by Dave Workman | Senior Editor
Tens of thousands of National Rifle Association members and their families will gather in Louisville May 19-22 for the 145th NRA Annual Members Meeting and exhibits at the Kentucky Exposition Center, and with a critical national election on the horizon, this could be one of the most important events of the year.
The convention will be a combination of political activism and fun, featuring the annual NRA Leadership Forum at the Kentucky Exposition Center – Freedom Hall, the NRA Foundation Banquet at the Kentucky International Convention Center downtown, NRA Women’s Leadership Forum luncheon and auction at the Louisville Marriott downtown, the annual NRA Country Jam at 6 p.m. May 20 at the Belvedere at Waterfront Park, and the Saturday Night Celebration featuring Toby Keith with special guest Chris Janson, at the nearby KFC Yum! Center Arena.
The Keith concert will be very special as it coincides with Armed Forces Day.
The 10th annual NRA-ILA dinner and auction will be held on May 20 in the Grand Ballroom of the Galt House Hotel.
The fact that so many events are scheduled at so many different locations around this historic city underscores just how big this gathering will be. It may surpass last year’s event in Nashville that brought together more than 78,800 NRA members and Second Amendment activists. This month’s meetings could easily top that.
This year’s event features more than 650 exhibitors in 450,000 square feet of exhibit space. There will be displays of firearms and equipment from virtually all of the big names in the gun industry, plus a schedule of seminars and other activities that offer something for everyone. The exhibits are so big that it could take more than one day to cover them all.
Exhibit Hall hours are 9 a.m.– 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday, May 20 and 21, and 10 a.m.– 5 p.m. Sunday, May 22.
Registration begins at 2 p.m. on Thursday, May 19 at the convention center, and continues daily through closing time Sunday.
At the center of this big gathering is the annual members’ meeting, which begins at 10 a.m. Saturday in the convention center. NRA President Alan Cors, NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre and Chris Cox, executive director of NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action, will deliver their reports and speak to the members.
The members’ meeting also allows voting members, those who are lifetime members plus annual members with five or more consecutive years of membership, to elect the 76th director.
Speaking events will attract an assortment of VIPs, and feature both LaPierre and Cox.
The Friday Leadership Forum, which is a members-only event, will feature Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin, US Sen. Rand Paul, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke, South Carolina Congressman Trey Gowdy, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and many others.
Also expected is businessman Donald Trump, now running for president, and both Sen. Ted Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich have been invited, so it is likely all three will be visiting.
There is much at stake this year, including the direction the country will take based on how the November elections turn out. The balance of the US Supreme Court is in the spotlight, following the untimely passing of Associate Justice Antonin Scalia earlier this year. He authored the landmark 2008 Heller ruling that affirmed the Second Amendment protects an individual civil right to keep and bear arms.
It is important not only who is elected president, but also which party controls Congress, and especially the Senate, where all judicial nominations are confirmed.