WASHINGTON — Just days after thefatal shooting of 19 children in Uvalde, Texas, the nation’s most powerful gun lobby is slated to host its convention in Houston, on the other side of the big and contentious state.
Scheduled long before Tuesday afternoon’s shooting — committed by an 18-year-old who had purchased his guns legally— the National Rifle Association’s annual meeting, which starts Friday, will nevertheless sit in uneasy juxtaposition to the nation’s latest gun tragedy. In his impassioned remarks on Tuesday night, President Biden charged that groups like the NRA were preventing the passage of sensible reforms.
“As a nation, we have to ask: When in God’s name are we going to stand up to the gun lobby?” the president said.
Slated to attend are Texas elected leaders including Gov. Greg Abbott and Sen. Ted Cruz, both of whom are fervent supporters of gun rights. Both Republicans expressed sorrow at the carnage in Uvalde but have historically shown little willingness to enact measures to limit the ease with which guns can be purchased.
But two other Texas Republicans won’t be there, despite having earlier committed to attending. One of them, Sen. John Cornyn, is a leading Republican in the upper chamber and a close ally of Republican leader Mitch McConnell.
“Prior to the tragedy in Uvalde we had already informed the NRA he would not be able to speak due to an unexpected change in his schedule,” Cornyn press secretary Natalie Yezbick told Yahoo News in an email. “He has to be in D.C. for personal reasons on Friday.”
Rep. Dan Crenshaw, who represents the Houston suburbs and is a supporter of gun rights, will also not travel to Houston for the NRA convention. “Congressman Crenshaw is in Ukraine and we let the event organizer know that he wouldn’t be back in the country in time to attend the event Friday evening,” his chief of staff, Justin Discigil, told Yahoo News.
The NRA did not respond to a request for comment from Yahoo News.
On his social media platform Truth Social, former President Donald Trump, who is expected to speak at the event, said Wednesday that he still plans to attend.
“America needs real solutions and real leadership in this moment,” the post said, “not politicians and partisanship. That’s why I will keep my longtime commitment to speak in Texas at the NRA Convention and deliver an important address to America.”
The offices of Cruz and Abbott did not respond to requests for comment from Yahoo News. Cruz is a regular attendee at the annual NRA meeting. He has an A+ rating from the organization for his opposition to gun reforms and has, like other Republican legislators from Texas, been a consistent recipient of NRA largesse in the form of campaign contributions.
Considering Trump’s address, the U.S. Secret Service is prohibiting firearms from the general assembly hall where he’ll be speaking, along with knives, pepper spray and any other kind of weapon, according to the NRA’s website.
Though once a relatively moderate organization of gun enthusiasts, the NRA has morphed into a political powerhouse that sees virtually all gun control measures as an infringement on Second Amendment liberties.
In general, the organization gives far more money to Republican candidates seeking elected office than it does to Democrats. The NRA endorsed Trump in 2016 and again in 2020.
“His support has been and continues to be unrelenting,” the NRA said in a letter endorsing Trump for reelection. Trump lost to Joe Biden, who has an F rating from the NRA.