Special envoy to Houston (Texas, USA)
Just five hours of highway, flat fields of cultivated fields and signs of fast food restaurants separate Uvalde, Texas, from Houston, the main city of the state. There were the crosses planted in the Plaza del Ayuntamiento, with the names of the 19 children and his two teachers who died in the massacre last Tuesday, covered in flowers, memories and messages. “I will never forget you, sister,” said one, in childish handwriting.
Here in Houston, in a glittering convention center, it was holding its annual conclave National Rifle Association (NRA, its acronym in English), the great ‘lobby’ of weapons in the US. It has only been three days since Salvador Ramos sprayed bullets into an elementary school class with a military-style rifle bought a few days before, just after his 18th birthday, in a hunting store.
Shock over the tragedy overshadowed the NRA meeting. The annual appointment was scheduled months ago, but the coincidence with the massacre made it, for some, an insult to the victims and their families. The NRA and other groups in favor of not limiting access to guns, a right enshrined in the US Constitution.are the ones who pressure political representatives so that there are no changes that prevent someone like Ramos – a teenager with obvious mental health and sociability problems – from getting a deadly rifle.
“Guns are not guilty of anything,” said Joe Wylie, a member of the NRA, near the door of the convention, which this year did not even accept the request for credentials from the foreign press. «If I decide to run you over with my car, do we lock up the Ford? I can kill whoever I want with anything if I want. Give me a saw and cut down a tree so that it falls on you.” Why does this happen in the US so much more than in any other country? “It happens in other ways in other places. Look at Ukraine.
Wylie sees responsibility for the tragedy outside of the rifle Ramos was carrying. “The school had a side entrance and without protection. It should have a single entrance and with security, ”he defended in a speech that Ted Cruz, a Republican senator from Texas and a staunch defender of the right to bear arms without limits, and who planned to give a speech at the convention, has repeated ad nauseam.
Some changed their minds. For example, the governor of the state, Greg Abbott, also a Republican and also pro-gun. He claimed that he planned to attend a press conference in Uvalde to be absent in person, although he did send a video to the convention. Also withdrawn at the last moment were the deputy of the Government of Texas, Dan Patrick; the other state senator, John Cornyn, also a Republican; well-known deputies such as Dan Crenshaw and various country stars who planned to participate in a concert organized by the NRA. Among them, Lee Greenwood, the author of ‘God Bless the USA’ (‘God bless the US’), a song that is not missing in all Donald Trump rallies.
The former president is the highlight of the pro-gun conclave. Many of the attendees wore t-shirts and hats with your name. Among them, Michael D. (he did not want to give his full last name), who had traveled from New Jersey, a very restrictive state with weapons. “If there had been an armed person in that school, a teacher or a security officer, it would have been another story,” he said. “I have the right to protect myself, myself and my family, the Constitution gives me that inalienable right,” he continued. “No one is going to take our weapons away from us.”
A road and two rows of fences separated the NRA meeting attendees from dozens of protesters. “Shame on you! assassins! throw them out with the votes!” they chanted. On their banners were slogans like ‘Protect children, not weapons‘, ‘Enough is enough’, ‘Abbot counts bills while we count bodies’ or ‘Keep blood money out of politics’, referring to the contributions of pro-gun groups, especially the NRA, to the political campaigns.
“The problem is not weapons, evil always finds a way,” said Michael D., referring to attacks with vehicles or pressure cookers. However, he recognized that more could be done in reviews when buying large-caliber weapons. It is something that many residents of Uvalde are asking for these days: that the weapons do not reach the wrong hands. “We should have a better way to do it, to control it,” he pointed out, in an opinion that tends to gain support after the periodic massacres suffered by the US and whose momentum loses strength like soda.
It was something that Darryl Miller, who runs a gun store near Houston, also agreed with. He came to the convention «with great sadness» for what happened in Uvalde and understood those who were protesting from the other side of the sidewalk. “But I also want to defend our freedoms, our constitutional rights and everything that has to do with America,” he said. The problem, in his opinion, is “the mental health and family crisis” that the country is suffering. It requires “two-party” solutions and agreements. Something that seems impossible today.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism