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Hartman Backs Up Kobach NRA Invite With Arena Offer

Nadya Faulx
Kansas News Service
Wink Hartman, left, who pulled out of the Republican governor's race and is now backing Kris Kobach, is offering his Wichita-area arena to the NRA for its annual convention. The place is probably too small.

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 gesture than prospective deal. The Hartman Arena in Wichita suburb Park City holds 6,500, about two thirds the capacity of 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. That came as the NRA became a focal point for protests in the wake of a school shooting early this month that left 17 dead in Parkland, Florida, 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 saidduring 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 states.  Kobach invited the NRA to bring its convention to Kansas in a tweet over the weekend.

Hartman, a potential running mate for Kobach, joined in Tuesday by offering Hartman Arena to the NRA for the convention.

“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,” Hartman 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,” said Hartman. “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.

Correction: This story has been updated to correct an error in the description of the capacity of Hartman arena in comparison to the Dallas convention center. 

Stephan Bisaha, based at KMUW in Wichita, is an education reporter for the Kansas News Service, a collaboration of KMUW, Kansas Public Radio, KCUR and High Plains Public Radio covering health, education and politics. Follow him on Twitter @SteveBisaha. Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished at no cost with proper attribution and a link back to the original post. 

Stephan Bisaha is a former NPR Kroc Fellow. Along with producing Weekend Edition, Stephan has reported on national stories for Morning Edition and All Things Considered, as well as other NPR programs. He provided data analysis for an investigation into the Department of Veteran Affairs and reported on topics ranging from Emojis to mattresses.
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