Protesters gather at NRA Annual Meeting at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston, Texas, on Friday. The National Rifle Association holds its annual meeting despite Tuesday's mass shooting that left 19 children and two adults dead at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. Photo by Jon Farina/UPI | License Photo
May 27 (UPI) -- Former President Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz spoke against gun control measures at a conference for the National Rifle Association held in Texas on Friday in the aftermath of the Uvalde elementary school shooting.
"The monster who committed this crime is pure evil, pure cruelty, pure hatred - absolute pure hatred," Trump said at the start of his speech after a moment of silence for the 19 children and two adult teachers who were killed during the shooting Tuesday.
"And while those he slaughtered are now with God in heaven, he will be eternally damned to burn in the fires of hell."
Trump said that, in the aftermath of the mass shooting, there was a "parade of cynical politicians seeking to exploit the tears of sobbing families to increase their own power and take away our constitutional rights."
"Every time a disturbed or a demented person commits such a hideous crime, there is always a grotesque effort by some in our society to use the suffering of others to advance their own extreme political agenda," Trump said.
"Even more repulsive is their rush to shift blame away from the villains who commit acts of mass violence and to place that blame onto the shoulders of millions of peaceful, law-abiding citizens who belong to organizations such as our wonderful NRA."
Trump, like his fellow Republican speakers, said that gun control policies proposed by Democrats would have "done nothing" to prevent the Uvalde shooting.
"We need to drastically change our approach to mental health. There are always so many warning signs. Almost all of these disfigured minds share the same profile," Trump said.
Trump advocated for increased disciplinary measures in schools to "confront bad behavior" and to make it easier to "confine the violent and mentally deranged into mental institutions."
"All of us must unite, Republicans and Democrat, to finally harden our schools and protect our children," Trump said. "What we need now is a top to bottom security overhaul at schools all across our country."
Trump said that every building should have a single point of entry with "strong exterior fencing" and metal detectors, policies which some experts have said turn schools into prison-like environments.
"No one should ever be able to get anywhere near a classroom until they have been checked, scanned, screened and fully approved," Trump said.
"In addition, classroom doors should be hardened to make the lockable from the inside and close to intruders from the outside."
Trump also called for armed police officers at schools "at all times" and for trained teachers to concealed carry firearms in classrooms.
"As the old saying goes, the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. Have you ever heard that?" Trump joked during his speech.
Ted Cruz, speaking from the pulpit with the timbre of a religious leader and often invoking the necessity for "faith," said before Trump took the stage that "the elites who dominate our culture tell us that firearms lie at the root of the problem."
"By elites, I refer to some of the most powerful politicians and their allies in the media. The leaders of the largest corporations and some of the most famous celebrities. And those who echo and amplify them," Cruz said.
"Their resources are limitless. Their megaphone is enormous and their voice can be deafening. Many of these same people make their accusations from behind great bulwarks of safety."
Cruz said that, for millions of Americans, the right to own guns "is not theoretical, it's not abstract."
"For a single mom in a dangerous neighborhood, it is a matter of basic security," Cruz said. "Taking guns away from these responsible Americans will not make them safer nor will it make our nation more secure."
Cruz then shifted blame from gun owners to "radical district attorneys" who "refuse to prosecute violent crime" and those who advocate for "defunding the police."
"Rarely has the second amendment been more necessary to secure the rights of our fellow citizens," Cruz said.
Cruz then invoked 9/11 and the Boston Marathon bombing as evidence that tragedy happens whether gun control measures exist or not.
"A speeding automobile in the hands of a madman is deadly, as is an airplane," Cruz said.
He reiterated popular Republican talking points that major cities with large populations like Chicago and Baltimore which have tightened gun control laws "don't have less gun violence" before later in his sermonesque speech advocating for his own failed Grassley-Cruz gun control bill.
"There are no more guns per capita in this nation today than there were 50 or 100 years ago," Cruz noted, though the shrinking number of homes that do own guns own significantly more than they did in the past.
"The press will tell us these horrific crimes occur only in America. That simply isn't true."
Cruz again falsely claimed that crime and sexual assaults have risen in other countries that have banned guns. He said that instead officials should prosecute violent criminals and protect children through "school safety improvement grants."
In his prerecorded speech, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said that America "is grieving with an evil madman that took the innocent lives of school children this past Tuesday."
"This is the time of year that children look forward to the end of the school year and the promise of summer adventures. But 19 innocent children will never come home from that last week of school. Other children who survived are scarred by what they witnessed," Abbott said.
Abbott said that "thousands of laws on the books around the country" limit owning or using firearms but claimed that they "have not stopped madmen from carrying out evil acts on innocent people."
"In Uvalde, the gunman committed a felony under Texas law before he even pulled the trigger," Abbott said. "It's a felony to possess a firearm on school premises but that did not stop him. And what he did on campus is capital murder."
Earlier Friday, Abbott said he was "misled" about the police response to the Uvalde elementary school shooting days after praising the response of law enforcement.
During a news conference, Abbott was asked if he would roll back any of the laws he had signed expanding rights for gun owners.
"Let's be clear about one thing: None of the laws that I signed this past session had any intersection with this crime at all. No law that I signed allowed him to get a gun," Abbott said.
"There was nothing about the laws from this past session that has any relevancy to the crime that happened here."