Trump Says ‘Existence of Evil’ Is Reason to Arm Teachers, Citizens at NRA Convention

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SHANNON STAPLETON
SHANNON STAPLETON

Former President Donald Trump has called for schools nationwide to adopt a “security overhaul”—installing fencing, metal detectors, armed guards, and “highly-trained” teachers with concealed weapons—while speaking in Houston at the NRA’s annual convention.

He called for other reforms as well, including more rigid school discipline systems and making it “far easier to confine the violent and mentally deranged into mental institutions.”

“The existence of evil in our world is not a reason to disarm law-abiding citizens—the existence of evil is one of the very best reasons to arm law-abiding citizens,” Trump said.

The NRA gathering, always politically contentious, is facing additional scrutiny this year in light of the deadly massacre earlier this week in Uvalde, Texas, where an 18-year-old gunman stormed Robb Elementary School and killed 21 people, including 19 children.

Scores of protesters gathered on Friday near the George R. Brown Convention Center, while inside attendees meandered “14 acres of the latest guns and gear.”

The NRA appeared to cancel its “Grand Ol’ Night of Freedom” concert planned for Saturday after virtually every performer backed out. As of Friday, the country singer Jacob Bryant was seemingly the only musician still slated to attend, though on Twitter he stated that the event had been nixed on Thursday.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott also withdrew from a scheduled in-person appearance, opting to hold a press conference in Uvalde. (He delivered a pre-recorded video message instead.) Representative Dan Crenshaw backed out as well—citing a conflict with his trip to Ukraine—as did Senator John Cornyn, for “personal reasons.”

<div class="inline-image__caption"> <p>Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) at an NRA forum in Indiana in 2019.</p> </div> <div class="inline-image__credit"> Scott Olson </div>

Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) at an NRA forum in Indiana in 2019.

Scott Olson

Trump and conservative Texas Senator Ted Cruz chose not to cancel.

“Unlike some, I didn’t disappoint you by not showing up,” said Trump, who was greeted with chants of “USA USA USA!” before his speech began.

At the conference, the NRA sought to cast the tragedy as an isolated incident caused by one of a few limited “hate-filled vile monsters,” as CEO Wayne LaPierre phrased it. Trump said the shooter “will be eternally damned to burn in the fires of hell.” A number of speakers pushed for increased security at schools rather than additional gun control legislation.

“What stops armed bad guys is armed good guys,” Cruz said.

In Abbott’s video, he echoed that message, saying, “There are thousands of laws on the books across the country that limit the owning or using of firearms, laws that have not stopped madmen from carrying out evil acts.” He argued that the Uvalde gunman had committed a felony before the attack even began by illegally bringing a firearm onto a school campus—proof, Abbott claimed, that gun restrictions wouldn’t have worked either.

The company that manufactured the shooter’s weapon, Daniel Defense, had planned to attend the convention but abruptly reversed course this week. The arms maker, which has been known to enthusiastically market its weapons—such as one advertisement from May featuring a young child holding an “AR-15-style” rifle—had promised attendees “GIVEAWAYS, DEMOS, CELEBRITY APPEARANCES & MORE!”

The company stated after Tuesday’s shooting that it will cooperate with law enforcement in all investigations, and it offered its “ thoughts and prayers… to the families and community devastated by this evil act.”

Chief Details Uvalde Kids’ Agonizing Calls to 911 as Cops Waited in the Hallway

The NRA spent tens of millions of dollars to advance Trump in 2016, according to a joint report from campaign finance nonprofit OpenSecrets and nonprofit journalism outlet The Trace. The group was in a considerably worse financial condition in the run-up to the 2020 race, though it nonetheless disbursed millions of dollars on Trump’s behalf once again.

Earlier this year, amid an effort from the New York Attorney General to dissolve the NRA over alleged self-dealing and other misconduct, the group tried to declare bankruptcy, but a federal judge rejected the plan.

Tensions remain high in Texas, as officials have offered conflicting details about the massacre, including why it took more than an hour for law enforcement to kill the shooter, even though officers had arrived at the school just minutes after the attack began.

In her speech, South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem urged NRA members to resist gun control efforts, despite the upheaval. “Now is when we double down,” she said.

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