ST. LOUIS—St. Louis is preparing to welcome tens of thousands of gun enthusiasts.
The National Rifle Association is holding its annual meeting and exhibit Friday through Sunday at the America’s Center convention center. The St. Louis Convention and Visitors Bureau says that with more than 60,000 people expected, the convention will likely be the largest in the city this year.
Republican presidential front-runner Mitt Romney is among many high-profile speakers scheduled for the NRA Leadership Forum on Friday. GOP challengers Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum are also scheduled, though it wasn’t clear Wednesday if Santorum would attend now that he has suspended his campaign. Ron Paul is not scheduled to participate.
A massive trade show will also be part of the convention.
But some groups in St. Louis are critical of how the NRA has advertised the event. Pastor B.T. Rice of the Clergy Coalition says the billboards promoting “Acres of Guns” are inappropriate in areas like North St. Louis where gun violence is a problem.
In responding to the criticism, NRA President David Keene on Thursday said the NRA can’t be blamed.
“They should go to police and get the folks in north St. Louis breaking the law with guns arrested, convicted and sent off to some place where they won’t hurt anybody,” said Keene. “We had an ad saying there will be acres of guns at the show for a reason. There are going to be acres of guns here.”