Former US president Donald Trump will appear on Friday at a high-profile National Rifle Association event in Houston, Texas, just days after a deadly school shooting in the south of the state brought the debate about gun violence back into the national spotlight.
Trump will be appearing alongside other prominent Republicans including Texas senator Ted Cruz, South Dakota governor Kristi Noem and North Carolina lieutenant-governor Mark Robinson at a leadership forum organised by the NRA’s lobbying arm.
Texas governor Greg Abbott was scheduled to speak at the event in person, but pulled out overnight. He will instead hold a press conference in Uvalde, the city where Tuesday’s school shooting took place, and address the NRA through a pre-recorded video.
“America needs real solutions and real leadership in the moment, not politicians and partisanship,” Trump said in a social media post explaining why he would uphold his “longtime commitment” to speak at the NRA convention. He added he would “deliver an important address to America”.
The NRA’s decision to push ahead with its annual convention, which was postponed several times due to the coronavirus pandemic, has proven controversial in light of the shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, which resulted in the deaths of 19 children and two teachers.
Tuesday’s massacre was the second mass shooting in barely a fortnight after a gunman killed 10 people in a grocery store in Buffalo, New York on May 14.
Houston mayor Sylvester Turner asked the NRA to consider postponing the event because a legally binding contract prevents the city from cancelling it outright.
“What I would say to the NRA, even though the city cannot cancel a contract because we don’t agree with their position on guns, the NRA can postpone it a week or two to allow the families to bury their children,” Turner said in a television interview on Thursday.
Beto O’Rourke, the former Democratic presidential candidate who will be running against Abbott later this year in the race for governor, has called for people opposed to gun violence to join him at a rally in Houston Friday afternoon.
O’Rourke interrupted Abbott and other officials at a press conference in Uvalde on Wednesday, accusing the incumbent governor of “doing nothing” to stop gun violence in Texas.
Texas congressman Dan Crenshaw and Texas senator John Cornyn were also due to appear at the Houston conference, but pulled out.