Donald Trump will speak in Atlanta this month at the National Rifle Association’s annual convention, making him the first president to address the group since Ronald Reagan.
Trump’s April 28 speech at the NRA’s Leadership Forum is the highlight of a four-day conference that is expected to attract 80,000 people and hundreds of exhibitors to the Georgia World Congress Center in downtown Atlanta.
The NRA endorsed Trump in May after he promised to appoint judges who would support gun rights expansion, and on the campaign trail he often warned that Democrat Hillary Clinton would seek to limit the Second Amendment.
Trump’s visit comes at a pivotal moment. He is set to arrive in Atlanta on the last day of federal funding under the current funding bill, and there could be at least a partial shutdown if Congress doesn’t pass a new spending bill by then.
The visit also comes as Georgia awaits Gov. Nathan Deal’s decision on a controversial proposed gun rights expansion. State legislators approved a measure that would legalize firearms in most places on public college campuses over the objections of Democrats and some campus leaders who worry it could lead to violence.
Deal has said little about the measure since it passed, although lawmakers added a series of exceptions to the plan that he requested after the governor vetoed a similar proposal last year. He is likely to come under increased pressure during the conference to sign the measure.
The event, running from April 27 to 30, features a host of other prominent speakers that include U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, Florida Gov. Rick Scott, Texas U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and U.S. Sen. David Perdue of Georgia.
But none has a higher profile than Trump, who is making his first visit to Georgia since his election — and since he assailed the 5th Congressional District, home to the convention, as a “crime infested” area that’s in “horrible shape.” Those comments came in response to the decision by Democratic U.S. Rep. John Lewis, who has long represented the area, to boycott his inauguration.
The conference will also feature a concert by singing legend Hank Williams Jr., lectures on firearms history and marksmanship, and political activist training from Trump allies. In a note to attendees, organizers said “lawfully carried firearms” will be allowed in the conference but that guns are not allowed in the CNN Center, the food court or shops.
Outside the Georgia World Congress Center, Democrats and other demonstrators who have for months rallied against Trump are expected to gather in protest.
“Progressive activists will be out in full force to protest the president,” said Democratic state Sen. Vincent Fort, a candidate for Atlanta mayor.
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.