The National Rifle Association will begin its annual convention in Houston Friday. Leaders of the powerful gun-rights group are ready to "reflect" on -- and deflect any responsibility for -- the fatal shooting earlier this week at Uvalde Elementary School in Texas, which resulted in the deaths of 19 children and their teachers.
The event will feature former President Donald Trump and other prominent Republicans. It is expected that protestors who are fed up with gun violence will be present.
Some speakers and performers had canceled, including Don McLean (Texas legislator) and Don McLean (American Pie singer), who stated that it would be "disrespectful" to continue his act following the latest mass shooting in the country.
NRA board member Phil Journey stated that while President Joe Biden, and Democrats in Congress, have renewed calls to tighten gun laws. However, he said that the emphasis should be on mental health and preventing gun violence. He stated that he would not support restricting firearms access or banning them.
In an online statement, the NRA stated that attendees to the gun show would "reflect" on the Uvalde school shooting and "remember our patriotic members," as well as "pray for them, recognize their sacrifices, and promise to double our commitment to keeping our schools safe."
Participants picked up their registration badges on Thursday, and went shopping for NRA souvenirs such as T-shirts with the slogan "Suns Out Guns Out." Already, police had placed metal barriers in the street near the convention center at a park where protesters are expected Friday.
Gary Francis was accompanied by his wife and some friends from Racine (Wisconsin) to the NRA meeting. He stated that he was against any gun control regulations as a result of the Uvalde shooting.
He said, "What happened there was obviously tragic." "But the NRA did not have anything to do with it. It was all done by the people who came here."
In recent years, Texas has seen a number of mass shootings. The Republican-led Legislature has relaxed gun laws.
The NRA has had the experience of meeting in controversy and mourning. A week after Columbine High School's shooting, the NRA held a reduced version of its 1999 Denver meeting. Charlton Heston, then president of the NRA, spoke out against critics who portrayed NRA members as "villains" and said that "horrible actions" should not be used to limit constitutional rights.
Rocky Marshall, an ex-board member of the NRA, stated that while the Uvalde tragedy "doesn't put the meeting in bad light," it is not enough to cancel it. Marshall stated that gun-rights opponents and advocates can reduce gun violence by focusing on school security or mental illness.
He said, "Throwing rocks at NRA doesn't solve next mass shooting." "Fighting against gun-lovers is not a solution to the next mass shooting."
Larry Gatlin (country music singer) said that he pulled out of a planned appearance at the event and that he hoped "the NRA would rethink some its outdated, ill-thought-out position."