TEXAS (WTVD) -- Lieutenant Governor Mark Robinson delivered a speech at the annual NRA convention Friday night in Houston, just days after an 18-year-old gunman shot and killed 19 elementary school students and two teachers at a school in Uvalde, Texas.
Taking the stage after Texas Senator Ted Cruz, Robinson opened his remarks by addressing the recent tragedy.
"My heart is broken for the people of Uvalde. Those parents who lost children, loved ones, all those friends, neighbors who are suffering. I'm reminded of the words of Abraham Lincoln when he said to Miss Bixby how weak and fruitless his words must be to try and comfort her, and it's the same here. I can't imagine the horror, the tragedy, having your child go off the school and seeing them no more alive. It breaks my heart, absolutely. And when I heard about it, I shed tears. When I look at my own grandchildren - my grandchildren are about that age - I can't help but think what if it was one of mine," Robinson said.
During his address, Robinson believed there are steps that can be taken to reduce mass shootings.
"Everybody says what do we do? What do we do? How do we stop this - what do we do? The answer is not simple but there is a simple starting point and here it is: secure our schools," said Robinson.
He pushed back on tighter restrictions or regulations regarding ownership or access to guns.
"The time for blaming law-abiding citizens should have never begun. It's time to put the blame where it goes, which is at the shooter's feet," Robinson said.
Robinson, who has received financial contributions from the NRA during his run for office, also appeared in a commercial for the organization in 2018 after his address at a Greensboro City Council meeting over gun rights went viral.
For Gerald Givens Jr., who serves on the Board of Directors for the advocacy group North Carolinians Against Gun Violence, the recent shootings in Uvalde and Buffalo have been triggering.
"Over my lifetime, I've lost six family members to gun violence. I've lost my grandfather, my uncle, my brother and three cousins," said Givens, who also is the President of the Raleigh-Apex NAACP.
Givens Jr., like Robinson, has a military background, but the two differ on gun policy; Givens Jr. does not believe the AR-15 should be sold.
"No American can go and buy an M-16 because an M-16 is a fully automatic weapon. But an AR-15 is a semi-automatic weapon. And someone who's trained like me, I'm capable of being able to get off 45 rounds a minute with an AR-15. Is that the type of firepower that we want American citizens to have in our society? We see the tragic result," Givens Jr. said.
He also pushed back on the view that other factors, such as mental health or media imagery, played a large role in gun violence.
"We're no different than any other country in the world that has mental health issues. Other kids have played video games. Other kids see movies with violence inside of them. So it's not like we're unique with having that in our culture. What's different compared to everybody else in the world is that we have more than 400 million guns in our society," said Givens Jr..
A 2018 report by Small Arms Survey found the United States had a civilian firearm ownership rate more than double Yemen, which had the second-highest rate in the world; that report estimated the total number of firearms in the US at 393,300,000, while a report from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health listed the amount at between 350 and 400 million.
The North Carolina Democratic Party circulated an open letter signed by 760 parents, a group which included multiple lawmakers, in opposition to Robinson's appearance at the convention. One of the signees was Christy Clark, who served one term in the General Assembly, and is running in NC-98 this year.
"First off, we can close the background check loophole on the sale of all guns in the state. We can pass an extreme risk protection law to allow a judge to temporarily remove guns from folks who are a danger to themselves or others. We can strengthen the laws of our guns in domestic violence in this state to make sure victims of domestic violence also won't be victims of gun violence. Lastly, we can appropriate funds in the state budget to communities that are disproportionately impacted by gun violence to fund violence intervention programs," Clark said.
Robinson is expected to deliver the keynote address at the National Prayer Breakfast at the NRA Convention Sunday morning. ABC11 reached out to his office for an interview, but he was unavailable.
Lt. Gov. Robinson speaks at NRA Convention, as differing opinions emerge following mass shootings
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