HOUSTON - Thousands of people will gather in Houston this weekend as the National Rifle Association begins its annual convention.
Former President Donald Trump and other leading Republicans are scheduled to address the three-day firearms marketing and advocacy event that begins Friday and runs through Sunday at the George R. Brown Convention Center.
The event comes just days after a school shooting that left 19 students and two teachers dead in Uvalde, Texas, and Houston leaders are preparing for protests near the convention site.
Some scheduled speakers and performers have backed out, including two Texas lawmakers and "American Pie" singer Don McLean, who said "it would be disrespectful" to go ahead with his act in the aftermath of the country’s latest mass shooting.
The NRA said in an online statement that people attending the gun show will "reflect on" the Uvalde school shooting, "pray for the victims, recognize our patriotic members, and pledge to redouble our commitment to making our schools secure."
NRA convention events and speakers
The convention, which is open to NRA members and their immediate families, features an exhibit hall showcasing guns and gear, seminars, and appearances by public figures, according to the event’s website.
Senator Ted Cruz, R-Texas, was listed as a speaker, and former President Trump said Wednesday that he still intends to attend. South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, a Republican, is also sticking to her plans to speak Friday at the NRA event.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott will no longer attend in-person, and will address the convention in a prerecorded video, Fox News reports. According to the governor’s office, he will be in Uvalde on Friday.
On Friday morning, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick announced that he would not be speaking at an NRA breakfast after all.
"While a strong supporter of the Second Amendment and an NRA member, I would not want my appearance today to bring any additional pain or grief to the families and all those suffering in Uvalde," Lt. Patrick said in the statement.
Two Republican Texas lawmakers who had been scheduled to speak Friday — U.S. Sen. John Cornyn and U.S. Rep. Dan Crenshaw — are no longer attending due to what their staffs said were changes in their schedules.
Find a schedule of events at https://www.nraam.org/
Houston details security plan and prepares for protests
On Thursday, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, Police Chief Troy Finner, Fire Chief Sam Pena and representatives from several other city departments detailed the public safety and security plan for the weekend.
Chief Finner said there will be a protest and counter-protest zone at Discovery Green, where officers will be in full force.
"Officers will be everywhere," he said. "We will not tolerate destruction of property or assaulting of others."
The day after the school shooting, Mayor Turner addressed questions about the convention and whether it could be canceled.
"Canceling the convention would leave the City subject to a number of legal issues," Mayor Turner said. "The greater question is why are elected officials speaking there, and what message does that send. You can't pray and send condolences on one day and go and champion guns on the next."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.