The Texas Observer

Governor Greg Abbott at NRA Convention: ‘The Problem is Not Guns, It’s Hearts Without God’

Governor Greg Abbott speaks at the National Rifle Association leadership forum in Dallas.

Governor Greg Abbott at NRA Convention: ‘The Problem is Not Guns, It’s Hearts Without God’

At the NRA convention in Dallas Friday, Texas Governor Greg Abbott said religion and the Second Amendment are the best ways to curb gun violence and mass shootings.

“The answer to gun violence is not to take guns away, the answer is to strengthen the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens,” said Abbott during his brief speech to about 5,000 firearm enthusiasts. “The problem is not guns, it’s hearts without God.”

Beyond installing the Lord in godless hearts, the only policy endorsed by the conservative leaders who spoke at the convention was putting more guns in the hands of trained teachers and school guards. Abbott pointed out that Texas lawmakers “already authorized our teachers to be armed in our schools.”

President Donald Trump even found his way to the same talking point. “We want highly trained teachers to carry concealed weapons,” said Trump. “When [attackers] know there are guns inside, they’re not going in.” (The arena itself was a gun-free zone — a safety precaution under U.S. Secret Service orders.)

Trump mocked calls for gun regulation shortly after offering condolences to mass shooting victims in Las Vegas and Sutherland Springs.

“It seems that if we’re going to outlaw guns, like so many people want to do  — Democrats — then we are going to have to outlaw immediately all vans and all trucks, which are now the new forms of death,” Trump said.

But most of the speechmaking had nothing to do with guns. Led by Trump and Mike Pence, NRA officials and Republican leaders offered a cocktail of conservative issues: immigration, a border wall, freedom of speech, abortion and even pornography.

“We have the worst immigration laws in the world,” Trump said, as calls to “build the wall” floated up from the audience. “You’ve all seen the illegal migrants pouring up through Mexico, flooding the border.”

During his characteristically free-form half-hour speech, Trump unloaded on Democrats and progressive activists who’ve called for tightening gun laws in the wake of mass shootings. He touched on everything from the ongoing Russia investigation (“witch hunt”) to Kanye West (whom he thanked for doubling “my African-American poll numbers in one week”) to his victory over Hillary Clinton in 2016. Trump also “fully endorsed” Abbott, Ted Cruz and both Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who is fighting felony fraud charges, and his wife, Angela, who is running for the Texas Senate.

Trump and other speakers went on the offensive against the media, an enemy that Trump and the NRA spoke of in near-violent terms. Pence complained that journalists “refuse to tell the truth” and only present unfair coverage of gun violence and gun owners.

Videos that played for the audience in the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center prior to the speakers included NRA TV celebrities smashing a TV with a sledge hammer and threatening to torch a copy of the New York Times. Another compared journalists to lemons and was followed by an NRA TV personality blending the lemons into lemonade. The only thing that drew more boos from the audience than MS-13 gang members? Journalists. Speakers named news organizations like CNN, ABC, NBC, MSNBC and the New York Times as the biggest violators.

Many of the speakers told the same “good guy with a gun” stories. Every speaker mentioned Stephen Willeford, the Sutherland Springs resident who shot the church attacker last year after the assailant killed more than two dozen people, as a model for how to stop mass shootings.

“He had an AR-15, but so did I,” Willeford said in a video that was played at least twice during the speeches.

No one, though, mentioned that 26 people were killed before the attacker was stopped. Or that there was an armed guard who didn’t engage the shooter at the Parkland, Florida, high school where 17 were killed. Or that a good guy with a gun (a security guard) was killed just before the Las Vegas shooter opened fire on a crowded concert below, and that it then took police 18 more minutes to breach the assailant’s room.

Cruz, who spoke near the end of the lineup, managed what no other speaker up to that point had: He blamed the Sutherland Springs shooting on “the Obama administration’s” failure to report the shooter’s criminal history.

“I bet you didn’t read that in the news,” Cruz said. “These reporters, they’re not in the reporting business, they’re in the propaganda business.”

In fact, it was widely reported that the Air Force admitted to failing to properly report the shooter’s conviction of domestic violence while he was enlisted to federal law enforcement. He purchased the semi-automatic rifle he later used to mow down 26 people at a sporting goods store in San Antonio.

Trump ended his speech on a high note: “We will never give up our freedom. We will live free and die free.”