Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) canceled an in-person appearance at the National Rifle Association convention in Houston on Friday and will instead travel to Uvalde, Texas to speak after the deadly massacre at an elementary school that left 21 people dead.
Abbott will hold a press conference just three days after an 18-year-old gunman stormed into Robb Elementary School and killed 19 young children and two teachers. A spokesman told The Dallas Morning News the governor would speak about the “state’s ongoing efforts to support the Uvalde community.”
Abbott will provide a pre-recorded video to the conference, and the NRA’s website still lists the governor as a speaker, alongside other top Republicans including Sen. Ted Cruz and former President Donald Trump. Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said Friday he would not speak at an NRA breakfast, saying he “would not want my appearance today to bring any additional pain or grief to the families and all those suffering in Uvalde.”
Abbott has faced fierce criticism in recent days for his regular efforts to loosen gun regulations and encourage gun ownership. Statistics show that child gun deaths in Texas have doubled under his tenure, and the state has the most gun deaths among children in the nation.
Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) confronted the governor at a press conference on Wednesday, telling Abbott and other officials they had done “nothing” to prevent gun violence.
Other top Republicans in the state have rejected Democratic calls for common-sense gun reform after the attack, instead floating ideas for more guns to arm teachers, or efforts to fortify schools and limit the number of entrances and exits.
Trump said Wednesday he would head to the NRA convention as planned.
“America needs real solutions and real leadership in this moment, not politicians and partisanship,” the former president said in a statement after the Uvalde shooting. “That’s why I will keep my longtime commitment to speak in Texas at the NRA Convention and deliver an important address to America. In the meantime, we all continue to pray for the victims, their families and our entire nation – we are all in this together.”
Abbott, too, has rejected calls for stricter gun laws, lambasting them as ineffective despite overwhelming support for such legislation nationwide.
“I hate to say this, but there are more people who were shot every weekend in Chicago than there are in schools in Texas,” Abbott said Wednesday. “And we need to realize that people who think that, well, maybe if we just implement tougher gun laws, it’s going to solve it, Chicago and L.A. and New York disproved that thesis. So if you’re looking for a real solution, Chicago teaches that what you’re talking about, it’s not a real solution. Our job is to come up with real solutions that we can implement.”