Wichita businessman Wink Hartman, who last week dropped from the Kansas governor’s race and backed Kris Kobach, said he’s offered his arena to the National Rifle Association for its upcoming national convention.
The offer looks to be more of a gesture than a prospective deal. Hartman Arena in the Wichita suburb of Park City holds 6,500, about 2,700 seats smaller than the venue where the NRA convention currently plans to meet in Dallas.
But the overture comes after Kobach, the conservative Kansas secretary of state, invited the nation’s most powerful gun-rights group to the state. The organization has became a focal point for protests in the wake of a school shooting earlier this month in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 dead, and appeared to awaken gun-control forces.
The NRA is currently scheduled to meet in Dallas on May 4. But Dallas Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway said the gun lobby group would be “met with opposition” if it carried through on plans to gather at Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in his city.
“I am saying to the NRA, ‘reconsider yourselves coming to Dallas,’” Caraway said during a news conference a week ago. “There will be marches and demonstrations should they come to Dallas, and we in Dallas will be the ones to have to bear the costs, the responsibility and to protect the citizens.”
The NRA has not announced any plans to relocate the annual convention, but that hasn’t stopped politicians across the country from trying to woo the NRA to their state. Kobach invited the NRA to bring its convention to Kansas in a tweet over the weekend.
Kansans love our right to keep and bear arms. I’ve reached out to the @NRA and urged them to bring the #NRA Annual Meeting and Convention to Kansas. Kansans are dedicated to protecting the 2nd Amendment! #2A https://t.co/MyWJWj6PSy
— Kris W. Kobach (@KrisKobach1787) February 24, 2018
Hartman, a potential running mate for Kobach, joined in Tuesday by offering Hartman Arena to the NRA for its convention.
Kansas supports the Second Amendment and Kansas is open for business. I'm proud to invite the NRA to use Hartman Arena for their events after @KrisKobach1787 took the lead to urge the NRA to come to Kansas. #ksleg #2A https://t.co/kKIpfFAIbl
— Wink Hartman (@WinkHartmanKS) February 27, 2018
“It’s about the Second Amendment and the rights of the individuals — not only of Kansas but of the United States — to arm themselves and protect themselves,” he said.
Hartman, who said he’s a lifetime member of the NRA, said the group’s state director was grateful but didn’t respond with a final word on the arena offer.
Hartman acknowledged that the offer was largely symbolic, but he wanted to back the NRA.
“I want them to know that there’s a home and they’re welcome here,” Hartman said. “Kansas is a very business-friendly state and I think that projects that.”
Since the Florida shooting, multiple corporations have been cutting ties with the NRA.
Stephan Bisaha is the education reporter for the Kansas News Service, a collaboration of KMUW, Kansas Public Radio and KCUR covering health, education and politics. Follow him on Twitter @SteveBisaha.
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