The Uvalde massacre in Texas makes Keith Jehlen "sick", but "you can't blame the gun" used to shoot the 21 victims, according to this pensioner present Friday at the annual convention of the first American arms lobby, the National Rifle Association (NAR).
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"We have always had guns in this country," adds the 68-year-old, a former post office employee, who personally owns more than 50 firearms.
The NRA High Mass is being held in Houston, just a few hours drive from Uvalde Elementary School, where an 18-year-old teenager killed 19 children and two teachers on Tuesday.
Mr Jehlen came to listen to ex-Republican President Donald Trump who listed the names of the victims on stage, before criticizing the “repugnant” Democrats accused of demonizing “peaceful” members of the NRA who possess weapons and respect the laws.
At the mention of the killing, Keith Jehlen grimaces: "It made me nauseous".
But guns aren't the problem, according to the one wearing camouflage-print shorts and a Trump cap. This tragedy could have unfolded differently if the adults at the school had been armed, he argues.
"Killers don't fear the judge, they don't fear the police," assures Keith Jehlen. "They should be afraid of the victims they are attacking."
The NRA convention, which lasts until Sunday, is taking place in a large conference center in front of which protesters have gathered demanding tougher gun laws. Also present, the Democratic candidate for governor of Texas, Beto O'Rourke, who regularly attacks his rivals on their inability to take measures to regulate access to weapons in the country.
"The blood is on your hands", "Weapons = death", claim signs.
Inside are exhibited in the stands of hundreds of firearms -- rendered harmless by the removal of a part called the firing pin -- from the small pistol to the AR-15, semi-automatic rifle used by the Uvalde shooter and in numerous shootings in the United States.
'It's not Australia'
Military and hunting gear sit alongside weapon accessories, such as wide-field scopes and 60-round magazines.
Retired policeman Rick Gammon says any attempt to take Americans' guns away is doomed to failure.
“You will never take their guns away from people. This is not Australia,” notes the 51-year-old, while examining black semi-automatic rifles he could place in his car or house.
After a mass shooting in 1996, Australia banned semi-automatic weapons, with a few exceptions.
The United States, where shootings are a far more recurring scourge but where the right to carry a gun is enshrined in the Constitution, has so far been powerless to better regulate access to firearms.
“I would love to see a systematic background check,” says Rick Gammon, a measure that associations have been calling for for years. "But that won't stop someone determined to commit a crime."
“Better weapons education”
The NRA convention is not just a gathering of gun enthusiasts, but also a place where they can experience "the feel" of the guns they are considering buying.
“I like it,” says Lisy V, 31, to a representative of an arms manufacturer, while weighing a 9 mm pistol.
“You have it in purple too, and it caught my attention,” continues the ex-serviceman in search of a new gun she can hide under her skirt, “because it’s too hot in Texas to wear pants.
Asked about Uvalde, she becomes pensive.
“I personally think there should be better weapons education,” she says.
But since young people can join the army at 18, they should also be able to buy guns, she said.
Jim Maynard, pro-gun activist, who acknowledges the existence of “high uncertainty” in the United States at the moment and the fact that many people are in mourning, however considers that the maintenance of the NRA assembly was a good decision.
"Demonizing a tool does not solve the problem we are facing," he said.
Those who blame guns for the surge in violence in the United States are just riding a hype, and should focus on developing mental health assistance programs, he said.
“The demonstration outside does not help to prevent the next massacre from taking place,” he concludes.