Senior Republicans’ claims at NRA rally called into question

Senior Republicans’ claims at NRA rally called into question
Former president Donald Trump speaks during the Leadership Forum at the National Rifle Association Annual Meeting in Houston, Texas (AP)

Senior Republicans including former US president Donald Trump have addressed the National Rifle Association (NRA) annual convention in Texas – the same state which saw 19 children and two adults killed by a teenage gunman at an elementary school this week.

Some of the claims made at the convention by Mr Trump and Texas senator Ted Cruz over gun and crime statistics in the United States were distorted, and some were simply false.

There were claims over a Chicago gun ban that does not exist. Speakers also ignored security upgrades that had been set up at the school in Uvalde where the children were slaughtered, and roundly distorted American gun and crime statistics.

Ted Cruz (AP)

Here is an examination of some of the claims:

– Classroom doors

Mr Trump claimed: “Classroom doors should be hardened to make them lockable from the inside and closed to intruders from the outside.”

As common-sensical as that might sound, such a move could backfire in a horrific way, experts warn.

A lock on the classroom door is one of the most basic and widely recommended school safety measures.

But in Uvalde, it kept victims in, and police out.

Nearly 20 officers stood in a hallway outside of the classroom for more than 45 minutes before agents used a master key to open the classroom’s locked door.

Mr Trump’s proposal does not take into account what would happen if class members were trapped behind a locked door and one of the students was the aggressor in future attacks.

A member of the National Rifle Association plugs his ears with his fingers as he walks past protesters (AP)

– Gun bans

Mr Cruz told delegates in Houston: “Gun bans do not work. Look at Chicago. If they worked, Chicago wouldn’t be the murder hellhole that it has been for far too long.”

In fact, Chicago has not had a ban on handguns for over a decade. In 2014, a US federal judge overturned the city’s ban on gun shops.

Supporters of the NRA, like Mr Cruz, may well be aware of this, given that the organisation sued Chicago over its old handgun ban and argued the case before the US supreme court, which ruled the ban unconstitutional in 2010.

Exhibitors booths at the venue in Houston (AP)

– Gun ownership

Mr Cruz also said: “The rate of gun ownership hasn’t changed.”

This claim is misleading. The percentage of US households with at least one gun in the home has not significantly changed over the past 50 years.

But the number of assault-type rifles, like the one used in the Uvalde school shooting and dozens of other school shootings, has skyrocketed since legislators let a Clinton-era 1994 ban on such weapons expire in 2004.

In the years leading up to and following that ban, an estimated 8.5 million AR-platform rifles were in circulation in the United States. Since the ban was lifted, the rifles – called “modern sporting rifles” by the industry – have surged in popularity.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation estimated there were nearly 20 million in circulation in 2020.

A counter-protester, left in red, is shouted down and has his megaphone taken away by rally attendees for pro-gun control efforts at Discovery Green Park, across the street from the NRA venue (AP)

– School upgrades

Mr Cruz stated: “Had Uvalde gotten a grant to upgrade school security, they might have made changes that would have stopped the shooter and killed him there on the ground, before he hurt any of these innocent kids and teachers.”

This claim overlooks the fact that Uvalde had doubled its school-security budget and spent years upgrading the protections for schoolchildren.

None of that stopped the gunman who killed 19 pupils and two teachers.

Annual district budgets show the school system went from spending $204,000 in 2017 to $435,000 for this year.

The district had developed a safety plan back in 2019 that included staffing the schools with four officers and four counsellors.

People protest outside the venue (AP)

It had installed a fence and had invested in a program that monitors social media for threats, and purchased software to screen school visitors.

The grant that Mr Cruz claims would have been life-saving was from a failed 2013 bill that planned to help schools hire more armed officers and install bulletproof doors.

Uvalde’s school did have an officer but the person was not on the campus at the time the shooter entered the building.

Mr Cruz’s call for bulletproof doors might not have worked in this case, given that police were unable to breach the locked door of the classroom where the shooter murdered children and teachers.

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