an incentive to bring large conventions to the city. The contract was approved by the city council in 2012.
Most of the $410,000 cost for renting the convention center is being paid for with a two-percent hotel fee through a pro-business non-profit called Visit Dallas. The hotel fee is authorized through a city-backed program that promotes tourism.
"The economic impact for this city when you have 80,000 people coming through that hall. I hope that's how many come through. It's going to be great,” said NRA TV host Grant Stinchfield.
Stinchfield says the convention will be the safest place in America when the NRA is in town Thursday through Sunday. He describes the event as family-friendly even though at least three organizations are planning to protest the NRA.
“It's going to be a huge celebration. A celebration of freedom. You're going to get patriots and law-abiding Americans coming together,” he said. “We welcome dissenting voices. Look, we're all about freedom, and that includes the First Amendment, You're free to speak your voice.”
Guns are banned during the convention. It’s something that the Secret Service requires when the president or vice president is in attendance. But several of the Parkland school shooting survivors have tweeted about the irony of the NRA banning firearms at its own event. Stinchfield pushed back on those comments.
Donna Schmidt leads the Dallas chapter of Moms Demand Action, which lobbies for what they call "common sense gun laws.” She says the gun-ban at the convention is pretty ironic and says membership is exploding in DFW since the Parkland school shooting. Its members will attend a protest Saturday morning near the convention center.
“They want to continue to be active and make that impact legislatively,” she said.
The “Rally for Reform" is organized by the same students who participated at last month's March for Our Lives. Following that rally, Moms Demand Action will hold "Dallas Day of Action.” It includes seminars and group discussions on gun legislation and how to lobby for legislative change on gun control.
“We're learning about how to get our message out and how to speak about that in our daily lives,” Schmidt said.
Stinchfield says the NRA welcomes dissenting voices and supports First Amendment freedom.
“Here's what I would really love protesters to do if they come down: One — be respectful. Be law abiding. But two — shake a NRA member's hand. Talk to them. Meet them,” he said.
There is also a group of pastors planning a 24-hour vigil during the convention to protest gun laws and the NRA.
The city has not provided an estimated cost of security.
Visit Dallas expects the convention to produce more than $40 million in economic impact.