LOUISVILLE — Among wild cheers and a standing ovation, leaders from the nation’s most popular firearms advocacy group threw their considerable political weight behind presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump in a full-throated endorsement for a candidate they said will usher in a “more hopeful future.”
It’s no secret the National Rifle Association is at odds with likely Democrat presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, arguing the former Secretary of State would seek to roll back Supreme Court decisions affirming a personal right to firearms ownership and would work to ban certain arms, like the AR-15 rifle.
Previously Trump has argued for bans on AR-style rifles and firearms purchase waiting periods.
But in his speech to a packed house of NRA members and guests here, Trump outlined several key positions that highlight top issues advocated by the NRA in federal court cases and state-level political fights to restrict gun ownership — issues that go well beyond the controversial claim that the Democrat candidate is trying to “do away with the Second Amendment.”
“She’s the most anti-gun, anti-Second Amendment candidate to ever run for office,” Trump said in his May 20 speech.
Trump told the NRA crowd that he stands firm on the notion that “good guys with guns” help stop gun violence. He described how the death toll in France’s recent terrorist attacks and the mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, would have been reduced if more victims had been carrying guns.
“There were no guns on the other side folks,” Trump said of the recent terrorist attacks in France that killed 130. “If you would have had guns on the other side folks … it might not have happened. If [the terrorists] had known there were guns in the room, it might not have happened. But if it did, you would have had bullets going in the opposite direction.”
In what some analysts see as an attempt to bolster his flagging poll numbers among female voters, Trump agreed with the NRA’s position that the most vulnerable Americans —particularly women — are denied self-protection options as a result of gun control laws.
“Whether it’s a young single mom in Florida or a grandmother in Ohio, Hillary wants them to be defenseless; wants to take away any chance that they have for survival,” Trump said. “If you take that gun away from them it’s going to be a very unfair situation. … And that’s why we’re going to call her ‘heartless Hillary.’ ”
For years the NRA has lobbied against congressionally-mandated “gun free” zones, particularly at public schools and military bases, arguing they are magnates for firearm crime and mass shootings. In his speech, Trump said he’d abolish gun-free zones, though many argue only an act of Congress could change the policy.
“Gun-free zones — we’re getting rid of gun-free zones, okay,” Trump said after retelling the story of five U.S. troops killed in a 2015 shooting in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
A substantial number of attendees at the NRA annual meeting here supported Trump, with many wearing t-shirts and hats to show their presidential pick. Many cited his staunch support of gun rights and personal defense for backing him, while others said they liked his tough talk and business background.
“I like him because he’s honest, up-front and he’s an outsider,” said former Marine John Tiegen who survived the terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, that was later made into the movie 13 Hours. Tiegen, who was wearing a Trump #45 sports jersey during a signing event here, endorsed the candidate in February.