Texas Gov. Greg Abbott will no longer appear in person at the National Rifle Association’s convention in Houston on Friday and will instead travel to Uvalde, where a deranged gunman murdered 19 children and two teachers earlier this week. Instead, the governor will give a pre-recorded address, a spokesman for his campaign said.
“Gov. Abbott will be delivering remarks via prerecorded video to the NRA Conference,” Abbott campaign spokesman Mark Miner said in a statement. “He will be going to Uvalde today.”
Abbott was one of several prominent Republican officials scheduled to attend the conference, along with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and former President Donald Trump. His decision to back out of the event follows widespread criticism of Republican officials and the NRA by Democrats for opposing gun control legislation after an 18-year-old gunman bought two rifles legally and then used them to commit a massacre at Robb Elementary School.
At a press conference on the mass shooting Wednesday, Abbott’s Democratic opponent in the upcoming election, Beto O’Rourke, heckled the governor and accused him of “doing nothing” to prevent future mass shootings. Earlier that day, O’Rourke called on Abbott to “immediately withdraw from this weekend’s NRA convention and urge them to hold it anywhere but Texas.”
Some other high-profile figures have dropped out of the convention, including singers Larry Gatlin and Don McLean. Gun manufacturer Daniel Defense, the company that made the rifle used in the shooting, has also pulled out of the NRA’s event.
Trump said Wednesday that he still plans on addressing the convention in person.
“America needs real solutions and real leadership in this moment, not politicians and partisanship,” the former president wrote on his social media website Truth Social. “That’s why I will keep my longtime commitment to speak in Texas at the NRA Convention and deliver an important address to America. In the meantime, we all continue to pray for the victims, their families, and for our entire nation – we are all in this together.”
On Wednesday, the NRA issued a statement expressing its “deepest sympathies” for the families of the victims of “this horrific and evil crime.”
“Although an investigation is underway and facts are still emerging, we recognize this was the act of a lone, deranged criminal,” the NRA said. “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.”