HOUSTON (AP) — One by one, they took the stage on the National Rifle Association’s annual conference in Houston and denounced the bloodbath of 19 college students and two lecturers at an elementary faculty throughout the state. And one after the other, they insisted that additional limiting entry to firearms was not the reply to stopping future tragedies.
“The existence of evil in our world is not a reason to disarm law-abiding citizens,” stated former President Donald Trump, who was among the many Republicans who lined as much as communicate earlier than the gun rights lobbying group Friday as hundreds of protesters offended about gun violence demonstrated outdoors.
“The existence of evil is one of the very best reasons to arm law-abiding citizens,” he stated Friday.
The gathering got here simply three days after the taking pictures in Uvalde and because the nation grappled with revelations that college students trapped inside a classroom with the gunman repeatedly known as 911 in the course of the assault — one pleading “Please send the police now” — as officers waited within the hallway for greater than 45 minutes.
The NRA had stated that conference attendees would “reflect on” the taking pictures on the occasion and “pray for the victims, recognize our patriotic members and pledge to redouble our commitment to making our schools secure.”
The assembly was the primary for the troubled group since 2019, following a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The group has been attempting to regroup following a interval of great authorized and monetary turmoil that included a failed chapter effort, a class-action lawsuit and a fraud investigation by New York’s lawyer normal. Once among the many strongest political organizations within the nation, the NRA has seen its affect wane following a major drop in political spending.
Wayne LaPierre, the group’s embattled chief govt, opened this system with remarks bemoaning the “21 beautiful lives ruthlessly and indiscriminately extinguished by a criminal monster.”
Still, he stated that “restricting the fundamental human rights of law-abiding Americans to defend themselves is not the answer. It never has been.”
Later, a number of hundred individuals within the auditorium stood and bowed their heads in a second of silence for the victims of the taking pictures. Several thousand individuals have been contained in the auditorium in the course of the speeches, which appeared fewer than the quantity gathered outdoors. Many seats have been empty.
Trump accused Democrats of attempting to take advantage of the tragedy and demonizing gun house owners.
“When Joe Biden blamed the gun lobby he was talking about Americans like you,” Trump stated, referring to the president’s emotional plea in a nationwide handle asking, “When in God’s name are we going to stand up to the gun lobby?”
Trump known as for overhauling faculty safety and the nation’s approach to psychological well being, telling the group each faculty constructing ought to have a single level of entry, sturdy exterior fencing, steel detectors and hardened classroom doorways and each faculty ought to have a police officer or armed guard on obligation always. He additionally known as but once more for educated lecturers to have the ability to carry hid weapons within the classroom.
He and different audio system neglected the safety upgrades that have been already in place on the elementary faculty and didn’t cease the gunman, who entered the constructing by way of a again door that had been propped open.
According to a district security plan, Uvalde faculties have a variety of security measures in place. The district had 4 law enforcement officials and 4 assist counselors, based on the plan, which seems to be dated from the 2019-20 faculty 12 months. It additionally had software program to observe social media for threats and software program to display screen faculty guests.
Security consultants say the Uvalde case illustrates how fortifying faculties can backfire. A lock on the classroom door, as an example — some of the primary and broadly really helpful faculty security measures — stored victims in and police out.
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who, like Trump, is taken into account a possible presidential candidate in 2024, railed towards Democrats’ requires common background checks for gun purchases and bans of assault-style weapons and as a substitute pointed to damaged households, declining church attendance, social media bullying and video video games as the actual issues.
“Tragedies like the event of this week are a mirror forcing us to ask hard questions, demanding that we see where our culture is failing,” he stated. “We must not react to evil and tragedy by abandoning the Constitution or infringing on the rights of our law-abiding citizens.”
South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, one other potential presidential contender, stated calls to additional prohibit gun entry are “all about control and it is garbage. I’m not buying it for a second and you shouldn’t, either.”
Some scheduled audio system and performers backed out of the occasion, together with a number of Texas lawmakers and “American Pie” singer Don McLean, who stated “it would be disrespectful” to go forward along with his act after the nation’s newest mass taking pictures. Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick stated Friday morning that he had determined to not communicate at an occasion breakfast after “prayerful consideration and discussion with NRA officials.”
“While a strong supporter of the Second Amendment and an NRA member, I would not want my appearance today to bring any additional pain or grief to the families and all those suffering in Uvalde,” he wrote in a press release.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who was to attend, addressed the conference by prerecorded video as a substitute.
Outside the conference corridor, protesters gathered in a park the place police arrange steel limitations — some holding crosses with pictures of the Uvalde taking pictures victims.
“Murderers!” some yelled in Spanish. “Shame on you!” others shouted at attendees.
Among the protesters was singer Little Joe, of the favored Tejano band Little Joe y La Familia, who stated within the greater than 60 years he’s spent touring the world, no different nation he’s been to has confronted as many mass shootings because the U.S.
“Of course, this is the best country in the world,” he stated. “But what good does it do us if we can’t protect lives, especially of our children?”
Democrat Beto O’Rourke, who’s difficult Abbott within the governor’s race, ticked off a listing of earlier faculty shootings and known as on these attending the conference to “join us to make sure that this no longer happens in this country.”
While Biden and Democrats in Congress have renewed calls for stricter gun legal guidelines after the Uvalde taking pictures, NRA board members and others attending the convention dismissed speak of banning or limiting entry to firearms.
Samuel Thornburg, 43, a upkeep employee for Southwest Airlines in Houston who was attending the NRA assembly, stated: “Guns are not evil. It’s the people that are committing the crime that are evil. Our schools need to be more locked. There need to be more guards.”
There is precedent for the NRA to assemble throughout native mourning and controversy. The group went forward with a shortened model of its 1999 assembly in Denver roughly per week after the lethal taking pictures at Columbine High School in Colorado.
Texas has skilled a collection of mass shootings in recent times. During that point, the Republican-led Legislature and governor have relaxed gun legal guidelines.
Most U.S. adults suppose that mass shootings would happen much less usually if weapons have been tougher to get and consider faculties and different public locations have turn out to be much less secure than they have been 20 years in the past, polling finds.
Many particular measures that will curb entry to weapons or ammunition additionally get majority assist. A May AP-NORC ballot discovered, as an example, that 51% of U.S. adults favor a nationwide ban on the sale of AR-15 rifles and comparable semiautomatic weapons. But the numbers are extremely partisan, with 75% p.c of Democrats agreeing versus simply 27% of Republicans.
Though private firearms are allowed on the conference, weapons weren’t permitted in the course of the session that includes Trump due to Secret Service safety protocols.
Colvin reported from New York. Associated Press author David A. Lieb contributed from Jefferson City, Missouri.
More on the varsity taking pictures in Uvalde, Texas: https://apnews.com/hub/school-shootings.