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NRA gathering could be St. Louis' largest convention ever

By Matt Sepic, KWMU

St. Louis – The National Rifle Association is holding its annual convention this weekend in St. Louis, and area tourism officials say the expected 55,000 attendees could set a record.

Kitty Ratcliffe heads the Convention and Visitors Commission. She said the city hosts large gatherings just about every year, but they seldom top 50,000 visitors. She said the NRA convention is unique because it's open to everyone.

"A lot of our conventions are solely limited to members of the organization, and are not open to the general public," Ratcliffe said. "And this convention is really a mix of the traditional convention model and a public show."

Ratcliffe said the NRA booked rooms at 21 local hotels, and she said visitors will spend at least $10 million here.

The group was originally going to meet in Columbus, Ohio this year. But in 2005 that city banned some semiautomatic weapons, so the NRA changed its plans.