People walk past signs in aisles outside exhibit halls at the NRA Annual Meeting held at the George R. Brown Convention Center on Thursday, May 26, 2022, in Houston.

HOUSTON.- Only five days after the biggest massacre in a school in many years, and in the same state, this Friday opened the annual convention of the National Rifle Association (NRA)the lobby that upholds the constitutional right of civilians to bear arms.

The meeting had the stellar presence of the former president donald trump and Texan Senator Ted Cruz. Two other speakers, the state governor, Greg Abbottin the eye of the storm due to the events of Monday, and his lieutenant governor desisted from appearing.

Trump’s speech days after the massacre: “Nothing more dangerous than a gun-free zone”

The quote was the counterpart of the massacre at Robb Elementary School, in Uvalde, 450 km from the convention in Houston, and where, based on current laws, Salvador Ramos was able to acquire the AR-15 that he used against schoolchildren just days after his 18th birthday.

“I am honored to be here with the great patriots of the NRA,” Trump said at the convention, where he was greeted with cheers and long applause.

“You are the backbone of our society”he added in his speech, and recalled “the horrible massacre of Uvalde”after which he read all the names of the victims.

People walk past signs in aisles outside exhibit halls at the NRA Annual Meeting held at the George R. Brown Convention Center on Thursday, May 26, 2022, in Houston.Michael Wyke – FR33763 AP

“We want to save the lives of our children, schools should not be an easy target to hit,” Trump said, relaunching the gun proposal for teachers.

“There is nothing more dangerous than a gun-free zone,” Trump added.

Trump attacked President Joe Biden by saying that “If we can send billions to Ukraine, we can also do what is necessary to secure the schools.”

“The existence of evil in our world is no reason to disarm law-abiding citizens,” he said, saying that “when I am president for the second time” he will be in charge “of eliminating evil.”

The NRA Convention Merchandise Store
The NRA Convention Merchandise StoreMichael Wyke – FR33763 AP

About 500 protesters, some yelling “NRA out” and “shame, they could be your kids today,” booed the crowd as thousands of lobbyists swarmed the convention center.

Guns, rifles and ammunition

On the convention center’s exhibit floor, attendees were able to handle handguns, hunting and assault rifles at dozens of booths, and browse ammunition stands.

Some strolled through the plant wearing cowboy hats and red Trump 2024 caps. One man waiting to get his badge called himself a life member of the NRA, and jokingly asked if there were “afterlife” memberships available so that he could continue to participate forever.

Tim Hickey, a Marine Corps veteran who attended the event, dismissed the protests. “These people are puppets and sheep of the media. They’re not going to change anyone’s mind.”said the former military man.

Gun control advocates hold a vigil outside the National Rifle Association (NRA) headquarters following the recent mass shooting at Robb Elementary School on May 25, 2022 in Fairfax, Virginia.  Demonstrations expected outside the convention, in Texas
Gun control advocates hold a vigil outside the National Rifle Association (NRA) headquarters following the recent mass shooting at Robb Elementary School on May 25, 2022 in Fairfax, Virginia. Demonstrations expected outside the convention, in TexasKevin Dietsch – GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA

Outside, protester Melinda Hamilton, 60, the founder of the Fort Worth-based Mothers of Murdered Angels, who lost her daughter and grandson to gun violence, held a vigil in a park. located opposite the convention.

“They have to change the laws and we have to fight to change these laws. It doesn’t make any sense that an 18-year-old can buy a gun.”he said in reference to the ages of the Uvalde and Buffalo killers, which occurred ten days earlier.

The NRA’s decision to go ahead with its largest annual gathering is part of a decades-long strategy of resisting gun control pressure dating back to the 1999 school shooting in Columbine, Colorado.

The head of the NRA, Wayne LaPierresaid that “abolishing the Second Amendment is not the answer, Biden’s proposals on gun control limit the fundamental human right of Americans to self-defense”.

In tune with Trump, he argued that “the federal government cannot legislate against evil.” And he said about what happened in Uvalde that “all the members of the NRA mourn the dead caused by a criminal monster that caused unimaginable pain.”

The weekend convention is the first annual meeting for the group, which has 5 million members, after two previous cancellations due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Posters celebrating its 150th anniversary hung in the exhibit hall.

ANSA, AP and AFP agencies

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