Thousands attend first day of Dallas NRA convention

While the first day of the National Rifle Association in Dallas on Thursday was low key, there was nothing low-key about the security around it.

The gun laws debate that has escalated in recent weeks is heating up again as thousands of gun-toting Americans arrive in North Texas to take part in the 147th annual NRA convention.

Patrick Byrne and his friend drove in from Houston to attend the four-day event that will feature more than 15 acres of firearm displays, educational seminars and speakers — including President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.

“I’m here just to support something I truly believe in,” Byrne said. “And that’s the right to bear arms and protect myself.”

Keeping a close eye on the action are countless law enforcement officers who are anticipating protests.

Jacob Asala is attending the convention but isn't worried.

“You shouldn’t have a problem with me. I respect your views and walk away,” he said.

David Lyles is an Air Force veteran positioned outside the venue. Lyles says he supports the right to bear arms but doesn't believe private citizens should be allowed to own semi-automatic rifles, like the one used in a deadly school shooting in Parkland on Valentine's Day.

“I’m not their enemy. I’m another citizen who wants them to think,” he said. “I’m here to have conversations and encourage dialogue.”

Just a mile away from the NRA convention, a small group of Skyline High School students held a panel discussion on gun violence and school safety.

Speaking to an audience of local leaders, the students say they're not against the NRA but rather support expanding background checks and stricter gun laws that will make them feel safe at school.

“You’re standing against the public, and they’re telling you you’re too young. You're naïve,” said student Cindy Mora. “And you still stand strong and hold your head up high. And you tell them what you experienced is valid.”

Dallas police say they will not interfere in protestors expressing their first amendment rights but will step in if folks begin to act violently.