The Uvalde massacre in Texas makes Keith Jehlen “sick,” but “you can’t blame the gun” with which the 21 victims were shot, according to this retiree who attended Friday’s annual convention of the first American gun lobby, the National Rifle Association (NAR). • Read also: Uvalde massacre: An 11-year-old survivor smeared himself with blood to escape the gunman
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“We’ve always had guns in this country,” added the 68-year-old, a former post office worker, who personally owns more than 50 firearms.
The NRA High Mass is being held in Houston, just a few hours’ drive from Uvalde Elementary School, where an 18-year-old teenager killed 19 children and two teachers on Tuesday.
Mr. Jehlen came to listen to ex-Republican President Donald Trump list the names of the victims on stage before criticizing the ‘abhorrent’ Democrats accused of demonizing ‘peaceful’ members of the NRA who use weapons. own and respect the law.
When mentioning the murder, Keith Jehlen grins: “It made me sick”.
But guns aren’t the problem, according to the one wearing camo-print shorts and a Trump cap. This tragedy could have turned out differently if the adults at the school had been armed, he says.
“Murders are not afraid of the judge, they are not afraid of the police,” Keith Jehlen assures. “They should be afraid of the victims they’re going after.”
The NRA convention, which lasts until Sunday, will take place in a large conference center where protesters have gathered to demand tougher gun laws. Also in attendance is Democratic nominee for governor of Texas, Beto O’Rourke, who regularly attacks his rivals over their inability to take measures to regulate access to guns in the country.
“The blood is on your hands”, “Weapons = death”, claim signs.
Inside, the stands display hundreds of firearms – defused by removing a part called the firing pin – from the small pistol to the AR-15, a semi-automatic rifle used by the Uvalde shooter and in countless shootings in the United States .
‘It’s not Australia’
Military and hunting equipment sits alongside weapon accessories, such as wide-field scopes and 60-round magazines.
Retired police officer Rick Gammon says any attempt to take Americans’ guns is doomed to fail.
“You will never take people’s weapons. This isn’t Australia,” the 51-year-old notes, looking at black semi-automatic rifles he could place in his car or home.
After a mass shooting in 1996, Australia banned semi-automatic weapons, with few exceptions.
The United States, where shootings are a much more common scourge but where the right to bear a gun is enshrined in its constitution, has so far been powerless to better regulate access to firearms.
“I would like to see a systematic background check,” says Rick Gammon, a measure that associations have been calling for for years. “But that doesn’t stop someone who is determined to commit a crime.”
“Better gun education”
The NRA convention is not only a gathering of gun enthusiasts, but also a place where they can experience “the feel” of the guns they are considering buying.
“I like it,” Lisy V, 31, told a gun manufacturer representative, as she weighs a 9mm pistol.
“You also have it in purple, and it caught my eye,” continues the ex-soldier, who is looking for a new weapon to hide under her skirt, “because it’s too hot in Texas to wear pants. .
Asked about Uvalde, she becomes pensive.
“Personally, I think there should be better weapons education,” she says.
But since young people can join the military at 18, they should also be able to buy weapons, she said.
However, pro-guns activist Jim Maynard, recognizing the existence of “great uncertainty” in the United States at this time and the fact that many people are in mourning, believes continuing the NRA meeting was a good choice. .
“Demonizing a tool does not solve the problem we face,” he said.
Those who blame guns for the wave of violence in the United States are simply hype and should focus on developing mental health programs, he said.
“The demonstration outside will not help prevent the next massacre,” he concludes.