Children among protesters outside NRA convention as gun reform debate heats up after Texas school shooting

Three days after a mass shooting at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas left 19 children and two adults dead, the National Rifle Association kicked off its annual convention about 280 miles away in Houston.

Facing shrinking membership and revenue and on the heels of a nationwide gun reform debate, keynote speakers such as former President Donald Trump attended the convention that is scheduled to continue through Sunday, according to the NRA’s website.

During the convention, Trump criticized Republicans who decided not to attend after the shooting in Uvalde, saying, “unlike some, I did not disappoint you by not showing up.”

He also called the latest push for gun reform a politically-motivated one.

“They want total gun confiscation,” he claimed. “This would be the first step. Once they get the first step, a second, third and fourth. You’ll have a whole different look at the second amendment.”

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz echoed Trump’s sentiments, saying, “We know that keeping guns away from citizens who follow the law does very little to keep them away from criminals.”

Meanwhile, outside the convention hall, the state’s Democratic leaders, in addition to protesters that included children, expressed outrage about the NRA convention’s attendees.

NRA Protest, Houston
A young girl holds a sign during a protest outside the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston Friday, Houston, Texas May 27, 2022, as the NRA Convention is held a few days after the Robb Elementary school shooting in Uvalde, Texas.

Wally Skalij via Getty


“They prioritize power and profits over lives. I do not know if you’ll ever find common ground with someone who operates like that,” Texas Democratic gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke told CBS News. O’Rourke earlier this week confronted Texas Gov. Greg Abbott regarding his response to the Uvalde shooting during a press conference.

An activist on Friday night also confronted Cruz at a restaurant in Houston. In video shared on social media, Benjamin Hernandez, a board member of the group Indivisible Houston, asked Cruz why he attended the convention and implored the senator to support “stronger gun laws,” including background checks. Cruz begins to answer several times, but Hernandez talks about him.

Security quickly intervened and got between the two, as Hernandez repeatedly asked Cruz, “Why does this keep happening?”

As security removed Hernandez from the restaurant, he yelled at Cruz, “Nineteen children died. That’s on your hands. That is on your hands. Ted Cruz, that’s on your hands!”

Hernandez told CBS News on Saturday that he confronted Cruz because he believes the senator “needs to be held accountable.”

Texas Democrat Sheila Jackson Lee told CBS News that months ahead of the midterm elections, she thinks Washington will not remain divided on gun laws.

“I hope not. I hope my sense of anxiety and my sense of anger does not counter our responsibility of working on compromise and getting it done.”

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