INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.– There will be thousands of deactivated guns on display during the National Rifle Association’s (NRA) 148th Annual Meeting at the Indiana Convention Center this week where attendees can look but not buy.
Walking that exhibit floor will be an expected 75,000 attendees, NRA members all, who are permitted by state law and convention center rules to carry their loaded weapons.
When the firearms are not in a holster on the owner’s hip or slung over his or her shoulder, IMPD worries those guns could be left behind in a parked vehicle or unsecured in a hotel room and tempt thieves.
“As a responsible gun owner you definitely should be aware of that,” said Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department (IMPD) Homeland Security Commander Tom Sellas. “That is definitely something that somebody that has criminal intent would definitely want to get their hands on. So it’s a responsibility of that gun owner to make sure that weapon’s secured.”
Sellas said IMPD will assign extra bike and foot patrols to monitor parking lots to protect against vehicle break-ins.
Hotel security staff members have met with police to discuss the expectation of weapons on their properties.
Last year, more than 1,000 guns were reported stolen in Indianapolis with perhaps 40 percent taken from vehicles.
This week IMPD sent a legal bulletin to its officers reminding them of their limits to enforce Indiana’s gun laws.
“If you’re a person that’s carrying a firearm, and Indiana’s open carry,” said Sellas, “we recommend that you keep it concealed because it does alarm some people and it may draw some unnecessary and unwanted attention and anything that happens after that if you get caught you will be arrested for it.
“You don’t need to have a permit to carry an AK-47, so the officer can engage in just normal conversations as he could any citizen.
“Its always a concern just because it’s a hot-button topic,” said Sellas. “Gun control in general, and our concern is to make sure that everyone in our city is safe.”
That includes President Trump and Vice President Pence, who will address NRA members in a gun-free zone at Lucas Oil Stadium Friday.
Secret Service protocols override NRA polices during the rally, as they did a year ago at the last conference in Dallas.
IMPD’s role will be to secure a safe route from Indianapolis International Airport to downtown for the president’s motorcade.
“I-70 east of 465 to downtown will have a lot of restrictions probably from 10:30 to 1:30,” said Sellas. “Just be aware of that so if you need to catch a flight out, see if you can find another route to the airport.”
IMPD will also monitor a pair of protests scheduled during the NRA conference.
The first is set to begin with a gathering of anti-Trump protesters Friday at 10:30 a.m. at the Indiana Statehouse with a demonstration expected to pass by the convention center on its way to Lucas Oil Stadium.
A group protesting gun violence will rally all day Saturday.
The “Trump baby balloon” was scheduled to fly over downtown during the president’s visit Friday but organizers said those plans were thwarted by what it claimed was the city’s refusal to grant them launch space within five miles of the convention center.