High mass of pro-gun activists in Texas, three days after the Uvalde massacre

The first American arms lobby, the National Rifle Association, holds its annual convention in Houston on Friday, shaken by a controversy over the timing of the event, three days after the killing of 19 schoolchildren in Uvalde, a few hours away, this which caused politicians and country music stars to cancel their appearance.

If former President Donald Trump will be present at this high mass of the NRA, the Republican Governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, has planned to stop going there. Instead, he will give a press conference in Uvalde on Friday afternoon. Mr. Abbott, a great defender of the right to own a firearm and candidate for re-election this year, will still speak to members of the NRA, in a pre-recorded video, said one of his spokespersons. at the Dallas Morning News. His deputy, Dan Patrick, will also not show up to avoid “adding more pain to the families,” he said in a statement.

By late morning, thousands of firearms fans were already milling around the sprawling convention center filled with manufacturers’ booths, displaying semi-automatic rifles and hunting gear. “I have guns in every room of my house,” laughed a man in his 60s when asked if the gun he was considering buying would be his first. The long-planned NRA convention comes just after an 18-year-old opened fire at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde on Tuesday, killing 19 children and two female teachers, and once again plunging the America in the nightmare of school shootings.

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A sign of discomfort, several country stars have also chosen not to come. Among them, the singer Don McLean, known for his song “American Pie”, who judged that it would be “disrespectful” for him to perform there. Artist Lee Greenwood, whose patriotic hit “God Bless the USA” punctuates Donald Trump’s meetings, also preferred to cancel his concert. Another notable absentee was the maker of the AR-15 semi-automatic rifle used by the shooter. But influential conservative state senator Ted Cruz will be present, as will Mr. Trump, who received tens of millions of dollars from the NRA during his two presidential campaigns.

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This movement is unlikely to translate into action, given the lack of hope of an ambitious national law on the issue being passed by Congress.

The NRA, which claims 5 million members, has also specified that because of the speech of the former head of state and to ensure his safety, firearms would be prohibited in the room. According to the powerful lobby, participants in the big meeting will “reflect” on what happened in Uvalde, and “pray for the victims”. The NRA, attacked by Joe Biden, had cleared itself of all responsibility for the killing. Outside the building, protesters gathered with signs calling for a ban on assault rifles. Democrat Beto O’Rourke, who will face Greg Abbott in the gubernatorial election in November, is expected to join them.

In an unusual scene, a sign of growing tension over the issue of weapons, he interrupted the governor on Wednesday, in the middle of a press conference, accusing him of being responsible for the tragedy. The way the police handled the situation was also criticized. Border Police units entered about an hour after the shooter, Salvador Ramos, entered the building and killed him. Outside, parents waited for the police to act. “One of the relatives said: I was military, just give me a gun, I’ll go. I will not hesitate. I’m going to go,” Daniel Myers, a 72-year-old pastor who was present, told AFP.

The shooting, described in the American press as “the new Sandy Hook”, in reference to the appalling massacre at a Connecticut elementary school in 2012, has awakened the traumas of America. The faces of the very young victims, aged 11, 10, 9 and years, broadcast repeatedly on television, and the testimonies of their collapsed relatives have moved the country, relaunching a wave of calls for better regulation of firearms. This movement is unlikely to translate into action, given the lack of hope of an ambitious national law on the issue being passed by Congress. President Joe Biden will travel to Uvalde on Sunday with his wife Jill Biden, to “share the mourning” of the inhabitants of this small town upset by one of the worst massacres by firearm in recent years in the country.

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