Wink Hartman, who dropped out of the crowded Kansas governor’s race last week and announced his endorsement of current Secretary of State Kris Kobach, said he has offered his arena to the National Rifle Association for its upcoming national convention.
The offer is likely more of a symbolic gesture than prospective deal. Hartman Arena in the North Wichita suburb of Park City can accommodate 6,500 people which about one-third of the capacity of the venue where the NRA convention currently plans to meet in Dallas.
The overture by Hartman came after Kobach invited the national gun rights advocacy group to the state. The invitations came after the NRA became a national media focal point and spurred protests in the wake of a school shooting early this month which reportedly left 17 dead in Parkland, Fla.
The NRA is scheduled to hold their annual convention in Dallas May 3-6. However, Dallas City Council Member Dwaine Caraway said the gun rights group would be “met with opposition” if it carried through on plans to gather at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in the city.
Caraway urged the NRA to reconsider coming to Dallas in a news conference a week ago after voicing the same opinion on social media. He said there would be marches and demonstrations if they come to Dallas, and that the people of Dallas would be the ones to have to bear the costs and the responsibility to protect citizens.
Other select Dallas officials have echoed Caraway’s sentiments. While others see the suggestion to move the convention as short-sighted considering the event held in Atlanta last year had a direct economic impact on the city of $59.6 million. An increase of more than $6 million dollars compared to the economic impact reported in 2016 by Louisville, Kentucky officials after they hosted the NRA convention.
Critics of Caraway’s suggestion to the NRA say the anticipated influx of tens of millions of dollars during the four day event dwarfs any potential costs to the city in the way of additional police presence or other potential expenses. Demonstrations by gun control supporters and NRA opponents in years past are not uncommon in conjunction with the national convention.
The scale of such demonstrations in Dallas this year, however, could be larger in the wake of the school shooting in Florida earlier this month. The shooting garnered large scale media attention and led many who support expanding gun control measures to renew the debate over the topic. They stand at odds with the NRA, and it’s supporters, who largely oppose additional measures as well as many existing gun control laws.
The NRA convention’s anticipated economic impact for Dallas is so great that the city waived the regular rental fee, of over $400,000, on the convention center when the NRA agreed in 2012 to hold the event there this year.
The NRA has not addressed the Dallas councilman’s suggestion to date, nor is it expected to relocate the convention. However, this is not stopping politicians across the country from trying to attract the NRA to their state. Despite the fact that the event is little more than two months away and reasonably expects to attract 75,000 attendees or more. Kobach’s invitation to the NRA to bring its convention to Kansas was delivered in a tweet this past weekend.