Thousands are expected to file into the Kentucky Exposition Center this weekend for the Concealed Carry Expo, a three-day event organized by the U.S. Concealed Carry Association.
The expo features weapons, holsters, gun safes, a firing range and training sessions. Association President Tim Schmidt said more and more people with concealed carry permits are turning to his organization seeking training.
“You want people who are carrying guns to be well-trained, well-educated and really know what they’re doing,” Schmidt said. “The more well-trained people that are good guys with guns, there’s just less crime.”
Schmidt believes arming teachers or school officials with weapons could further deter crime – an argument that lawmakers pressed after a January school shooting in Kentucky killed two and injured 18. Measures to arm school officials have since stalled in the Kentucky legislature but the gun debate continues.
In February, less than a week after 17 people were killed during a school shooting in Parkland, Florida, a billboard near Louisville was spray-painted with the message “Kill the NRA.”
In March, just a month after the Parkland shooting, students across the state and around the country participated in a national walkout to protest gun violence in schools. Less than a week later, a Republican candidate for Kentucky secretary of state apologized for posting a Twitter message about shooting Democratic Congressman John Yarmuth. Yarmuth had tweeted a photo of himself wearing an “F” button on his lapel, indicating his pride for the grade he was given by the National Rifle Association.
Part of Kevin Michalowski’s job as USCCA’s director of content is to oversee the association’s radio messages, magazine and videos about concealed carry. Michalowski said his group has gained around 240,000 members in six years and said the conversation has changed for gun owners and gun law advocates.
“We’re starting to see that the people who use guns illegally, we’re starting to see that they’re truly evil criminals,” Michalowski said. “(The gun) is the tool of last resort, and you shouldn’t pull that gun out and use it unless there’s nothing else that you can do.”
The expo, located at the Kentucky Exposition Center, ends Sunday, April 15 at 4 p.m.