This is part 1 of a series.
INDIANAPOLIS–The National Rifle Association’s Annual Meetings are just over one week away. The Association had many reasons to choose Indianapolis. But, the convention will likely be the most visible that Indiana will host this year because of the politics surrounding it.
“Out of the 700 conventions the city will host this year, we acknowledge and know this is probably not only one of the most high-profile conventions, but also one of the more controversial, polarizing conventions, based on the NRA’s role, politics as a whole and the fact that the president will be speaking,” said Chris Gahl, senior vice president with Visit Indy, the organization responsible for getting conventions to Indianapolis.
“When we say Indy welcomes all, we mean that. That’s been a mantra for many years, that we’re hospitable and we welcome visitors.”
Gahl said convention organizers, the city and Visit Indy have arranged a “peaceful protest zone” at Hudnut Commons, where the former mayor’s bronze statue sits, just across from the Indiana Convention Center, which, along with Lucas Oil Stadium, with be full with meetings.
“So, that’s a place during the duration of the convention where those who want to exercise their freedom of speech can do so peacefully,” said Gahl, acknowledging that people who disagree with the NRA’s views on guns, ownership and gun control, would likely be in the city.
“We’re happy that the NRA acknowledges that and puts that piece of the puzzle in place.”
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Gahl said the NRA chose Indy for the first time in 2014, after eight years’ work for Visit Indy, trying to lure them to Indiana. They signed up for this year’s convention and another in 2023.
“They cited the downtown’s walkability, the city’s central location with a large swath of the membership being able to drive in and very affordably attend the conference here,” said Gahl.
Gahl said he hopes the city’s welcoming reputation and the other reasons the NRA chose Indy will make more organizations likely to also consider Indianapolis and Indiana for their meetings.
PHOTO: Chris Davis/Emmis