Anti-gun protesters gather outside NRA convention after school massacre

Anti-gun protesters gather outside NRA convention after school massacre

Politics

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Protesters in support of gun control hold signs outside the annual meeting of the National Rifle Association at the George R. Brown Convention Center, on May 27, 2022, in Houston, Texas.
Protesters in support of gun control hold signs outside the annual meeting of the National Rifle Association at the George R. Brown Convention Center, on May 27, 2022, in Houston, Texas. © Patrick T. Fallon, AFP

A group of protesters angered over the shooting deaths of Texas elementary school students converged Friday outside the gun-lobby National Rifle Association’s annual convention in Houston.

The protesters held crosses with photos of shooting victims and shouted, “NRA go away,” and “Shame, it could be your kids today,” as hundreds of members of the nation’s biggest gun lobby arrived at the conventional hall.

Tuesday’s fatal shooting of 19 Uvalde, Texas, students and two teachers by an 18-year-old gunman equipped with an AR-15 style semiautomatic assault rife is expected to limit attendance at the group’s first convention in three years.

Uvalde is about 280 miles (450 km) west of Houston.

Former President Donald Trump and U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican of Texas, are scheduled to deliver addresses on Friday afternoon. Two other speakers, Texas Governor Greg Abbott and Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, dropped out of in-person remarks.

Abbott plans to deliver a pre-recorded address and will travel to Uvalde later in the day. Patrick said he withdrew to not “bring any additional pain or grief to the families and all those suffering in Uvalde.”

Inside the massive convention center in downtown Houston, attendees shopped for NRA-themed T-shirts and caps, whose sales help finance the group’s programs. The hall had hundreds of exhibits by gun manufacturers, showing off handguns, hunting rifles and assault rifles.

Tim Hickey, a Marine Corps veteran attending the event, dismissed the protests. “These people are puppets and sheep to the media. They are not changing anyone’s mind,” he said.

Kevin Kimbell, a Houston-area resident and lifetime member of the NRA, who joined the group in college at 20, said he expects fewer members than usual due to the Uvalde shooting.

As small groups of protesters arrived and a van promoting gun control circled outside the hall, Kimbell said, “I worry about something crazy happening. I was quite concerned about it last night, but I’m still here.”

Protestor Johnny Mata called on the NRA to halt the convention and hold a memorial service for the victims.

“They have the audacity not to cancel in respect of these families, said Mata, who represented advocacy group Greater Houston Coalition for Justice. The NRA should “quit being a part of the assassination of children in American schools.”

The NRA’s decision to proceed with its largest annual gathering is part of a decades-long strategy of standing up to pressure for gun control that dates to the 1999 Columbine High School shooting in Colorado.

The weekend convention is the five million-member group’s first annual get together after two prior cancellations due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

(Reuters)

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