HOUSTON—Hundreds of protesters swarmed the streets of downtown Houston Friday and continued into Saturday at the site of the National Rifle Association‘s annual meeting and both sides stood their ground about one another.
The crowds diminished into the weekend, one day after the country’s largest Second Amendment advocacy organization kicked off its first day with its shortened line-up of GOP headliners who joined former President Donald Trump, who NRA Executive Director Wayne LaPierre introduced.
Each speaker focused on how best to secure schools around the country and how the mental illness issue must be addressed more often by local communities and law enforcement.
The anti-NRA protesters said that the organization’s presence in the city was offensive just days after an 18-year-old gunman went on a rampage in an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, leaving nineteen children and two adults dead in a classroom.
“It’s been 20 years since Columbine, and we still have school shootings taking place. And currently, the city of Houston felt that hosting the NRA Annual Convention would be in good taste immediately following another school shooting,” Alicia Vertie told The Washington Times.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner on Wednesday said canceling the NRA meeting was not an option, because of a potential legal backlash.
“Canceling the convention would leave the city subject to a number of legal issues,” he said at a City Council meeting. “The greater question is why are elected officials speaking there … what message does that send?”
Ms. Vertie, a Houston resident, said the city’s response was unacceptable.
“I got the legal contract, but I think there’s always a buyout in a legal contract and it would have gone a long way to show support for the families in Uvalde for Houston to back out of the contract,” she said. “I’ve heard that the NRA is pretty powerful, but yeah, I would be okay with them taking a stand. I think we need to take a stand at this point.”
Most protesters waved various signs that made their views known stating phrases including, “NRA + GOP = DEATH,” “NRA & THEIR GOP STOOGES HAVE BLOOD ON THEIR HANDS…,” “Gun Laws Save Lives,” “NRA Cowards,” and “Hey, Ted [Cruz]! Do you even love your own kids?!”
Other protesters want the Supreme Court to interpret the Second Amendment in a way that further restricts firearms to private civilians.
“I’m really sick of people being slaughtered, because there’s just a free for all with guns in this country. No other country does this,” Nancy Michon, 66, a Houston resident told The Times.
“And it’s time to do something about it. There were two Supreme court judgments and sickness was and the interpretation of the Second Amendment is just ludicrous the way it stands right now.”
NRA members, however, say that gun control activists should not dictate how every person grieves when a mass shooting like an incident in Uvalde, Texas happens.
“Overall, unfortunately, this situation, nobody hurts more than gun owners when an incident like this happens,” said Tim Hickey, 45, of Cleveland, Ohio, to The Times. “The difference is, we hurt in a different way, because we hurt wishing that we could have been there to do something to stop it.”
Members also say that no one at the NRA is responsible for these mass shootings and gun control activists too often blame the wrong people.
“I think that they’re misinformed. They don’t understand what the NRA is all about. The NRA didn’t do anything because they train people to save and protect themselves,” said Lawrence Beck, 61, from Tooele, Utah. “And they offer training to harden schools along with a lot of other programs—hunter safety, things like that. They’re not responsible for what happened in that school [in Texas].”