The NRA annual meetings and convention are well under way here in Houston. This is the first NRAAM in three years, the last two falling vicim to COVID fears, so the Association, its members and hoplophiles are happy to have the gathering back up and running. But a couple of aspects to this year’s event are keeping crowds noticeably lower.
Longtime attendees have no doubt noticed lighter crowds on the convention floor.
That photo was taken about 30 minutes after the show floor opened this morning. Crowds have picked up as the day’s gone on, but the aisles aren’t as crowded as they’ve been in years past. Today looks more like a Sunday NRA crowd than a Friday crowd.
There are a few factors that are no doubt affecting this year’s attendance. First, the NRA chose to schedule this year’s event on Memorial Day Weekend. If that’s happened in the past, I can’t remember it.
This year’s NRAAM is also taking place three days and three hundred miles away from Uvalde, Texas. The protesters in the park across the street from the George Brown Convention Center were sparse this morning, but their numbers grew through the day and peaked at about 2:30p. Opportunistic politicians like Robert Francis O’Rourke helped to whip up the crowd and the frenzy was timed to coincide with the NRA Leadership Forum speeches and to make for good video packages for this evening’s newscasts.
The prospect of wading through these protesters (which, in fact, have been kept separate, behind barriers and across the street from the convention center) has likely kept many away who would otherwise be here.
The NRA’s own accumulated scandals and controversies in recent years are most likely playing a role as well. We know of a few exhibitors who declined to participate for exactly that reason.
So it isn’t clear what attendance total will be reported for this weekend, but it seems highly unlikely that this NRAAM will come anywhere close to the usual crowd of between 60,000 and 70,000 happy gawkers, supporters, and attendees. Too many factors and events have seemed to conspire to disappoint the NRA and significantly cut down on this year’s crowds.