Parkland students criticise NRA for gun ban at Pence event

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US Vice President Mike Pence Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Mike Pence is scheduled to speak at the NRA’s annual meeting on Friday

The National Rifle Association (NRA) has drawn the ire of gun-control advocates over a weapons ban at a forum attended by Vice-President Mike Pence.

Survivors of the Parkland, Florida school shooting have criticised the powerful gun lobby for the weapons ban, saying schools deserve the same.

The NRA has long been against gun restrictions of any kind, but cites Mr Pence’s safety for the weapons ban.

Mr Pence will speak at the NRA’s annual meeting in Dallas, Texas on Friday.

President Donald Trump is also expected to make an appearance at the convention, the White House said, which would mark his fourth time speaking to the gun rights group. He is the only president to have done so while in office.

“Due to the attendance of the Vice-President of the United States, the US Secret Service will be responsible for event security at the NRA-ILA Leadership Forum,” the NRA said in a blog post about the event.

“As a result, firearms and firearm accessories, knives or weapons of any kind will be prohibited in the forum prior to and during his attendance.”

While the NRA said the policy was due to US Secret Service protocol, survivors of the deadly Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school shooting in February called out what they said was hypocrisy.

Cameron Kasky, one of the student founders of the March for Our Lives movement in the wake of the Parkland shooting, shared the NRA’s post on Twitter, calling the group a “hilarious parody”.

Matt Deitsch, another student leader for the movement chimed, saying “it sounds like the NRA wants to protect people who help them sell guns, not kids”.

Fred Guttenberg, whose 14-year-old daughter Jaime Guttenberg was one of 17 killed in the 14 Feb massacre, also spoke out about the apparent double standard.

He pointed out that the gun rights group has advocated for arming teachers in school to promote safety while banning NRA members from doing the same at the event.

Parkland students are not the only ones up in arms about the NRA’s gun ban for Mr Pence. Some NRA members were also critical online of the gun rights group’s decision.

“I’m not saying Pence shouldn’t have security,” wrote one commenter on Texas CHL, a forum for firearm-related discussions.

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Media captionThe armed teacher

“I’m saying that by having him speak at the largest gathering of 2A supporters, but not allowing good guys to carry guns makes our entire argument weak,” he added, referring to the second amendment (the right to own guns written in the US Constitution).

The same post went on to say that Mr Pence could have given his speech remotely, adding that “now the left will be saying that even the Republicans don’t trust good guys with a gun and they will be correct”.

Some forum users, however, insisted the ban on weapons for Mr Pence was different.

“Come on guys- the President and Vice-President aren’t “regular guys”… and should not be expected to do what we do,” said one user.

“Expecting them to speak at a large gathering of armed, UNVETTED people with no checks on their background or mental state is literally the dumbest thing I have read on this forum in a while.”

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Media captionFlorida shooting: Why the NRA wields so much power

An estimated 80,000 people are expected to attend the meeting, which will feature “15 acres” of firearms, weapons and hunting accessories, according to the event website.

None of these weapons will be allowed inside during Mr Pence’s visit, however.

When Mr Trump spoke at an NRA event in Atlanta last year, the group imposed a similar weapons ban.

A spokesman for the NRA told the Washington Post that any “individuals determined to be carrying firearms will not be allowed past a predetermined outer perimeter checkpoint, regardless of whether they possess a ticket” for Mr Pence’s event.

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