The Memorial Day weekend event is the biggest meeting of the year for the gun lobby after cancellations due to the coronavirus pandemic. It is set to take place over three days and “features over 14 acres of the latest weapons and equipment”, according to its official website.
“The National Rifle Association is pleased to announce that former President Donald Trump will headline a casting call for political heavyweights at the NRA Institute for Legislative Action,” the organization said in a statement. released in May.
The forum is also expected to include Texas Governor Greg Abbott, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, South Dakota Governor Kristi L. Noem and North Carolina Lieutenant Governor Mark Robinson — all Republicans. The next night, “American Pie” singer Don McLean is scheduled to perform.
Sen. John Cornyn (R) of Texas was also scheduled to speak but pulled out before the shooting for personal reasons requiring him to be in Washington on Friday, a spokesman said. Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas) also dropped his scheduled appearance for a trip to Ukraine, an aide said.
Beto O’Rourke, a Democrat challenging Abbott for governor, called on him to step down from the conference. Abbott’s office did not respond to requests for comment.
Governor Abbott, if you have any decency, you will immediately withdraw from the NRA convention this weekend and urge them to hold it anywhere but Texas.
— Beto O’Rourke (@BetoORourke) May 25, 2022
Noem’s spokesperson said she still plans to attend.
Virginia Lt. Governor Winsome Earle-Sears (right), a former Marine who strapped an assault rifle to her dress in a memorable campaign ad last year, is set to headline a forum luncheon on NRA Women’s Leadership Friday at the event in Houston. Earle-Sears and her spokeswoman did not immediately respond to inquiries Wednesday about whether she planned to continue after the school shooting.
The NRA forum comes as the shooting reignites the gun control debate in Washington. President Biden called on the United States to “stand up to the gun lobby” in the wake of the deadliest school shooting in nearly a decade, and Senate Majority Leader Charles E Schumer (DN.Y.) moved Tuesday night to put two chambers in the House — passed gun control bills on the House calendar.
The NRA could not immediately be reached for comment early Wednesday on whether the event will go ahead.
Biden expresses grief and anger over shooting: ‘I’m fed up and I’m fed up’
Authorities said the suspected shooter, Salvador Ramos, 18, was wearing a bulletproof vest and carrying a rifle, when he opened fire in a fourth-grade classroom around 11:32 a.m. on the third to last day of the school year – sending children fleeing for their lives. The shooter was later killed by law enforcement.
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) went viral online after delivering a speech in the Senate Tuesday night imploring his colleagues to put politics aside and work together to stop mass shootings. Murphy was in the House in 2012 when a shooting took place in his neighborhood at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, where 20 children and six adults were killed.
“Why are we here if not to try to get fewer schools and fewer communities to go through what Sandy Hook went through, what Uvalde went through,” he said. “I’m here on this floor to beg, to literally get down on all fours and beg my colleagues: find a way forward here.”
The shooting in Texas also comes as the nation is still reeling from a mass shooting earlier this month in Buffalo, where a gunman killed 10 people in a racist attack at a grocery store.
Cross tweeted Tuesday that he “raised fervently in prayer the children and families of the horrible shooting in Uvalde”.
His post prompted a rebuke from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (DN.Y.) who mentioned her attendance at the NRA event and said “faith without works is dead.”
Aren’t you scheduled to headline a concert for the NRA in three days – in Houston, no less?
You can do more than pray. Faith without works is dead. https://t.co/NMX64KljhL
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) May 24, 2022
The NRA event is set to take place Friday at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston and has been billed as a “celebration of American freedom!”
“It is truly an honor to have President Trump address NRA members for the sixth time at our 2022 NRA-ILA Leadership Forum in Houston,” said NRA Executive Vice President and CEO Wayne. LaPierre in the May statement.
He said Trump had “helped secure the freedom of generations of Americans” by appointing judges who “respect and value the Constitution and the Bill of Rights” and thanked the former president for his “support for our right to keep and bear arms”.
Trump has embraced the gun lobby, though after the 2018 Parkland High School shooting he briefly expressed support for background checks for gun purchases and greater police power. police to seize firearms from mentally ill people. He faced significant resistance from the NRA and Republicans and quickly abandoned the ideas. His administration also banned the use of bump stocks, a device that facilitates faster firing of a semi-automatic rifle.
The NRA is fighting a lawsuit filed by the New York Attorney General accusing the group’s executives of wrongfully spending millions of dollars. The NRA, founded in 1871, has over 5 million members.
Laura Vozzella contributed to this report.