Former President Donald Trump called efforts to curb gun violence “cynical” and “grotesque” at the National Rifle Association convention in Houston on Friday, just three days after a gunman killed 19 children and two teachers at a Texas elementary school.
After calling the massacre in Uvalde, Texas, a “savage and barbaric atrocity” and reading aloud the name of each victim, the former president accused Democrats of being “cynical politicians seeking to exploit the tears of sobbing families to increase their own power and take away our constitutional rights.” He also claimed that increased calls to pass gun control legislation in the wake of the shooting amounted to a “grotesque effort by some in our society to use the suffering of others to advance their own extreme political agenda.”
“The various gun control policies being pushed by the left would have done nothing to prevent the horror that took place,” Trump continued, instead arguing that lawmakers should instead “deal with the problem of broken families,” pass mental health initiatives and “harden our schools.”
Echoing similar calls from other prominent Republicans eager to blame anything for the shooting except guns, Trump said government funds should be poured into creating “impenetrable security” in schools across the country. His suggestions included creating a single point of entry in schools, bolstering exterior fencing and increasing armed security on campuses.
Despite calls for the NRA to delay or cancel its annual convention, the gun lobbying group went forward with it anyway. Other high-profile speakers, including Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, opted to appear by video or cancel altogether, given the killings days earlier at a school less than 300 miles away.
Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) decided they’d still attend, showing up to praise gun rights in the same state where a killer used an AR-15-style semiautomatic rifle to slaughter children and teachers.
“Unlike some, I didn’t disappoint you by not showing up,” Trump said shortly after taking the stage Friday.
Republicans are blaming everything but weak gun control laws for yet another school shooting, including liberal teachers and school buildings having too many doors.
The gunman, too young to legally buy beer, purchased his weapons legally, days after his 18th birthday. Democrats are pushing again for restrictions that would make this type of purchase harder. But the NRA and its allies have successfully fought gun restrictions and promoted loose laws that allow almost anyone to carry weapons anywhere in Texas — except into the NRA convention.
A powerful backer of GOP politicians, the NRA spent more than $30 million to help Trump win the White House in 2016, more than any other outside group. Trump has teased that he’ll run again in 2024.
Trump told his supporters on Wednesday that he still planned to speak at the convention despite the shooting.
“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,” Trump wrote on his social media platform.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.