HOUSTON, Texas (KXAN) — Three days after the deadly Uvalde school shooting, the National Rifle Association’s Annual Meeting got underway Friday, 300 miles away in Houston.
NRA members were greeted by dozens of chanting protesters as they filed into the George R. Brown Convention Center downtown.
Some of the demonstrators held photos of the 19 children and two teachers killed three days earlier.
Houston resident Matthew Rarey shouted, “shame!” at the attendees from across the street.
“It’s shameful that these individuals can see this happening on a regular basis,” Rarey told KXAN. “We’ve had over 200 [mass shootings] in 2022 alone. I don’t understand where the disconnect is.”
At 30 years old, Rarey said his first mass shooting that deeply affected him was the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy in 2012.
“I feel like the walking dead,” he said. “We’re all the walking dead. It could be any one of us.”
Convention-goer Julie Willis, a concealed carry handbag designer from Austin, said she cried on the plane, thinking of the Uvalde victims.
“I don’t think any responsible gun owner didn’t take a minute and feel that for sure,” Willis told KXAN as she entered the convention center.
“Hopefully, we’re able to have more meaningful and deliberate conversations because of it,” she said.
At a nearby park, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke held a rally of his own.
“Those who would be the victims of the next mass shooting — unless we act now — are counting on us at this moment,” he told a crowd of hundreds.
GOP politicians delivered remarks inside the convention center, including Sen. Ted Cruz and former President Donald Trump.
Sen. John Cornyn and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick both bowed out ahead of the event. Gov. Greg Abbott spent the day in Uvalde but addressed the NRA attendees in a video message.
Former President Trump seemed to take a jab at the missing speakers.
“Unlike some, I didn’t disappoint you by not showing up,” he said. “You gotta show up.”
This story has been updated to include remarks from Beto O’Rourke and former President Donald Trump.