INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) — The banners are up and exhibitors are moving in for one of the city's largest and most-polarizing conventions.
This is the second time Indianapolis has hosted the National Rifle Association (NRA), which is expecting about 75,000 members to attend. Nearly a third of attendees are women.
Hana Bilodeau was among those setting up inside the Indiana Convention Center. Bilodeau is director of training for Sig Sauer, a firearms and ammunition manufacturer. Prior to her role with the company, Bilodeau had been a federal agent and a police officer. She said women represent an ever-increasing share of gun owners.
"The show floor is flooded with women working within the manufacturer gun companies and accessories," she said. "And in our classrooms and gun shops, we're seeing women all over the place, which is fantastic."
Bilodeau said she's not at all surprised.
"Where we're at in society, I think people are now learning we have to take some protection into own hands and we can't always rely on others to help us through that," she said.
Women have also been among the NRA's most vocal critics.
"Their message is 'all guns all the time anywhere, no questions asked,'" said Cathy Weinmann.
Weimann heads the Indianapolis chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense, a national organization founded by a Zionsville mom following the Sandy Hook massacre.
"There's nothing in our name that says 'against' or 'take away,'" she said. "We are for sensible, responsible management of firearms and reduction of gun violence."
The NRA convention is expected to draw hundreds of protestors. They'll be restricted to nearby Hudnut Commons, along Maryland Street across from the Convention Center.
Weimann said Moms Demand Action will instead host a daylong symposium at Riley Children's Hospital on Saturday about gun violence prevention and school safety.
With so many strong and differing views on display this weekend, the hope among law enforcement officials is that people will agree to disagree peacefully.