Trump Receives NRA Endorsement As He Vows To Protect Gun Rights

DALLAS (AP) — Former President Donald Trump urged gun owners to vote in the 2024 election as he addressed thousands of members of the National Rifle Association, which officially endorsed him just before Trump took the stage at their annual meeting in Texas on Saturday.

“We’ve got to get gun owners to vote,” Trump said a day after campaigning in Minnesota in the midst of his criminal hush money trial. “I think you’re a rebellious bunch. But let’s be rebellious and vote this time.”

Trump, in his speech, said the Second Amendment “is very much on the ballot” in November, alleging that, if Democratic President Joe Biden “gets four more years they are coming for your guns, 100% certain. Crooked Joe has a 40-year-record of trying to rip firearms out of the hands of law-abiding citizens.”

The Biden administration has taken a number of steps to try to combat gun violence, including a new rule that aims to close a loophole that has allowed tens of thousands of guns to be sold every year by unlicensed dealers who do not perform background checks.

Trump has pledged to continue to defend the Second Amendment, which he claims is “under siege,” and has called himself “the best friend gun owners have ever had in the White House” as the United States faces record numbers of deaths due to mass shootings. Last year ended with 42 mass killings and 217 deaths, making it one of the deadliest years on record.

The presumptive Republican presidential nominee has been criticized by Biden, specifically for remarks that Trump made this year after a school shooting in Iowa. Trump called the incident “very terrible” only to later say that “we have to get over it. We have to move forward.”

Speaking Friday in Minnesota, Trump said: “You know, it’s an amazing thing. People that have guns, people that legitimately have guns, they love guns and they use guns for the right purpose, but they tend to vote very little and yet they have to vote for us. There’s nobody else to vote for because the Democrats want to take their guns away and they will take their guns away.”

Trump, during his speech, also laced into independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr., calling him “radical left” and “a disaster,” and noting that Kennedy had once called the NRA a ”terror group.”

“Don’t think about it. Don’t waste your vote,” he said. “He calls you a terrorist group and I call you the backbone of America.” (Kennedy later said in a Fox News interview that he didn’t remember his 2018 tweet. “I don’t consider them a terror group and I support the Second Amendment,” he said.)

Trump noted he will be speaking next week at the Libertarian Party’s convention and said he will urge its members to vote for him.

“We have to join with them,” he said. “We have to get that 3% because we can’t take a chance on Joe Biden winning.”

Earlier Saturday, Trump’s campaign and the Republican National Committee announced the creation of a new “Gun Owners for Trump” coalition that includes gun rights activists and those who work in the firearms industry.

Biden has made curtailing gun violence a major part of his administration and reelection campaign, creating the White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention overseen by Vice President Kamala Harris. Biden also has urged Congress to ban so-called assault weapons — something Democrats shied from even just a few years ago.

Harris said in a statement before Trump’s NRA appearance that “at a time when guns are the number one cause of death for children and teens in America, Donald Trump is catering to the gun lobby and threatening to make the crisis worse if reelected.” She said she and Biden “will continue to take on the gun lobby to keep Americans safe, while Donald Trump will continue to sacrifice our kids’ and communities’ safety to keep these special interests happy.”

When Trump was president, there were moments when he pledged to strengthen gun laws. After a high school mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people and wounded 17 others, Trump told survivors and family members that he would be “very strong on background checks.” He claimed he would stand up to the NRA but later he backpedaled, saying there was “not much political support.”

Prominent gun safety groups that have endorsed Biden were planning to demonstrate near the convention center in Dallas where the gun lobby’s annual forum was being held.

While Trump sees strong support in Texas, Democrats in the state think they have a chance to flip a Senate seat in November with U.S. Rep. Colin Allred leading an underdog campaign to unseat Republican Ted Cruz. No Democrat has won a statewide office in Texas in 30 years, the longest streak of its kind in the country.

Associated Press writer Jill Colvin contributed to this report from New York.

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