Former President Donald Trump, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R), among other speakers, have largely rejected proposals for new restrictions and instead called for more safety screenings school or mental health, while issuing grim warnings of alleged Democratic plots to take up arms.
The NRA has weakened. But gun rights are driving the GOP more than ever.
“We all know they want a total gun confiscation, know that would be a first step,” Trump told the crowd in an auditorium about 300 miles from the site of the mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas. . “Once they’ve taken the first step, they’ll take the second step, the third, the fourth, and then you’ll have a whole different look at the Second Amendment.
The fiery speeches contrasted with a minute’s silence at the convention for the 19 children and two teachers killed Tuesday in a massacre that has again sparked calls from Democrats and advocates for new gun safety measures. . However, with even greater force than in the wake of the Sandy Hook elementary school murders nearly a decade ago, the NRA has sent a clear message that the lobby and its supporters do not view the new restrictions as negotiable.
GOP speakers blamed the latest tragedy of high-powered weapons availability on an array of other culprits, such as declining church attendance, physical and social media bullying. , weak families, violent video games, opioid abuse, lack of mental health. services, multiple entry points into schools and unlocked doors.
Speakers also moved from condemning the evil of the Uvalde school shooter to vilifying “elites”, the media, Democrats and “Communist Marxists”, drawing cheers from the under-capacitated crowd but noisy.
“The elites who dominate our culture tell us that guns are at the root of the problem,” Cruz said. “It is much easier to slander political opponents and demand that responsible citizens lose their constitutional rights than to examine cultural disease, giving birth to unspeakable acts of evil.”
Abbott, appearing in a taped message because he was simultaneously holding a press conference in Uvalde that included criticism of law enforcement failures, rejected the new gun restrictions outright.
“Just as the laws didn’t stop the killer, we won’t let his evil deeds stop us from uniting the community he tried to destroy,” Abbott said in the video.
In the decade since Sandy Hook, the NRA has increasingly allied itself with the GOP, broadening its scope of gun rights to include other conservative culture war issues and grievances. , and betting big on Trump in the 2016 campaign. The NRA used Friday’s event to project strength after years of turmoil as the organization fights a lawsuit by the New York attorney general alleging that leaders misspent funds.
The NRA continued with the program despite calls to move it, postpone it, or cancel it out of respect for Uvalde’s victims. A growing crowd of protesters in the park across the street shouted ‘Shame’ at attendees as they entered the convention center. In an interview ahead of the speeches, NRA board member David A. Keene said the organization was not considering changing the program because it would inconvenience the thousands of people who had planned to attend. to assist.
Other board members were more pointed in their response to criticism. “If we backed down every time there was controversy, we wouldn’t be worthy of anyone’s support,” said Robert L. Barr Jr., a former congressman from Georgia.
Trump acknowledged the blowback with a jab at the speakers who withdrew, a list that included Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R). “Unlike some, I didn’t disappoint you by not showing up,” he said.
Trump and Cruz have pushed to strengthen school buildings, with Trump calling for the elimination of gun-free school zones and Cruz saying schools should have a single door guarded by armed police or trained military veterans — a plan that would seem likely to encounter fire safety laws requiring more than one exit in buildings. Cruz also called for bulletproof doors and locked classroom doors.
“As the old saying goes, the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” Trump said, quoting NRA Director General Wayne LaPierre’s remark that he almost ten years ago, the day after the mass school. filming in Newtown, Conn.
On Friday, LaPierre highlighted NRA efforts to train schools and local authorities and pleaded for increased funding for security – despite growing questions about whether law enforcement in Uvalde moved quickly enough to confront or stop the massacres there.
“Restricting the basic human right of law-abiding Americans to defend themselves is not the answer,” LaPierre said. “We, the NRA, will never stop fighting for the right of the innocent and law-abiding to defend themselves against the evil criminal element that plagues our society because we know there can be no freedom, security, security without the right of law-abiding people to bear arms in self-defence.”
Trump also criticized federal aid to Ukraine, saying if the United States could afford it and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the government should build tougher schools. The Ukrainian line drew cheers from a crowd that prompted him not to read the remarks in flat effect. Later in his speech, Trump moved away from gun rights to repeat his standard rally material, with frequent shouting from the audience, including the chanting of a phrase that is code for a secular expression against President Biden and, when Trump discussed the 2020 election, “We won!”
Trump has gone so far as to downplay the social justice protests that followed the 2020 killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. “The same Democratic politicians who rioted over a single police-involved killing two years ago are oblivious to the mounting death toll of their own radical policies,” Trump said. Cruz called Chicago a “murder hole,” to loud applause from the audience.
Trump said as president he had been too soft on Democratic politicians running big cities and would act differently if reelected.
“If I ever do it again, which is to run for president and win, I won’t feel pressured to do it that way again,” Trump said. “I would crack down on violent crime like never before.”
Trump called out a Fort Worth man named Jack Wilson who killed a gunman at his church in 2020. “You’re still my president,” Wilson told Trump, as people in the audience stood and clapped.