Association class

National Rifle Association convention begins in Houston amid protests

The National Rifle Association began its annual convention in Houston on Friday amid widespread protests, even as parents grapple with questions about how law enforcement responded to the fatal shooting at a school in Uvalde in Texas in which 19 children and 2 teachers were killed.

Former President Donald Trump and other leading Republicans are set to speak at the three-day gun marketing and defense event, which is expected to draw protesters tired of gun violence. Republican Senator Ted Cruz is listed as a speaker in addition to Trump. South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, also a Republican, is sticking to her plans to speak at the NRA event on Friday.

In an interview with the Salem Radio Network on Thursday, Trump reiterated his support for gun rights.

“It’s, you know, an interesting time to make such a speech, frankly,” he said. a very dangerous country, frankly.. More dangerous.

Although personal firearms are permitted at the convention, the NRA said firearms would not be permitted during the session featuring Trump due to Secret Service security protocols.

Two Texas Republican lawmakers – John Cornyn and Dan Crenshaw – who were scheduled to speak on Friday are no longer in attendance due to what their staff said were changes to their schedules. Texas Governor Greg Abbott, who was scheduled to attend, will instead address the convention via pre-recorded video, his spokesman said.

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said Friday morning he decided not to speak at a breakfast event after “prayerful consideration and discussion with NRA officials.” Although a strong supporter of the Second Amendment and a member of the NRA, I would not want my appearance today to bring any additional pain or grief to the families and all who are suffering in Uvalde,” he said in a statement. Now is the time to focus on families, first and foremost.

The meeting is the first for the struggling organization since 2019, after a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic. The organization attempted to regroup after a period of severe legal and financial turmoil that included a failed bankruptcy effort, a class action lawsuit, and a fraud investigation by the New York Attorney General.

Once among the most powerful political organizations in the country, the NRA has seen its influence wane following a significant drop in political spending.

Some scheduled speakers and performers pulled out, including American singer Pie Don McLean, who said it would be disrespectful to continue his act in the wake of the latest mass shooting in the country.

Country music singer Larry Gatlin, who has pulled out of his scheduled appearance at the event, said he hopes the NRA will rethink some of its outdated and thoughtless positions. While I agree with most of the positions held by the NRA, I’ve come to believe that while background checks won’t stop every lunatic with a gun, it’s up to all least a step in the right direction, said Gatlin. Country singers Lee Greenwood and Larry Stewart have also pulled out.

As President Joe Biden and Democrats in Congress renewed their calls for tougher gun laws, NRA board member Phil Journey said the focus should be on better mental health care and gun violence prevention. He said he would not support banning or limiting access to guns.

The NRA said in an online statement that those attending the gun show will reflect on the Uvalde school shooting, pray for the victims, recognize our Patriot members and pledge to redouble their efforts. commitment to secure our schools.

People planning to attend collected registration badges on Thursday and purchased NRA memorabilia, such as Suns Out Guns Out T-shirts. Police had already installed metal barriers in front of the convention center, in a park where protesters are expected to gather on Friday.

Texas has seen a series of mass shootings in recent years. Meanwhile, the Republican-led legislature and governor have relaxed gun laws.

There is precedent for the NRA to come together amid local grief and controversy. The organization went ahead with an abbreviated version of its 1999 meeting in Denver about a week after the fatal shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado. Actor Charlton Heston, the president of the NRA at the time, told attendees that horrific acts should not become opportunities to limit constitutional rights and he denounced critics for calling NRA members bad guys.

Several groups said they planned to hold protests outside the convention center. Organizations include FIEL, Black Lives Matter Houston, Moms Demand Action and Interfaith group.

Leaders of the DNC, Democratic gubernatorial opponent Beto O’Rourke, as well as health care workers and residents attended the protest. This is neither the time nor the place to have this convention,” said Cesar Espinosa, executive director of FIEL, a Houston-based civil rights group that plans to participate in protests. “We must not only have thoughts and prayers from lawmakers, but rather we need action to address this public health crisis affecting our communities.

Democrat Beto O’Rourke, who is challenging Abbott in the race for governor of Texas in 2022, attends a protest outside the convention.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner addressed planned protests that are expected to take place outside the GRB for the duration of the convention. He said there will be a designated protest zone.

You cannot pray and send your condolences one day and defend arms the next. That’s wrong, says Turner.

He said that while there are concerns about the convention being canceled, we don’t have that luxury or the option to cancel because the convention is scheduled for two years.” He added that the city is contractually obligated to proceed with her plans.

Shannon Watts, the founder of gun control group Moms Demand Action, said she wasn’t surprised the NRA didn’t cancel her meeting.

The real question now is which elected officials will choose to side with violence and go ring-kissing in Houston this weekend instead of siding with communities calling for public safety, Watts said.

(Only the title and image of this report may have been edited by Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)