Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) canceled his speech at the National Rifle Association’s annual meeting in Houston on Friday, hours after Gov. Greg Abbott (R) canceled his appearance, days after a gunman opened fire at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, killing 21 and injuring 17 others and amid heightened criticism of the gun rights group and state officials’ response to the massacre.
Abbott, who faced heavy criticism for his handling of the crisis and for attending a fundraiser just hours after the massacre, will instead visit Uvalde, according to a spokesperson for his office, the Texas Tribune reported.
The governor will pre-record a message that will be played at the convention and he is still listed as a confirmed speaker on the NRA summit website.
Former President Donald Trump, a scheduled speaker, confirmed he will still attend the convention Wednesday, writing in a post on Truth Social he will deliver an address because “America needs real solutions and real leadership in this moment.”
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas), two high-profile gun rights supporters, will not attend, as Cornyn’s office said the senator has to be in Washington, D.C. for “personal reasons,” and Crenshaw will be traveling in Ukraine.
“American Pie” singer Don McLean was scheduled to perform at the event, but canceled his performance Thursday, saying it would be “hurtful” and “disrespectful”; singer Lee Greenwood soon followed.
“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,” Patrick said in a statement.
55,000. That’s how many NRA members are expected to attend the convention, according to Houston First, the government corporation that oversees the convention center.
The Secret Service is prohibiting firearms and firearm accessories in the Assembly Hall where Trump will be speaking, according to the NRA’s website. While Texas is an open carry state, the Secret Service told NPR it is authorized to “preclude firearms from entering sites visited” by the people it protects. Knives, laser pointers, toy guns, backpacks, pepper spray and ammunition are also prohibited.
Organizers are planning several protests to take place outside of the George R Brown Convention Center over the weekend. Groups gathering include Harris County Democratic Party, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and March For Our Lives, according to ABC News. On a Facebook post encouraging people to join the protest, Harris County Democratic Party said “every single speaker at the NRA event this weekend bears responsibility for the innocent lives lost to gun violence…It is past time for thoughts and prayers.” Several teachers groups and Black Lives Matter Houston are also attending, according to the post.
The shooting at Robb Elementary School on May 24 that left 19 students and two teachers dead, reignited debate over gun control measures in the U.S. as it reminded citizens of the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, when a gunman killed 20 students and six staff members. President Joe Biden urged lawmakers to pass “common sense gun laws” in an address Tuesday, saying “as a nation we have to ask: When in God’s name are we going to stand up to the gun lobby?” Cruz warned against Congress taking up gun control legislation Tuesday, though Majority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer vowed to bring a vote on a motion to proceed with a domestic terrorism bill, brought forward in the wake of the Buffalo supermarket shooting that occurred earlier this month.
$651,123. That’s how much money the NRA donated to congressional candidates in 2020, according to OpenSecrets. Nearly 98% of the total went to Republicans.