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Noem to speak at NRA convention days after Texas school shooting

Gov. Kristi Noem

A spokesman for Governor Kristi Noem’s office says she plans to give a speech this weekend at the National Rifle Association convention in Houston.

That comes just days after a gunman opened fire at an elementary school where 19 children and two teachers were killed in Uvalde, Texas.

Days before the shooting, in a weekly column distributed to the media, Noem declared South Dakota a Second Amendment sanctuary.

Noem's appearance this weekend at the NRA convention in Houston was scheduled prior to the school shooting. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and former President Donald Trump are also expected to give speeches.

Rep. Colin Allred
Zoom screenshot
Rep. Colin Allred

Some Democrats are criticizing the NRA for continuing with the event.

U.S. Rep. Colin Allred is from Dallas.

“They’re parents, too,” Allred says. “To me, it’s incomprehensible that you can’t put yourself in the shoes of the parents in Uvalde and muster up the courage to skip one speech. That’s how low the bar is, now. How many more innocent kids do these Republicans need to see murdered? How many families need to be left grieving? How many communities torn apart before they finally decide to put American’s lives ahead of the gun lobby?”

House lawmakers previously passed a resolution that would require background checks for private gun transactions.

Representative Dusty Johnson, R-South Dakota, voted against the resolution.

His office has not responded to requests for comment about the vote.

On the U.S. Senate floor, Majority Whip John Thune shared his sorrow about the event.

"Like a lot of Americans I cannot imagine the anguish these children's parents are facing right now as they grieve for sons and daughters whom they will never again drive to school or welcome home at the end of the day," Thune says.

Thune says his prayers are with the entire Uvalde community, teachers, students, family and medical and law enforcement personnel who responded. Representative Dusty Johnson echoes that sentiment.

"I have three boys in school. This is a call you pray you’ll never receive as a parent," Johnson says. "Pray for the Uvalde community.

A spokesperson for Johnson says he believes investment in mental health is "severely lacking in our country." In 2021, Johnson introduced a bipartisan bill with Congresswoman Kim Schrier, D-Washington D.C., called the SUPPORT for Mental Health Act. Th ebill permits states to create a mental health trust fund from unspent COVID relief funds.

Lee Strubinger is SDPB’s Rapid City-based news and political reporter. A former reporter for Fort Lupton Press (CO) and Colorado Public Radio, Lee holds a master’s in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois-Springfield.