Houston braces for protests crying for gun control as gun lobby group kicks off convention
Houston, the largest city of the southwestern U.S. state of Texas, is bracing for multiple protests crying for gun control, as the National Rifle Association (NRA) kicks off its annual convention in the city center on Friday, just days after the Uvalde, Texas, school shooting claiming 21 lives.
Former U.S. President Donald Trump is scheduled to make a speech at the NRA annual meeting, which was canceled in 2020 and 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
However, Texas Governor Greg Abbott and Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, both Republicans, have canceled their in-person appearance at the convention. The governor is expected to address the convention "through prerecorded video."
"While a strong supporter of the Second Amendment and an NRA member, I would not want my appearance today to bring any additional pain or grief to the families and all those suffering in Uvalde," Patrick said Friday.
The Harris County Democratic Party, together with multiple other organizations including Houston Black Lives Matter, Houston Federation of Teachers, and Moms Demand Action, will be hosting a protest called the "Don't Look Away Rally" Friday afternoon near the George R. Brown Convention Center, where the three-day convention is held, local media reported.
The protest is to "demand swift and strong action against the gun violence that continues to devastate our neighborhoods, schools, and families," the Harris County Democratic Party said in a statement.
In a statement regarding the protest and the NRA convention, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner urged participants to "remain peaceful out of respect to the families of the 19 children and two teachers killed in their classroom at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde."
The City of Houston is aware that several organizations have planned demonstrations near the convention center, and the Houston Police Department and the Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management have a public safety plan, said the statement.
The NRA convention is expected to draw 55,000 attendees, who are prohibited from bringing "firearms, firearm accessories, knives, and other items" including backpacks and selfie sticks.
The NRA, the country's most powerful gun lobby group, currently has over 5 million members, according to its website.
The United States has seen at least 212 mass shootings so far this year, according to the nonprofit research group Gun Violence Archive.
As of Tuesday when the Uvalde school shooting happened, over 31,300 people have died or been injured due to gun-related incidents in the United States this year.