Protesters furious with the massacre at the elementary school in Ovalde, Texas, gathered today in Houston outside the venue of the NRA’s annual congress, the powerful lobby for gun ownership.
Crowds held crosses and photos of the victims and shouted “NRA go away” and “Shame, maybe today are your children”, as hundreds of members of the organization arrived at the conference center.
The attack in Uwalde, where an 18-year-old armed with an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle killed 19 young students and two teachers, is expected to limit NRA’s first conference in three years.
Uvalde is about 450 miles west of Houston.
Former United States President Donald Trump and Republican Sen. Ted Cruz are scheduled to address the conference this afternoon. Two other speakers, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Vice Gov. Dan Patrick, will not be present in person. Abbott will send a videotaped greeting and later visit Uvalde. Patrick said he withdrew his participation “so as not to cause further pain and sorrow to the families of all those suffering in Uwalde”.
Inside the huge conference center, attendees bought T-shirts and hats with NRA symbols. There are also hundreds of benches in the room where weapons manufacturers display revolvers, shotguns and assault rifles.
Tim Hickey, a veteran Marine attending the conference, dismissed the protests. “These people are puppets and sheep for the media. They will not change anyone’s mind,” he said.
Kevin Kibbel, a Houston resident and lifelong member of the NRA he joined when he was in college in his 20s, said he expects fewer members at the conference because of the Ovalde massacre.
As small groups of protesters arrived and a van carrying gun control circled the conference center, Campbell said he was “worried something crazy was going to happen last night.”
Protester Johnny Mata called on the NRA to stop the conference and offer a memorial service for the victims. “They have the audacity not to cancel it, out of respect for the victims,” said Mata, who represents the Coalition for Justice. The NRA “should stop taking part in the killing of children in American schools,” he added.
The two previous NRA conferences were canceled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.