© Reuters. People hold photos of Texas shooting victims to protest gun laws outside the National Rifle Association (NRA) annual convention in Houston, Texas, U.S., May 27, 2022. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
HOUSTON (Reuters) – Protesters holding placards and crosses protested over photos of victims of a shooting at a Texas elementary school outside the National Rifle Association’s annual convention in Houston on Friday as the shooting took place Afterwards, the gun lobby came under pressure.
Attendance dwindled, speakers and featured musical performances moved away from about 500 protesters, some of whom chanted “NRA go away” and “Shameful, it could be your child today,” jeered outside the George R. Brown Convention Center attendees.
On Tuesday, an 18-year-old gunman armed with an AR-15-style semi-automatic rifle shot and killed 19 students and two teachers in Uwald, Texas, again focusing attention on the NRA, the nation’s largest gun lobby and a major donor to members of Congress superior. , mostly Republicans.
Uwald is about 280 miles (450 kilometers) west of Houston.
Video of Houston’s main auditorium, which seats about 3,600 people, showed the auditorium about half full when former President Donald Trump took the stage late Friday afternoon.
“The evil that exists in our world is not a reason to disarm law-abiding citizens,” Trump said to cheers from the audience, echoing speakers who rejected background checks or banned semi-automatic weapons.
South Dakota Gov. Christy Noem, a Republican, urged attendees not to back down in the fight against gun control. “Now would be the worst time to quit. Now is the time for us to redouble our efforts,” she said.
Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Lieutenant Gov. Dan Patrick withdrew from the event to speak in person. Patrick said he pulled out so that he “would not bring any additional pain or grief” to the family and all of Uwald’s ordeal.
Don McLean, Larry Gatlin and Lee Greenwood, who headlined the weekend concert, cancelled their shows. Gatlin released a statement supporting background checks, calling it a “step in the right direction.”
U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, said in a speech at a conference that communities need weapons to stay safe. “Taking the guns doesn’t make them safer.”
The NRA’s decision to hold its largest annual rally is part of a decades-long strategy to fend off gun control pressure, dating back to the 1999 Columbine High School shooting in Colorado.
Wayne LaPierre, executive director of the NRA, spoke about the school killings but said gun owners “love our country and love our children…that’s why we will always cherish and protect us defending ourselves and basic rights of the community.”
In a park near the convention center, 15-year-old Houston student and protester Harper Young held up a poster and fought back tears. “It’s totally unacceptable that gun violence happens again and again. It’s horrific,” he said.
Becky Pringle, president of the National Education Association, the nation’s largest teachers’ union, rejected suggestions that teachers would be armed to deter future shootings.
“More guns equals more violence,” she said. “Assault weapons should be banned,” she said outside the meeting.
Houston activist Johnny Matta called on the NRA to stop its convention and hold a memorial service for Uwald’s victims.
“They have the guts not to take down these families,” said Matta, who represents the advocacy group Justice League of Greater Houston. The NRA should “no longer be involved in the assassination of children in American schools.” ”
Marine Corps veteran Tim Hickey, who attended the event, dismissed the protests. “These people are media puppets and sheep. They’re not going to change anyone’s mind,” he said.
In the convention center’s exhibit hall, attendees handled rifles, pistols, hunting and assault rifles in dozens of booths, and browsed ammunition displays from Sierra Bullets and other companies.
The weekend convention is the group’s first annual gathering after two cancellations due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A poster celebrating its 150th anniversary hangs above the showroom.
In a pre-recorded video, Abbott said, “As Texans and Americans, we grieve and mourn with these families.” But he said existing gun laws didn’t stop the Uvalde shooter and fired back. The call for the new legislation, saying “the law will not stop evil lunatics from committing these atrocities.”