Not Running Away: NRA's Houston convention a go as Moms Demand Action, BLM call on protesters to "shut it down"

AP Photo/Michael Conroy

Any question about whether the NRA would delay or cancel its annual meeting after the shooting in Uvalde, Texas was put to rest when the organization announced in a tweet on Wednesday afternoon that the convention, which is expected to draw in more than 50,000 attendees, will take place in Houston, Texas as scheduled beginning on Friday.

 

The NRA did scale back its 1999 Annual Meeting in Denver, which was scheduled to take place just a few days after the shooting at Columbine High School in nearby Littleton, but there doesn’t appear to be any sign of any changes to this year’s schedule, including Friday’s NRA-ILA Leadership Forum where Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, Sen. Ted Cruz, and former President Donald Trump are scheduled to speak (though Rep. Dan Crenshaw and Sen. John Cornyn have pulled out citing scheduling conflicts). Abbott himself sounded non-committal during an interview Wednesday, though he didn’t frame his hesitancy on getting any NRA cooties on him.

“As far as future plans are concerned, listen, I’m living moment-to-moment right now,” he said when asked about the convention during a news conference updating the public on the shooting. “My heart, my head and my body are in Uvalde right now, and I’m here to help the people who are hurting.”

Abbott, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick are scheduled to attend the event but none of their offices have commented on their attendance since the shooting unfolded on Tuesday. Former President Donald Trump, who is scheduled to speak, said Wednesday he still plans to attend.

“America needs real solutions and real leadership in this moment, not politicians and partisanship,” Trump said in a statement. “That’s why I will keep my longtime commitment to speak in Texas at the NRA Convention and deliver an important address to America. In the meantime, we all continue to pray for the victims, their families and our entire nation – we are all in this together.”

We’ll be covering Trump’s speech here at Bearing Arms as part of our on-the-ground coverage from Houston, which will also include the protests that will surely be taking place on Friday, and likely throughout the weekend. I’ve been to more than a dozen NRA Annual Meetings, and Friday is typically the big day for protesters because that’s when the media is there covering the Leadership Forum. The protesters dwindle to a handful on Saturday and are usually nowhere to be found by Sunday, but this year could be a different story.

Retired Army Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré tweeted late Tuesday night, “We need a major protest to close down the @NRA convention this weekend.”

He tagged several news outlets and several Republicans: former Rep. Joe Walsh of Illinois, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas.

He also wrote: “The NRA has blood on its hands” [and if] “Senate Republicans will not stand up to them then the people of #Texas should.” He tagged Texas Gov. Gregg Abbott, a Republican, in the tweet.

A coalition of lefty groups from Moms Demand Action to Black Lives Matter Houston has schedule a protest starting at noon on Friday coinciding with the Leadership Forum (they’re nothing if not predicable) at a park adjacent to the convention center where the Annual Meetings are taking place. The Leadership Forum, however, isn’t scheduled to begin until 2 p.m., which seems like a calculated move to get more media attention by not having to compete with the Forum itself and Trump’s “important address”.

Details of the protest on Facebook makes this sound less like an exercise of free speech than an attempt to squelch it. Black Lives Matter Houston said on its Facebook page that (sorry in advance for yelling) “EVERY SINGLE PERSON SPEAKING AT THIS NRA EVENT HAS BLOOD ON THEIR HANDS FOR THE BLACK LIVES OF BUFFALO, THE 18 LOST IN UVALDE… LET’S SHUT IT DOWN.”

The NRA Annual Meeting going on as scheduled is not some giant middle finger to the people of Uvalde or Buffalo; and some of those they accuse of having “blood on their hands” are foster parents, counselors, probation officers, social workers, nurses, doctors, and other caregivers. None of those NRA members are responsible for what happened in Buffalo or Uvalde, but there are a lot of voices on the Left doing their best to convince themselves that’s exactly what it is because it makes it easier to hate someone they’ve even met and feel righteous in their bigotry.

And honestly, if that’s where it stays, fine. People have a right to protest, and even to be close-minded hypocrites while doing so. I’m as much of a First Amendment absolutist as I am a Second Amendment absolutist. If someone wants to scream and me and call me names as I leave the Annual Meetings after wrapping up my coverage of the day, that’s their right, though I’d much rather have a conversation. I suspect a good heart-to-heart is not what most protesters are going to be looking for, especially after Joe Biden laid the blame for the shooting squarely on the “gun manufacturers” and the gun lobby in his address to the nation on Tuesday night. Biden and Democrats have been stoking the fires of hatred towards gun owners all week, and I just hope that cool winds and calm heads prevail on both sides throughout the weekend.