PROTESTS MOUNT AT NRA CONVENTION
HOUSTON – Protestors outside the NRA (National Rifle Association) national convention at GRB Convention Center this weekend, blamed the proliferation of guns and lack of regulations in Texas and nationwide with the increase in mass shootings, as evidenced recently in Texas with mass murders in Uvalde, Sante Fe, Sutherland Springs, El Paso, and Midland.
Last week’s school shooting of 19 victims at Robb Elementary in Uvalde has focused the public’s attention on the need for government leaders to increase restrictions on gun ownership, rather than loosen rules as has happened recently in Texas.
Speakers at the NRA convention talked of the increased safety by arming the public, but most public opinion rejected that theory, and called for action from government to bring a reduction in shootings. Proponents of restrictions in gun sales and military style weapons, point to experience in other countries, such as Australia and New Zealand, where total bans on guns has brought a sharp reduction in killings, both mass shootings and individual deaths.
Even in Texas, they point out that a ban on assault weapons was effective, but when it expired the number of deaths from mass shootings increased sharply.
The NRA convention drew a crowd of about 55,000 over 3 days, according to the city. Demonstrators called for a cancellation of the convention, but the City of Houston claimed that contractually they were unable.
Speakers at the convention included Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, but others including John Cornyn, Governor Greg Abbott, and Dan Patrick cancelled their appearances due to the proximity to the Uvalde massacre.
Trump in his speech called for a series of measures that largely mirrored what other Republicans had proposed throughout the day: Schools with a single entryway, with armed guards stationed there, and exit-only fire escapes. He also said some teachers should be allowed to carry firearms.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott canceled his planned appearance at the NRA convention and instead pre-recorded a video in which he was dismissive of calls for gun reforms.
“Remember this: There are thousands of laws on the books across the country that limit the owning or using of firearms, laws that have not stopped madmen from carrying out evil acts on innocent people in peaceful communities,” he said.
In his remarks, Ted Cruz said “The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”
Cruz, meanwhile, blamed a “cultural sickness,” including fatherless children and video games, for mass shootings. He said schools should have a single entry point defended by multiple armed guards.
In celebration of its 150th anniversary, the NRA went big for its Texas meeting, with a sign outside the convention center promising “14 acres of guns and gear.”
Guns of all shapes and sizes were on display, from antique pistols to automatic weapons, with some decorated in camouflage and others in American flags. Hundreds of vendors set up booths for the weekend, selling ammunition and a variety of gun paraphernalia.
Outside the convention center, thousands gathered for a protest organized by gun control advocacy groups including the Harris County Democratic Party.
Many there said they were furious that the NRA would go on with its convention after a school shooting in the state just days earlier.
The focus of those protesting in Houston on Friday, in speeches and interviews, was on guns. Many argued for a ban on the sale of assault rifles.
Among the demonstrators was Beto O’Rourke, the Democratic challenger to Governor Greg Abbott in November’s general election. Beto has called for “red flag” laws and a ban on the sale of AR-15s, sought to extend an olive branch to NRA members.
“To those who are attending the NRA convention across the street: You are not our enemies. We are not yours. We extend our hand, open and unarmed, in a gesture of peace and fellowship, to welcome you to join us to make sure this no longer happens in this country,” O’Rourke said during a speech at the protest.
“But the time for you to respond and join us is now. We cannot wait any longer for you,” he said. “Those who will be the victims of the next mass shooting unless we act are counting on us at this moment. So please join us now or be left behind.”