Greg Abbott, Dan Patrick cancel in-person NRA convention appearances in wake of Uvalde mass shooting

Gov. Greg Abbott attended a vigil in Uvalde on Wednesday for the 21 people killed in a shooting the day before at Robb Elementary School. (Sergio Flores For The Texas Tribune, Sergio Flores For The Texas Tribune)

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Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is backing out of a scheduled in-person appearance at the National Rifle Association’s convention in Houston on Friday and will travel to Uvalde, where a gunman killed 19 children and two teachers days earlier in the state’s worst school shooting in history. He will instead give prerecorded remarks to be played at the convention.

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Abbott’s decision, provided by a spokesperson for his office, comes after the massacre reignited a national debate about firearm access — and renewed criticism of Republican officials who have long resisted and blocked attempts to strengthen gun control laws in a country where mass shootings have become frequent.

On Friday, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick announced he would also be pulling out of the conference.

"After prayerful consideration and discussion with NRA officials, I have decided not to speak at the NRA breakfast this morning," he said in a statement. “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."

The governor drew criticism this week for attending a fundraiser the night of the shooting. On Wednesday, Abbott was confronted at a press conference about the Uvalde shooting by his Democratic opponent in November, Beto O’Rourke, who said, “This is on you.”

The decisions to not attend the NRA convention in person answer extensive speculation over whether the pro-gun Texas leaders would still show up days after the shooting. O’Rourke and NAACP president Derrick Johnson told Abbott to skip his appearance.

Former President Donald Trump confirmed Wednesday that he would attend the event, promising to “deliver an important address to America.” Firearms are banned in the room during Trump’s speech.

On Wednesday, the governor said that he was “living moment to moment” and did not give a direct answer when asked whether he would attend the event.

Beyond Abbott and Patrick, U.S. Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz and U.S. Rep. Dan Crenshaw of Houston were initially scheduled to attend the convention. Both Cornyn and Crenshaw backed out of the event, citing scheduling conflicts that arose before Tuesday.

Cruz, though, stood firm in his commitment to attend.

“I’m going to be there because what Democrats and the press try to do in the wake of every mass shooting is they try to demonize law-abiding gun owners, try to demonize the NRA,” Cruz told a CBS reporter.

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