From "the ultimate in hypocrisy" to "this may run counter to the N.R.A.'s ideas"

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

Convention attendees look at weapons on display at the 2015 NRA Annual Convention in Nashville, Tennessee on April 10, 2015. The annual NRA meeting and exhibit, expected to draw over 70,000 people, runs till April 12. AFP PHOTO / KAREN BLEIERKAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images

An editorial in today's New York Times originally said:

Seventy-thousand people are expected to attend the National Rifle Association's convention opening on Friday in Tennessee, and not one of them will be allowed to come armed with guns that can actually shoot. After all the N.R.A. propaganda about how "good guys with guns" are needed to be on guard across American life, from elementary schools to workplaces, the weekend's gathering of disarmed conventioneers seems the ultimate in hypocrisy.

There will be plenty of weapons in evidence at the hundreds of display booths, but for convention security the firing pins must be removed. So far, there has been none of the familiar complaint about infringing supposedly sacrosanct Second Amendment rights—the gun lobby's main argument in opposing tighter federal background checks on gun buyers after the 2012 gun massacre of schoolchildren in Connecticut. Anyone interested in buying the guns on display, many of them adapted from large-magazine battlefield weapons, will have to apply later at a federally licensed gun dealer where, sensibly enough, background checks are required.

But not any more; the revised version says,

Seventy-thousand people are expected to attend the National Rifle Association's convention opening on Friday in Tennessee, but they won't be allowed to carry firearms in one of the main convention venues. This may run counter to the N.R.A.'s ideas about carrying guns everywhere, from elementary schools to workplaces.

There will, of course, be plenty of weapons in evidence at the hundreds of display booths, but for convention security the firing pins must be removed. So far, ….

MSNBC made a similar mistake. I did a bit of digging, and here's what seems to be happening, though please correct me if I'm wrong:

1. People are free to legally carry their own guns at the main convention venue, the Music City Center. For that, they need a license to carry (as in most states), though in Tennessee pretty much any law-abiding adult can get such a license.

2. On Saturday, an NRA-sponsored concert—featuring country music artist Alan Jackson and comedian Jeff Foxworthy—is taking place at the Bridgestone Arena, near the Music City Center. The Bridgestone Arena is a private venue, and doesn't allow guns, so that policy applies to the NRA convention.

But I don't think that's particularly noteworthy (even for purposes of the Times' revised version, which removes the "ultimate in hypocrisy" phrase). The Bridgestone Arena has a capacity of 20,000, and I assume that the NRA is expecting that lots of its convention attendees will indeed attend the concert. It's likely pretty hard to find a similarly large concert venue near the Music City Center with a different policy. The Center's own Grand Ballroom, for instance, has a theater seating capacity of only 2,800, and it seems to be the largest room in the Center.

I suspect that the NRA would have been just fine with a gun-allowing concert venue, and indeed would have preferred it: again, the bulk of the conference program is at the Music City Center, which allows guns. But, as often happens in a free society, one needs to go along with the rules that other property owners have set, if one wants to be able to use their property—all in all, a sensible decision on the NRA's part, I think.

3. The firing pins must be removed only from the guns that are being exhibited, but that too doesn't strike me as particularly noteworthy: it's more like a car show or a boat show deciding not to have keys in the ignition of the cars and boats that are being shown. The exhibition is a place to show off goods, not a place to sell them for immediate customer pickup. Since the guns aren't supposed to be fired, I'm not sure why they should have their firing pins. (Guns that people lawfully carry are supposed to be fired, if necessary, which is why people remain free to carry them in full working condition in the Music City Center.)

Thanks to InstaPundit for the pointer.

UPDATE: If only the Times editorial board had read Snopes, which had debunked the claim April 8, two days before the Times wrote about it. Thanks to commenter murphypete for pointing this out.