The Worst Part of Trump’s Performance at NRA’s Convention Wasn’t When He Read Uvalde Victims’ Names

Gun Rights

Former President Donald Trump smiles during the National Rifle Association Annual Meeting. Aaron M. Sprecher via AP

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Former president Donald Trump spoke at the National Rifle Association’s convention in Houston, Texas, Friday night, giving a speech laden with falsehoods about gun control and school shootings. He ended with a strange dance, more fitting for one of his elaborate campaign events than a policy speech in the wake of this week’s horrific attack at an elementary school in Uvalde—250 miles east of the NRA event—that left 19 children and two adults dead. 

While other major GOP politicians decided not to show up or canceled their appearances at this year’s convention in light of the school shooting—including Texas governor Greg Abbott who recorded a speech and Texas senator John Cornyn who stayed in Washington, DC, to negotiate with Senate Democrats about possible new legislation—Trump and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz were both on stage at the George R. Brown Convention Center Friday night.

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Trump opened his speech by reading the names of the children slain in Uvalde, accompanied by the sound of a recorded bell tolling. 

The focus of both Trump and Cruz’s speeches was an insistence that the real focus of lawmakers should be “hardening” schools. Cruz called for schools to have just one door that can be secured by armed guards—a tactic that didn’t work at the Sandy Hook elementary school.  Trump said that the federal government should take back unused Covid-relief funds and “use that money to quickly establish impenetrable security at every school all across our land.” Trump also made a bizarre and incorrect claim that president Joe Biden is thinking about “putting U.N. bureaucrats in charge of your Second Amendment rights.”

Both men also complained about violent crime as a reason that gun control can’t work, with Cruz referring to Chicago as a “murder hellhole.” Trump said that if elected president again, he would be much more heavy-handed in fighting crime: “I would crack down on violent crime like never before.”

Despite the attempts to create a somber tone, Trump eventually turned the speech into an opportunity to stump for a presumed second term in the White House, sniping that he was willing to show up to the event while others, like Abbott, did not. At the end of the speech, basking in the applause, Trump even broke out into a weird dance.

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