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NRA convention in Houston at the center of gun restriction debate

Cruz, Abbott to attend NRA convention in Houston this weekend
Cruz, Abbott to attend NRA convention in Houston this weekend 02:13

HOUSTON (CBSDFW.COM) - The intense debate over gun restrictions moves to Houston Friday as the NRA's previously scheduled convention is set to begin amid criticism it hasn't been cancelled just days after the deadly mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas. 

Democratic Congressman Marc Veasey is among those calling for the NRA to cancel its conference.

The organization offered its condolences and sympathies to families and victims involved in the shootings that left 19 students and two teachers at Robb Elementary School dead and 17 others injured.

In a statement posted on Twitter the NRA said, "This was the act of a lone, deranged criminal. 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." 

A protest is planned for noon Friday outside the George R. Brown Convention Center in downtown Houston where the convention is being held.

The rally is being hosted by various groups including Moms Demand Action, March for Our Lives, Texas American Federation of Teachers, Houston Federation of Teachers, Black Lives Matter Houston, Indivisible Houston, FIEL Houston, and the Harris County Democratic Party.

Beto O'Rourke, the Democratic candidate for Governor, announced he will attend.

Gun debate gears up ahead of NRA convention in Houston 02:36

Former President Donald Trump is scheduled to address the convention.

So are Texas Senator Ted Cruz and Governor Greg Abbott.

On Thursday, Democratic Congressman Colin Allred criticized Senator Cruz and Governor Abbott for attending the NRA convention to "celebrate gun culture" just days after the shootings. 

Congressman Allred called it a disgrace for elected leaders to attend. "Republicans are again pandering to the gun lobby to do all they can to keep their campaign contributions flowing and to appease the furthest right fringes of their base."

Senator Cruz isn't backing down and told CBS-11's Ken Molestina Wednesday he intends to speak. "I'm going to be there because what Democrats and the press try to do in the wake of every mass shooting is they try to demonize law-abiding gun owners, try to demonize the NRA. I'll tell you what the NRA does. It stands up for your rights, stands up for my rights, and stands up for the rights of every American."    

On Thursday evening, Governor Abbott's Press Secretary said he will provide pre-recorded remarks on video for the NRA convention. 

He'll hold a news conference in Uvalde Friday afternoon after being briefed by state and local officials about resources being provided to the victims' families. 

At the Wednesday news conference, O'Rourke interrupted and confronted Abbott about his gun policies as he briefed Uvalde residents and reporters about the shooting.       

In response, Governor Abbott said, "We need all Texans in this one moment in time, put aside personal agendas, think of somebody other than ourselves, think of the people who are hurt and help those who have been hurt."

On Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, called Governor Abbott a fraud during remarks on the Senate floor. "The MAGA Governor gave some empty platitudes about healing and hope. He asked people to put their agendas aside and think about someone other than themselves. My God. How dare he. What an absolute fraud the Governor of Texas is."

We asked the Governor's office and his campaign if they saw or heard the remarks, but we didn't hear back.

Two days after the mass shooting, Texas Senator John Cornyn was tapped by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, to lead discussions with Senate Democrats on potential gun safety legislation.

Debate over gun restrictions reignites ahead of NRA convention 02:35

Reports from Washington, D.C. say there could be compromises reached on more mental health resources, expanding background checks, and on red-flag laws, in which people who are found by a judge to be too dangerous have their firearms temporarily taken away from them.

In the Senate, the magic number is 60 -- that's how many votes are needed to pass legislation.

The chamber is split 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans.

After returning from his trip to Uvalde Wednesday, Senator Cornyn spoke on the Senate floor Thursday and said he's focused on finding solutions to problems identified in the investigation into the Uvalde shootings.

"I'm eager to see if there were any gaps that might have done something to make this attack less likely, that might have actually prevented this attack from taking place."      

Congressman Allred said Thursday he's hopeful about the discussions in the Senate. "I hope that's legitimate. I also know we've seen in the past at times Republicans have said they're going to try to work on this issue with Democrats, and then they just wait until public attention turns to something else."

Senator Cornyn said he didn't want to make any political statements or talking points.

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