In less than 48 hours the doors of the George R. Brown Convention Center in downtown Houston are expected to open wide for tens of thousands of NRA members to head inside and explore the acres of exhibits, seminars, and events that are a part of the National Rifle Association’s Annual Meeting of Members. Friday afternoon the NRA is scheduled to put on its annual NRA-ILA Leadership Forum, with appearances by former president Donald Trump, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, North Carolina Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, and a host of Texas politicians including senators Ted Cruz and John Cornyn, along with Gov. Greg Abbott.
Abbott’s opponent in November’s gubernatorial election, however, is demanding Abbott give the group a cold shoulder. Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke, who’s now back on his gun control bandwagon after months of telling voters he’s not interested in taking anyone’s guns (anymore), wasted little time after the news broke about the mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas on Tuesday to try to score political points against his Republican opponent.
Governor Abbott, if you have any decency, you will immediately withdraw from this weekend’s NRA convention and urge them to hold it anywhere but Texas.
— Beto O'Rourke (@BetoORourke) May 25, 2022
If the NRA meeting does go on as scheduled in Houston this weekend, expect O’Rourke and a host of other Democrats to descend on the convention center to protest the gathering of gun owners. This is simply too good a media opportunity for them to pass up, with any protest of more than four or five people sure to garner national attention from the press.
As of right now, there’s no word on any changes to the NRA’s meeting, and preparations continued at the convention center on Tuesday afternoon.
Houston First CEO Michael Heckman said Tuesday he was not aware of any cancellations or changes to the NRA’s schedule.Former President Donald Trump will be part of a slate of speakers Friday. Gov. Greg Abbott, State Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn and U.S.Rep. Dan Crenshaw are also scheduled to speak to the NRA Institute for Legislative Action Leadership Forum.The convention center Exhibit Hall buzzed with activity Tuesday as staffers arranged guns and gear from across the rifle industry over roughly 14 acres.Ticket booths beckoned visitors, as did the gun rights advocacy group’s website.“Make plans now to join fellow Second Amendment patriots for a freedom-filled weekend for the entire family as we celebrate Freedom, Firearms, and the Second Amendment!” that website read.The NRA did not respond to a request for comment on the shooting or the upcoming meeting.The convention center was plastered with signs for the NRA’s 150th anniversary, with banners promoting gun sponsors and gun giveaways during the meeting. Staffers erected red and white-curtained booths inside the arena, where cranes delivered freight loads of gun company gear.At a vigil for shooting victims in Houston Tuesday night, U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, a Democrat, called on the NRA to cancel its event, joining others who said “it’s not the time.”
“Everything we do here has a downside,” NRA official Kayne Robinson says on the tapes. “Don’t anybody kid yourself about this great macho thing of going down there and showing our chest and showing how damn tough we are. … We are in deep s*** on this deal. … And so anything we do here is going to be a matter of trying to decide the best of a whole bunch of very, very bad choices.”