HOUSTON — Longtime National Rifle Association Executive Director Wayne LaPierre and a lineup of other prominent gun-rights figures addressed the Texas school massacre as the group’s annual convention opened Friday, saying tighter school security is needed instead of more gun laws.
With hundreds of protesters chanting outside the convention center in favor of gun control, Mr. LaPierre said NRA members understand that government officials must take more steps to protect innocent lives from gun violence. But he said restricting gun ownership cannot be the solution.
“There are absolutely certain things we can and must do,” Mr. LaPierre said. “[But] restricting the fundamental human rights of law-abiding Americans to defend themselves is not the answer. It never has been. Each year over 1 million law-abiding men and women use a firearm to save their own lives and the lives of their loved ones.”
Former President Trump also addressed the “horrible” school shooting, asking the convention for a moment of silence as he read aloud the names of victims and a bell tolled.
Mr. Trump the shooting “should never have been thought about, let alone happened.”
“The monster who committed this crime is pure evil,” Mr. Trump said. “He will be eternally damned to burn in the fires of hell.”
The NRA pushed forward with its annual meeting in downtown Houston amid criticism that the convention should be canceled altogether because of the mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas on Tuesday that left nineteen children and two adults dead.
Mr. LaPierre said the focus should be on securing and providing protection for schools that he says “banks, stadiums and government buildings” get more often than not.
“[Children] are our most treasured and precious resource, and they deserve safety and protection. That’s why the NRA launched our school shield program to help promote and fund the necessary security that every schoolchild needs and deserves,” he said. “That’s why we help train schools-security assessors, who play a vital role in improving the security and safety of every child from when they get off the bus in the morning to when the final bell rings at the end of the day.”
He said that he wants to see the nation’s police departments’ and school-security resource officers to be fully funded.
Outside the convention center, Democratic Texas gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke rallied with protesters, urging them to agitate for tougher gun laws.
“Get in their faces before another child is shot,” Mr. O’Rourke told the protesters.
Mr. LaPierre said the NRA and its members grieve with the victims’ families in Uvalde.
“Every NRA member and I know every decent American this morning right now 21 beautiful lives, ruthlessly and indiscriminately extinguished by a criminal monster,” he said. “We are with this community and all of America in prayer, NRA members are parents. We have sons, daughters, and loved ones.”
He said if the U.S. “were capable of legislating evil out of the hearts and minds of criminals who commit these heinous acts, we would have done it a long time ago.”