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U.S. Gun Group Convenes As Texas Grieves

FILE: Mary Vennekotter, of Jasper, Ind. looks at an AR-15 rifle from Bushmaster in the exhibition hall at the National Rifle Association Annual Meeting in Indianapolis, Saturday, April 27, 2019

U.S. gun rights group National Rifle Association started its annual convention Friday in the Texas city of Houston. This event, long-scheduled, comes after Tuesday's school shooting in Uvalde, Texas in which 19 children and two adults were murdered by an 18-year-old with an assault rifle.

Thousands of gun enthusiasts descended Friday on the Houston National Rifle Association convention, filling a vast convention hall packed with booths of gun and gear manufacturers, walls of semi-automatic rifles and hunting products.

"This is it, this is the mega," said a man in his 60s, as he handled a new Hellion rifle he was considering purchasing -- as loud music blared from speakers nearby.

Former president Donald Trump was among the scheduled speakers at the annual convention, held around four hours drive from the small town of Uvalde, where a teenage gunman killed 19 students and two teachers on Tuesday with an AR-15 assault rifle.

But the proximity in time between the gun gathering and the school shootings caused some to cancel scheduled appearances.

Texas Republican state governor Greg Abbott said he would not appear in person. Instead, he is expected to make a pre-recorded video address. The governor's lieutenant Dan Patrick also canceled plans to speak at the event.

Facing mounting scrutiny, the gun manufacturer Daniel Defense -- which made the assault rifle purchased by the Uvalde shooter Salvador Ramos shortly after his 18th birthday -- also decided not to attend.

The cancellations came as Texas police faced angry questioning over why it took an hour to neutralize the gunman, while video emerged of desperate parents begging officers to storm the school.

Victor Escalon of the Texas Department of Public Safety said Thursday that investigators were still piecing together the timeline of events.

The Uvalde shooting was the deadliest since 20 children and six staff were killed at the Sandy Hook school in Newtown, Connecticut in 2012.

Despite the scourge of mass shootings, efforts at nationwide gun control -- from banning assault rifles to mandating mental health and criminal background checks on buyers -- have repeatedly failed, although polls show support from a majority of Americans.

President Joe Biden will visit Uvalde on Sunday to once again make the case for gun control, as activists set about galvanizing voters on the issue in the run-up to November's midterm election.

And the March for Our Lives advocacy group -- founded by survivors of the 2018 Parkland school shooting in Florida -- has called for nationwide protests on June 11 to press the cause.