Trump to speak at NRA convention as US gun-safety groups sound alarm

Gun Rights

Trump to speak at NRA convention as US gun-safety groups sound alarm

Fears grow that former president will follow through on threat to roll back gun-control regulations if he wins White House

When Donald Trump last addressed members of the National Rifle Association in February, he pitched himself as a paragon of inaction on gun violence, vowing to again march in lockstep with the gun rights group if he is reelected in November.

“During my four years, nothing happened. And there was great pressure on me having to do with guns. We did nothing. We didn’t yield,” Trump said at the NRA’s Great American Outdoor Show then. “When I’m re-elected, every single Biden attack on gun owners and manufacturers will be terminated.”

With the former president set to speak at the NRA’s annual convention on Saturday, gun safety groups are bringing renewed attention to the potential consequences of a Trump victory in November. They fear that, if elected, Trump will follow through on his threat to roll back the firearm regulations enacted by Biden and expand gun rights at the expense of Americans’ safety.

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Emma Brown, executive director of the gun safety group Giffords, said: “The gun lobby, candidly, loves Donald Trump because they know that they can control him …[The NRA] really reflects a gun industry that has profited from mass violence in this country, and that is the industry that Trump is aligned with.”

Trump’s first term provided a preview of his approach to gun violence. The NRA spent $31m helping Trump win the 2016 election, making it the largest outside contributor to his campaign, and the group’s leaders had a direct line to the White House once he assumed office. After a pair of mass shootings in Texas and Ohio in 2019, Trump promised his administration would pursue “very meaningful background checks,” but he quickly walked back that pledge after a phone call with then NRA chief executive Wayne LaPierre.

“When it comes to keeping Americans safe from gun violence, the choice is incredibly clear,” said Nick Suplina, senior vice-president of law and policy of the gun safety group Everytown, which was created after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook in 2012. “And I think voters across the country – and in blue and purple and red places – when they find out that Donald Trump is committed to doing nothing, they’re going to make a choice to vote for President Biden.”

Biden has deployed this message on the campaign trail as well, touting the the signing of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act as evidence of his commitment to gun safety. The passage of that law, which expanded background checks for the youngest firearm buyers and invested in community violence intervention programs, marked the first time in nearly 30 years that the US enacted a new major gun law at the federal level.

Biden has notched some other important wins in his campaign too. In 2022, Biden’s nominee to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Steve Dettelbach, was confirmed by the Senate, making him the agency’s first permanent leader since 2015. The Biden justice department has implemented rules aimed at cracking down on ghost guns and closing the so-called gun-show loophole in the background checks system. In September, the White House announced the creation of a first-of-its-kind federal Office of Gun Violence Prevention.

“President Biden is the strongest gun safety president in American history,” said Brown. “And I think all of that would be at stake if Donald Trump was allowed back.”

Brown predicted Trump would attempt to repeal the BSCA, although he would need the help of Congress to do so, and the former president has vowed to reverse Biden’s executive orders on gun safety within a week of taking office.

Trump has openly expressed his wish to establish a concealed-carry “reciprocity” law, which would require states to recognize concealed carry firearm permits issued by other states. On the issue of school shootings, Trump has emphasized his belief in arming teachers and has promised to fund programs that train educators in handling firearms. Suplina and Brown both predicted that the Office of Gun Violence Prevention would immediately shutter.

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Trump’s vision of gun rights puts him at odds with much of the country, and it could become a vulnerability for him in the general election. According to a Gallup poll conducted in October, only 12% of Americans believe gun laws should be made less strict, while 56% say they should be more strict and 31% say they should be kept as they are.

“Donald Trump is very much out of step with the American public, and perhaps that’s why, when he’s generally campaigning, he doesn’t talk about guns or his big promises to undo the gains of the Biden administration,” Suplina said. “He’ll say that in front of the NRA, and he’ll surely say as much this weekend.

“But the fact is, he knows that the politics are not on his side, especially among critical moderate voters that he will need if he is going to win.”

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