The National Rifle Association – the country’s most powerful gun-owner rights organization – is going ahead with its annual convention just days after a mass shooting claimed the lives of 19 children and two teachers in Uvalde, Texas, on Tuesday.
The convention is set to take place on Friday in Houston, which is about a four-hour drive from where the massacre took place at Robb Elementary School.
“Although an investigation is underway and facts are still emerging, we recognize this was the act of a lone, deranged criminal,” said the NRA in a statement. “As we gather in Houston, we will reflect on these events, pray for the victims, recognize our patriotic members and pledge to redouble our commitment to making our schools secure.”
The NRA has held its annual convention for the past 150 years, and has met after other mass shootings, including at two schools, Columbine High School in 1999 and Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott, U.S. Senator Ted Cruz and former President Donald Trump are expected to attend. Ironically, while Texas is an open-carry state, convention attendees will be prohibited from having firearms or other weapons on site.
Arianna Otero, an FIU student who attended Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland and witnessed the 2018 shooting, said she expects protests in light of the NRA’s location and the timing of their convention, as has happened during other conventions held after mass shootings.
“Not to say they’re to blame, but they’re someone to turn their attention, emotion, and frustration towards,” said Otero. “[The NRA] has the right to rally and do everything, but I would not be surprised if there were dozens upon hundreds of protesters outside. I think they should be expecting that and be ready for that … I wouldn’t be surprised if families drive over or if people in Houston protest outside.”
As with previous mass shootings, public attention has turned to the possibility of stricter gun control laws. Texas, for instance, has seen renewed criticism of recent legislation signed into law that allows gun purchases without a background check or a license or any training, and a lowering of the minimum age for sales to 18.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a Republican, has indicated that he wants the same kind of law passed in the state and recently said the legislature “will get it done.” This week a group of Democrats in the state House met to push legislators in the opposite direction and call for stricter laws such as the “red flag” law passed after the Parkland massacre.
In the nation’s capital, while there are several gun control bills — largely focusing on implementing background checks – circulating in Congress, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said on Wednesday that he will not bring any gun control bills up for a vote until they have a better chance of passing.
House bills on gun control have passed in the lower chamber, only to languish in the Senate as the upper body generally requires a 60-vote majority rather than a simple 51 majority to pass. Senators are expected to begin negotiations when they return from the Memorial Day holiday recess on June 6.
Update 5/27/2022: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott will no longer attend the NRA Convention, but instead will travel to Uvalde, Texas. He will address the attendees in a pre-recorded video.