DALLAS — The objects themselves — machined steel barrels, lathed brass casings, cast lead slugs — are functional and practical, designed for maximum efficiency, be it in shooting targets, animals or human beings.
They are more than that though. The guns and weapons parts on display at the N.R.A. convention in Dallas last weekend represent ingrained ideals of this country’s identity, a nation forged an hardened by wars.
Firearms were not the most common accessory among the 75,000-odd attendees. That honor went to Old Glory. The flag was emblazoned on T-shirts and caps, incorporated into outfits, printed on backpacks and purses, pinned through lapels, tattooed in skin, and painted on walls, signs and guns.
The portion of the country that demands strict gun control often just sees the gun. Another portion sees firearms as indivisible from its very sense of self.
“If you don’t own enough guns to arm a small army, you’re not really a Texan,” said Dean Seiser, who was taking pictures of his companion, Debi Vanover, as she looked down the iron sights of a .50-caliber machine gun replica in the exhibition hall floor.
“Let’s get one of these for our front porch!” Mrs. Vanover, 61, said, howling with laughter.
There were planned protests outside the convention center that garnered hundreds of R.S.V.P.s on Facebook, but in a state where guns are welcomed virtually anywhere, from churches to colleges, the numbers didn’t meet expectations.
In the midday sun on Saturday, a handful of protesters demanding stricter regulation were countered by hundreds of open-carry activists, some with assault rifles slung over their shoulders. They carried a banner, 25 feet high, proclaiming their right to bear arms.
Members of each group of protesters repeated talking points for television cameras, and occasionally, chatted with one another.
“It bothers me that people say no one’s trying to take away the Second Amendment rights. On the contrary, they are trying,” said John Swicegood, who was wearing an AR-15 and sunglasses wrapped around the back of his head, to Gretchen Goetz. “I see it on Facebook, I hear it on the news. I’m a Democrat, but I support the Second Amendment.”
Ms. Goetz, 57, who was protesting assault rifles, responded from her perch on her bicycle seat. “Basically, I think you can buy a politician who will make the law,” she said, grasping at the handlebars. “We have got to find a way to bridge this gap. There is a division in our country that I’ve never seen like this in my life. I’ve never even been an activist until I was 56!”
“Me too!” said Mr. Swicegood. He laughed. “I didn’t become one until I turned 55,” which is to say, this year.
Inside the exhibition hall, thousands of vendors were selling firearms and accessories. The hum of the crowd was broken rhythmically by the throaty sound of guns being charged and the sharp click of firing pins. Teenagers joked with one another, holding sniper rifles taller than they stood. Families gathered for group photos by a helicopter with machine guns mounted on its doors.
Shoaib Janjua darted around the chopper, his hands clasped together, fingers pointed in a gun shape similar to the shape President Trump made with his hands the day before when he mimicked terrorists executing people in Paris. But Shoaib was playing, and smiling broadly.
“We’re looking around at stuff and having fun,” said Shoaib, 8, who is from Dallas by way of Pakistan.
“As soon as we found out the N.R.A. was having their meeting here, we got an N.R.A. family membership and planned to come,” said Shoaib’s father, Muhammad Janjua, 38. “Today, we woke up, had a good breakfast and went out for our father-son day.”
At night, after the exhibition hall had shut down, sneakers were switched out for boots, and N.R.A. members made their way to an arena for a night of live music, hosted by N.R.A. Country. A couple paused at the entrance for the evening prayer, heads bowed, holding hands, balancing nachos and a cola in their free hands.
A day before, the N.R.A.’s lobbying wing, the Institute for Legislative Action, had packed the same arena with spectators for speeches by President Trump and Vice President Pence.
“I’m used to seeing all these people on NRATV,” said David Kusch, 70, who was visiting from San Leandro, Calif. “But it’s more personal, more meaningful, when you can see them face to face.”
“We come here to have fun, but we have to be serious too,” Mr. Kusch said. “Our country is in a crisis right now and we have to fight.”
More coverage of the N.R.A. convention in Dallas.
Almost 80,000 people were there.