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NRA Sandy Hook Announcement Garners Huge Interest, Protesters Expected

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A protestor holds a banner during a march to the National Rifle Association headquarters on Capitol Hill in Washington Monday, Dec. 17, 2012. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta) | AP

WASHINGTON -- A "major news conference" organized by the National Rifle Association promises to attract scores of news media and protesters to downtown Washington, D.C. on Friday morning.

The event follows an initial decision by the nation's largest gun-owners lobbying group to remain silent following the massacre last Friday of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. But as criticism of the group spread among Democrats and even some Republicans, the NRA announced Tuesday that it was prepared to make "meaningful contributions" to prevent any future mass shootings. The details of those contributions are expected to be announced at Friday's press conference.

The event will mark the first time since the Sandy Hook massacre that members of the gun lobby have been face to face with the national media, as well as expected protesters rallying in support stricter gun control measures.

The NRA has been tight-lipped so far about what the public can expect on Friday, a tactic which has only added to public interest in the announcement. Given the controversy surrounding the NRA's leading role in opposing stricter gun laws, the venue was well chosen. The Willard Hotel in downtown Washington has a reputation as maintaining one of the highest security levels of any hotel in the city, and those without room keys or legitimate business at the Willard on Friday morning can expect to be turned away at the door.

This likely includes members of the news media who did not preregister for the event. Conflicting reports emerged Thursday afternoon about what type of credentials would be required to attend the press conference, after some outlets received requests from the NRA for faxed confirmation of their identities on company letterhead. But an NRA spokeswoman told The Huffington Post Thursday evening that credentialed reporters who had previously confirmed their attendance would be admitted.

Anyone stuck outside the Willard on Friday morning will likely have company, as at least three advocacy groups will be holding protests.

The online advocacy group Avaaz has been pressuring the Wyndham Hotels group -- which owns chains such as Days Inn and Super 8 -- to end its corporate affiliation with the NRA. On Friday, it will display a massive bed outside the Willard Hotel featuring "personifications of Wyndham brands 'in bed with' piles of toy guns," according to a press release from the group.

"It's time for mainstream companies like Wyndham Hotels to get out of bed with the extremist NRA," said Avaaz senior campaigner Joseph Huff-Hannon. "Their affiliation is a toxic approval of how this gun lobby has made America less safe for our children."

Progressive advocacy group CREDO will be delivering petitions with more than 200,000 signatures asking the NRA to stop opposing gun control legislation on Friday. CREDO also led a march on the NRA's offices on Capitol Hill on Monday.

Even People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) will be at the Willard, although its message will go further than what the others groups are promoting. PETA members will be holding signs reading, "Get All Living Beings out of the Crosshairs: Ban Hunting."

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article stated incorrectly that the Wyndham Hotels group owns the Best Western chain; it does not.

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