The National Rifle Association has spoken out on the mass shooting at a Texas elementary school ahead of its annual meeting in Houston this week.
The NRA released a statement Wednesday afternoon that read: "Our deepest sympathies are with the families and victims involved in this horrific and evil crime. On behalf of our members, we salute the courage of school officials, first responders and others who offered their support and services."
"Although an investigation is underway and facts are still emerging," the statement continued, "we recognize this was the act of a lone, deranged criminal. As we gather in Houston, we will reflect on these events, pray for the victims, recognize our patriotic members, and pledge to redouble our commitment to making our schools secure."
Former President Donald Trump is headlining this week's event and will be joined by a slew of other Republican heavyweights starting Friday. The event is the organization’s largest of the year and showcases more than "14 acres of the latest guns and gear," according to the NRA's website.
The former president reiterated Wednesday he would be attending, saying: "America needs real solutions and real leadership in this moment, not politicians and partisanship. That's why I will keep my longtime commitment to speak in Texas at the NRA Convention and deliver an important address to America."
He added, "In the meantime, we all continue to pray for the victims, their families, and for our entire nation — we are all in this together!"
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Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, and North Carolina Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson are all also scheduled to attend.
Two members of Congress, Texas Rep. Dan Crenshaw, and Texas Sen. John Cornyn, have pulled out of the three-day extravaganza, though both have cited reasons not related to the Uvalde, Texas, shooting.
The NRA’s delayed response in the immediate aftermath of Tuesday’s shooting compares similarly to how the group has responded to other recent shootings.
After almost a week of social media silence following the 2018 Parkland, Florida, high school shooting in which 17 people were killed, the NRA went on the offensive, pushing back against law enforcement officials, gun control advocates, and even survivors of the attack.
A spokeswoman debated Parkland students who escaped the bloodshed during a heated town hall while NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre slammed gun control advocates, as well as the press for its coverage of the shooting.
“They don’t care about our schoolchildren,” LaPierre said. “They want to make all of us less free.”
One day after a Dec. 2, 2015, shooting at an office party in San Bernardino, California, that claimed the lives of 14 civilians, Chris W. Cox, the executive director of the NRA's Institute for Legislative Action, penned an op-ed piece for USA Today that blamed then-President Barack Obama for politicizing the attack to promote gun control policies. Cox added that he was "sick and tired" of Obama targeting the NRA.
Cox wrote another op-ed piece for USA Today one day after a gunman opened fire at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, on June 12, 2016, killing 49 people and wounding 53 others. In that piece, he slammed the Obama administration for its "political correctness" and said gun control "will do nothing to prevent the next attack."
LaPierre lashed out at the federal government for not putting a police officer in every single school seven days after the Dec. 14, 2012, shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, where 20 children and six staff members were killed.
He also blamed video games, music, and the media for creating a culture of violence before turning his anger on Congress. He criticized lawmakers for failing to create a national database of people with mental illnesses.
Following the 2017 shooting at a Las Vegas nightclub that claimed the lives of 59 people, the NRA broke its silence four days after the shooting, making a rare concession by calling for "additional regulations" on bump-fire stocks. However, it also used the opportunity to blame the Obama administration once again. After that tragedy, Richard Feldman, a former NRA lobbyist and author of the 2011 book Ricochet: Confessions of a Gun Lobbyist, told Politico that despite the initial silence, NRA officials work on damage control behind the scenes.
Feldman said the organization's first priority was to "learn what we can about the shooter."
“Already, one hears the call for every kind of ban in the world for guns before they know what happened,” he said. “What matters isn’t the particular type of gun but the person holding it … and how did they obtain this gun?”
Following Tuesday's shooting in Texas, the NRA had been silent across social media platforms before posting its statement shortly before 3 p.m. ET on Wednesday.
The group's last tweet before the shooting, written the day before, said: "Just a few days left until President Trump speaks at NRA's Annual Meeting for the 6th time!"
🇺🇸 Just a few days left until President Trump speaks at NRA’s Annual Meeting for the 6th time!— NRA (@NRA) May 24, 2022
Hear from Trump this Friday, May 27, 2PM in Houston, TX! Visit https://t.co/76lbF2FHBr for more info! pic.twitter.com/HmKCshDwKn
Cruz was slammed online Tuesday after tweeting he was "fervently lifting up in prayer the children and families in the horrific shooting in Uvalde."
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) criticized Cruz for his attendance at the NRA event.
"Aren't you slated to headline a speaking gig for the NRA in three days — in Houston, no less? You can do more than pray. Faith without works is dead," she said.
Aren’t you slated to headline a speaking gig for the NRA in three days - in Houston, no less?— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) May 24, 2022
You can do more than pray. Faith without works is dead. https://t.co/NMX64KljhL
The NRA forum will take place as the fight for stiffer gun control laws shifts from the bloodied halls of Robbs Elementary School in Uvalde to Washington, D.C.
President Joe Biden on Tuesday night called on the country to "stand up to the gun lobby" following the grisly shootings while Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) worked to put two gun control bills that had passed in the House on the chamber's calendar.
Despite immediate outrage, history has shown that previous shootings at schools have not led to meaningful changes in the law, and groups such as the NRA, which have deep pockets and a faithful base, have been much more effective politically than those pushing for gun control.
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"Elected officials want votes," Harry Wilson, a professor of public affairs at Roanoke College, said. "There is no doubt that money is essential for political campaigns, but votes, not money or polls, are what determine elections. If a group can supply votes, then it has power."
The attack at Robbs is the 137th school shooting to take place in the United States in 2022. In 2021, there were 249 school shootings.
Calls to the NRA for comment were not returned.