Gun Enthusiasts, Protestors Flock to NRA Convention in Houston

By: Jeremy Desel / KHOU 11 News Email
By: Jeremy Desel / KHOU 11 News Email

Houston is the center of the gun world for the next three days with the National Rifle Association’s annual convention underway at the George R. Brown Convention Center in downtown.

The convention is often referred to as “Southern hospitality with a cosmopolitan twist.”

There are plenty of heavy hitting politicians in attendance like Gov. Rick Perry, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin and even Col. Oliver North. However, for most folks coming down to the convention center, it is all about the guns.

More than 600 exhibitors cover several football fields worth of space on the exhibit floor -- some call it “the Super Bowl of lock and load.”

"You can't miss it," Chris Bowman, a local NRA member, said. For him and his dad, Ken, exploring the exhibits is an all-day, hands-on adventure. "You spend the day and walk around and you get such a good view that you could not get anywhere else."

Rafe Bennett represents Beretta USA which is debuting their newest modern rifle, the ARX-100, on the exhibit floor.

“This is the opportunity to get out to the end user consumers, and that is tremendous -- both to show them the product and to get feedback," Bennett said.

But you cannot have guns without debate.

“Anthony Burns, age 31, on January 19th,” reads a woman on the sidewalk outside the exhibition. That is one of more than 4,000 names being read over the next three days. The names are those of all victims of gun violence since the Sandy Hook shooting last year.

“We want universal background checks,” Aaron Black, who is leading the protest, said. “We represent the 90 percent of Americans that want to see that happen."

However, there is no debate inside the convention center.

"I get the politics all week, so I just come here to see the goodies," Ken Bowman said.

No shortage of that, especially for those who like camouflage and gun metal.

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