Former United States President Donald Trump is set to speak in front of the National Rifle Association’s (NRA) annual convention in Texas on Friday, just days after 19 children and two teachers were killed in a school shooting in the state.
In a post on Truth Social – the social media network he launched after being banned on Twitter – Trump on Wednesday said that he plans to “deliver an important address to America”.
“America needs real solutions and real leadership in this moment, not politicians and partisanship,” he said.
The three-day convention is a major event for the US gun lobby and is set to showcase “the latest guns and gear”, according to the event’s website.
It is scheduled to start three days after an 18-year-old killed 21 people at a Texas elementary school. The shooting was the deadliest US school shooting in a decade, and has reignited debate about gun laws.
The shooting in Texas also came as the nation reeled from a mass shooting earlier this month, when an avowed white supremacist shot 13 people at a supermarket in a mostly Black neighbourhood of Buffalo.
In a speech on Tuesday, President Joe Biden called for new gun safety restrictions.
“As a nation, we have to ask when in God’s name we’re going to stand up to the gun lobby,” he said.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott and Texas Senator Ted Cruz, among others, are scheduled to speak at the NRA convention.
Beto O’Rourke, a Democrat challenging Abbott in the November elections, called on the governor not to attend the convention. O’Rourke later on Wednesday stood up and interrupted a news conference by Texas officials shouting, “You are doing nothing!”
People shouted O’Rourke down and security officials moved to escort him out of the room.
Speaking to reporters outside the news conference, O’Rourke said, “We owe those parents action. They want us to do something right now. I want us to do something right now. We can do something right now. But if we continue to accept this, then it is on us, it’s not just the governor’s fault, it is on us.”
In a tweet on Tuesday, Cruz said that he was “fervently lifting up in prayer the children and families in the horrific shooting in Uvalde”.
New York representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, mentioning his plan to attend the NRA event in Houston, Texas, shot back on Twitter saying, “Faith without works is dead.”
And yet despite the outrage and calls by some progressives for stricter gun laws, new legislation is unlikely to pass in the US.
Virtually all Republicans in Congress oppose new gun restrictions, citing the US Constitution’s guarantee of a right to bear arms, and there is little sign that the latest school shooting would alter that position.
A joint statement by the Second Amendment Foundation (SAF) and Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms (CCRKBA), two US pro-gun organisations, said that politicians and school boards were to blame for the latest school shooting because of their opposition to programmes that would train teachers and staff to shoot in an emergency.
“We spend billions of dollars on foreign aid. We can provide millions of dollars to local law enforcement agencies for school resource officers. We protect our politicians with armed security. Let’s protect our schools to the same degree,” the groups said in a statement.
Houston’s mayor, Sylvester Turner, a Democrat, said some people want the city to cancel the NRA meeting, but he said they cannot break the contract.
The greater question, he said, is why politicians still plan to speak there after the shooting in Uvalde.
“So, it’s not about us cancelling the convention,” Turner said. “It’s about elected officials at the highest level in our state going and speaking and endorsing those policies and that’s wrong. And you can’t pray and send condolences on one day and then be going and championing guns on the next. That’s wrong.”
In a statement on Wednesday afternoon, the NRA said the Texas school shooting “was the act of a lone, deranged criminal”.
“As we gather in Houston, we will reflect on these events, pray for the victims, recognize our patriotic members and pledge to redouble our commitments to making our schools secure.”