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The Texas Tribune
The Texas Tribune
By Annie Xia

Trump, Abbott paint gun rights as imperiled at NRA convention

Former President Donald Trump speaks at the NRA Leadership Forum at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas on May 18, 2024.
Former President Donald Trump speaks at the NRA Leadership Forum at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas on May 18, 2024. (Credit: Azul Sordo for the Texas Tribune)

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DALLAS— At the National Rifle Association’s annual convention on Saturday, Donald Trump and Gov. Greg Abbott encouraged the thousands gathered to vote for Trump in the 2024 presidential election as a way to ensure their Second Amendment rights.

“The NRA has stood with me from the very beginning, and with your vote, I will stand strong for your rights and liberties,” Trump said. “I heard it a few weeks ago that if gun owners voted, we would swamp them at levels that nobody's ever seen before. I think you're a rebellious bunch, but let's be rebellious and vote this time.”

Trump and Abbott spoke to a room packed with NRA members, some of which sported supportive attire from the standard-fare red caps to a dress covered with photos of the former president.

During the convention, the NRA released its endorsement for the 45th president, and the Trump political campaign announced the launch for the “Gun Owners for Trump” coalition.

Abbott touted his track record on gun rights by pointing to Texas laws passed last year, such as House Bill 3137 which prohibits local governments from requiring firearm owners to buy liability insurance. To energetic applause, he said the law ensured people would not be forced to pay to exercise their Second Amendment rights.

Abbott also described the state’s successful crackdown on the recent pro-Palestinian protests on university campuses, in which protesters are demanding the schools divest from from companies tied to Israel or weapons manufacturing amid the Israel-Hamas War.

Gov. Greg Abbott speaks at the NRA Leadership Forum at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas on May 18, 2024.
Gov. Greg Abbott speaks at the NRA Leadership Forum in Dallas on Saturday. (Credit: Azul Sordo for the Texas Tribune)

“When they tried to pull that stunt in Texas, our Department of Public Safety cleared the area, arrested the protesters and put them in jail,” Abbott said. “Unlike some of these radical leftist universities like Columbia, UCLA and far too many others, in Texas we don’t tolerate paid protesters who tried to hijack our college campuses.”

Almost to the day, the NRA convention takes place two years after the Uvalde school shooting, where an 18-year-old gunned down an elementary school with a legally purchased assault rifle. The shooter killed 19 fourth-graders and two teachers with an AR-15 style rifle.

During the 2023 legislative session, Uvalde families unsuccessfully pressed Texas policymakers to pass a raise-the-age law, which would have upped the minimum age for buying semi-automatic weapons from 18 to 21.

“Donald Trump and Texas Republicans made the gun violence epidemic worse, especially in our state, where we have seen nine mass shootings just in the last 15 years,” said a statement by Gilberto Hinojosa, the Texas Democratic Party Chair, on Friday. “Even after Uvalde parents pleaded with Greg Abbott and Ted Cruz for commonsense gun safety laws, they decided, like Trump, that the NRA and gun lobby was more important.”

Instead the legislature approved a school safety bill that established preventative measures toward school shootings. The law included a mandate that every school must hire an armed security officer and the creation of a department within the Texas Education Agency that can compel districts to adhere to active-shooter protocols.

During his speech, Trump endorsed four Republican candidates who are fighting in late May runoffs to be their party’s nominee: Alan Schoolcraft, David Covey, Helen Kerwin and Brent Hagenbuch. Each of them has already received endorsements by Abbott, Attorney General Ken Paxton or both. Schoolcraft, Covey and Kerwin are running against Republican incumbents in the Texas House who impeded Abbott’s signature school voucher bill or voted for Paxton’s impeachment based on accusations of corruption.

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Correction, : An earlier version of this article misspelled Texas Senate runoff candidate Brent Hagenbuch's name.

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