Days after the Uvalde shooting, the NRA convention went on as planned
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The National Rifle Association's annual convention came to a close on Sunday, going on as planned in Houston some 300 miles from Uvalde and days after a gunman killed 19 children and two teachers there.
Thousands gathered inside of the George R. Brown Convention Center for the NRA meeting while swaths of others convened outside in protest, advocating for gun control legislation. Both groups discussed the shooting, but those inside understood it as a moral issue — an act of evil that can't be fixed by any law — and those outside saw it as a political and legislative matter.
The convention was the NRA's first in three years. It had been canceled multiple times due to the ongoing pandemic. Former President Donald Trump and Republican Texas Sen. Ted Cruz were among the speakers.
Meanwhile, Beto O'Rourke, a Democrat who is running for Texas governor, was outside with demonstrators.
The conference drew fierce protests, with many hoisting signs.
O'Rourke told those at the convention that they weren't the enemies of those protesting outside.
"You are not our enemies, we are not yours," O'Rourke said, according to Houston Public Media. "We stand, our hands open and unarmed in a gesture of peace and fellowship to welcome you, to join us, to make sure that this no longer happens in this country. But the time for you to respond and to join us is now. We cannot wait any longer for you."
The NRA issued a statement expressing "our deepest sympathies ... with the families and victims involved in this horrific and evil crime," referring to the shooting in Uvalde. The NRA saluted first responders and school officials and called the shooting an "act of a lone, deranged criminal."
Many have raised concerns with the way police responded to the shooting.
"As we gather in Houston, we will reflect on these events, pray for the victims, recognize our patriotic members, and pledge to redouble our commitment to making our schools secure," the NRA said.
During the conference, Trump pushed to strengthen security at American schools.
"There should be strong exterior fencing, metal detectors and the use of new technology to make sure that no unauthorized individual can ever enter the school with a weapon," he said on Friday.
Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott canceled a scheduled appearance at the conference, but addressed attendees in a pre-recorded message.
"There are thousands of laws on the books across the country that limit the owning or using of firearms, laws that have not stopped madmen from carrying out evil acts on innocent people and peaceful communities," Abbott said.
Some had backed out ahead of the conference, including musicians and politicians. Daniel Defense, the manufacturer of the gun used at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, also said it would not attend the conference, CNN reported.
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