The National Rifle Association (NRA) has kicked off its annual convention in Pittsburgh, as approximately 70,000 members were expected to attend the four-day event.
NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam estimated that approximately 1 million of the group's 3.5 million members live within a four-hour radius of Pittsburgh, according to The Associated Press. Officials from the gun-rights group said that this year's event is a "celebration of freedom."
However, members of the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence planned to protest the convention. The group was slated to take out local newspaper advertisements and hire a billboard truck to drive around the event, as part of an effort to invite NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre to a sit-down meeting to discuss the system of background checks for gun purchases.
One of the demonstrators who was scheduled to appear included Patricia Maisch, a 62-year-old Arizona woman who witnessed the Jan. 8 shooting in Tucson, Ariz. that left six people dead and 13 wounded. Maisch told the media outlet that she supports the 2nd Amendment, but she is discouraged that unstable individuals have access to firearms.
Arulanandam said it is unfair to link the NRA event to the Tucson shooting because the gun-rights group has advocated for a new national background check system.
The NRA convention was expected to address several major gun-rights issues, including border security. In an interview with the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review on April 26, LaPierre stressed that Americans living near the Mexico border should be equipped with firearms. He claimed that the Federal government has failed to protect citizens against heavily armed drug cartels, leaving Americans to fend for themselves.