5 things to know about the NRA convention in Houston this weekend, from protests to gun rules

The event is going forward despite calls to cancel in the wake of the deadly school shooting in Uvalde, but several demonstrations are planned.

Photo of Jay R. Jordan

The National Rifle Association's annual member meeting is in Houston this weekend, an already controversial gathering now put under additional scrutiny after an armed teenager killed 19 students and two teachers at a Uvalde elementary school Tuesday. 

There are already calls for the meeting to be canceled in light of the shooting and protests planned in and around downtown's George R. Brown Convention Center, where the event will take place Friday through Sunday. The NRA's continued promotions for the event indicate it will go on as planned, including speeches from former President Donald Trump, Gov. Greg Abbott, Sen. Ted Cruz and several other Texas Republicans. 

That headlining event featuring the Republican speakers will take place from 2 to 4 p.m. Friday, while the main members' meeting will start at 10 a.m. Saturday. 

Here's what you need to know about the convention and its relationship to the Uvalde shooting: 

Protests planned

There are at least two protests planned Friday outside the NRA convention, a push from some of Houston's progressive groups to put pressure on the association and its influence on conservative lawmakers. 

"When you go and shoot up a school full of kids and teachers... you've taken someone's right to life away," said Ashton Woods, leader of Black Lives Matter Houston.

BLM, Fiel Houston, Indivisible Houston and the Harris County Democratic Party are hosting a protest at Discovery Green just outside the convention center at 1 p.m. Friday.

"It's about making sure we create a nexus of power while calling out the organization that enables Republicans... like Greg Abbott and other folks who make these laws and put them on the books to make it easier for what happened to happen," Woods said. "These same people are talking about the right to life and about family. A child is a human at conception, but you won't protect children who are living." 

An interfaith protest is also planned outside the convention also starting at 1 p.m. Friday, which organizers have said will include a march inside the convention hall

No guns for Trump speech

The NRA, at the request of the U.S. Secret Service, will ban guns from the convention hall during Trump's speech Friday despite the association's longstanding stance against gun control. 

According to the convention's events page, no one will be allowed to carry a firearm inside the convention hall. The association is not providing any options for people to store their guns during the speech. 

The irony of a gun ban at the NRA's annual convention was called out by several people on Twitter.

Not canceled

Several prominent figures have called for the city of Houston to flat-out cancel the event, which is hosted at the city-owned downtown convention center. 

Indivisible Houston has already garnered 3,000 online signatures for the event to be canceled. Texas governor hopeful Beto O'Rourke, a Democrat, also called for the convention to be canceled. 

Mayor Sylvester Turner on Wednesday said the city will not cancel the event, citing the potential cost of lawsuits that could arise. 

Woods, the BLM leader who is hosting the protest Friday, said the cost shouldn't be the measure for choosing to move forward with the event. 

"I feel like the city of Houston needs to be canceling the contracts," Woods said. "They've got billions of dollars to give to HPD. They can spend a couple million dollars to cancel an event on Houston First property." 

Cornyn out, but no one else 

With canceling the event seemingly off the table, others have called for Abbott and other Republicans in the lineup to abandon their speaking commitment. 

None of the speakers have said they would not appear, although Sen. John Cornyn had already pulled out over a scheduling conflict before Tuesday's massacre, according to Politico's Burgess Everett. 

Abbott would not say if he would appear at the NRA meeting when he was asked at a press conference in Uvalde Wednesday afternoon.

“As far as future plans are concerned, listen, I’m living moment to moment right now," Abbott said. "My heart my head and my body are in Uvalde right now, and I’m here to help the people that are hurting.”

A parallel to Columbine

When armed teenagers slaughtered students at Columbine High School outside Denver in 1999, the NRA was slated to host their annual member meeting at a Denver convention center a month later. 

Similar to the NRA convention in Houston, several people—including parents of those killed and then-Denver Mayor Wellington Webb—asked the NRA to cancel the convention, but NRA leaders refused. The Associated Press called it a "defiant" stand in their 1999 coverage of the event

Protests in Denver drew 8,000 people in 1999, according to the Associated Press.

"Don't let my son's death be in vain," said Tom Mauser at the time, whose son was killed. "I am here today because my son would want me to be here. If my son was alive, he would be here, too."

Here in Houston, protest organizers hope to draw a large crowd and make meaningful change. 

"Demand justice and accountability," said Woods of Houston organizers' hope for the protest. "They're on the immoral side of the tracks. They're on the wrong side of history, and we're going to make them feel uncomfortable. I'm not going to go super low, but I'm not going high either. They haven't been going high with us."