Amid legal battles and political turmoil, Trump and the NRA woo Dallas

Gun Rights

Former President Donald Trump took a break from his legal troubles in New York and traveled to Dallas to speak to the National Rifle Association — which had legal struggles of its own in Manhattan earlier this year.

And he picked up the NRA’s endorsement for his reelection bid for the White House.

Speeches by Trump, Gov. Greg Abbott and others at the NRA’s Leadership Forum Saturday also would have been at home at a political rally.

[Allen mall shooting survivor, activists condemn gun violence ahead of Trump NRA speech]

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President Trump revisited many familiar subjects and made several jabs at President Joe Biden, repeating pejorative nicknames for Biden several times.

He also made a direct appeal to his NRA audience.

Trump told the crowd that the Second Amendment is “under siege.”

“Let there be no doubt, the survival of the Second Amendment is on the ballot,” Trump said. “They’re coming for your guns.”

Gov. Greg Abbott touted pro-gun rights legislation that has been passed on his watch, as well as his opposition to protests on colleges campuses.

“Another thing we don’t tolerate in Texas, that is Joe Biden’s open border policy,” Abbott said.

And he used his time speaking to the NRA convention to promote Trump’s candidacy.

“Let’s be clear about this: Joe Biden deserves to be fired. Under his feckless leadership, we have war in Europe, Israel is under attack, China is emboldened and inflation is destroying the middle class in America,” he said.

Abbott described Donald Trump as “the antidote to Joe Biden.”

The National Rifle Association's annual convention began on Friday in Dallas and continued on Saturday. Former President Donald Trump spoke to attendees Saturday afternoon.

Yfat Yossifor

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KERA News

The National Rifle Association’s annual convention began on Friday in Dallas and continued on Saturday. Former President Donald Trump spoke to attendees Saturday afternoon.

The sixth week of Trump’s criminal hush money trial is expected to start on Monday. Michael Cohen, the former president’s ex-fixer, testified that he negotiated a $130,000 settlement payment with adult film star Stormy Daniels to cover up an alleged affair she had with Trump before the 2016 election.

The New York trial didn’t come up directly — there’s a gag order that prohibits Trump from speaking about several elements of the trial. But he did to allude to his legal troubles.

He claimed, “Al Capone got indicted more than I did.”

The NRA faced a legal battle of its own in New York earlier this year. A Manhattan jury found three NRA executives liable in a civil corruption trial, including Wayne LaPierre, who stepped down as the NRA’s CEO in January.

During the six-week trial, New York state lawyers alleged that LaPierre had spent over $11 million for private flights and approved $135 million in NRA contracts in exchange for yacht access and free trips to the Bahamas, Greece and other vacation hotspots, The Associated Press reported.

Both LaPierre and the NRA denied the allegations. LaPierre has called the case a political witch hunt by the Democratic New York attorney general. The NRA’s legal team said the organization was the victim in the corruption case.

Andrew Arulanadam, the interim vice president of the NRA, alluded to the problems that the organization has grappled with.

“No matter what you’ve heard, we are strong, we are healthy, we are resolute, committed and united as ever,” he said.

But the NRA’s influence has waned. The gun-rights group’s membership has declined, and financial problems have led to popular programs being cut. The NRA tried and failed to declare bankruptcy in 2021.

And the organization is faced with a growing chorus of mass shooting survivors and families of victims calling for gun reforms.

Even Texas, a state known for loose gun laws like permitless carry, has seen some bipartisan support for gun reform. A University of Texas at Austin poll found that 73% of Texans support raising the legal age to purchase any firearm from 18 to 21. The poll found that 90% of Democrats and 63% percent of Republicans surveyed were in favor raising the age. A bill that would’ve raised the legal age to buy semi-automatic rifles in Texas from 18 to 21 failed to pass during the last legislative session after missing a key deadline.

Shannon Flores, a Texas gun owner and a senior coalition manager with the Giffords Law Center, said most gun owners support gun reforms. She said the problem is gun lobbies like the NRA.

“The gun lobby has often claimed that the Second Amendment is absolute and that any gun safety law infringes on that right, and I have to acknowledge that that is blatantly false and misleading,” Flores said.

A crowd of people stand chanting and holding small red flags. A woman on the left holds a sign that reads "Save children, not the NRA."

Toluwani Osibamowo

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KERA

Rallygoers chant at the Dallas City Hall Plaza during an anti-gun violence rally hosted by Moms and Students Demand Action Against Gun Violence May 18, 2024. The rally started as the National Rifle Association’s annual convention welcomed visitors at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center across the street.

Advocates with Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action protested the NRA and gun violence outside city hall on Saturday.
Miriam Sharma, the co-leader of the Moms Demand Action Dallas chapter, told KERA in March that the NRA’s annual event shouldn’t be taking place on city property

“We won’t stand for this, we won’t stand for them coming to our city to market to children,” Sharma said. “We have to know the gun industry, with the NRA acting as a shield, plays a major role in gun violence in America.”

Trump’s speech at the NRA Saturday came on the six-year anniversary of the Santa Fe High School shooting, where a gunman shot and killed 10 people and injured 13 others at a high school outside of Houston. The criminal trial has been on hold as the shooter, Dimitrios Pagourtzis, remains mentally incompetent to stand trial.

The two-year anniversary of another mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, where a teenage gunman shot and killed 19 children and two teachers, is Friday. The one year anniversary of the mass shooting at the Allen Premium Outlets near Dallas, where a gunman with neo-Nazi tattoos shot and killed eight people, was earlier this month.

Attendees listen to speakers including Former President Donald Trump during the National Rifle Association’s Leadership Forum Saturday, May 18, 2024, at the Dallas Convention Center. Trump picked up the NRA's endorsement.

Yfat Yossifor

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KERA

Attendees listen to speakers including Former President Donald Trump during the National Rifle Association’s Leadership Forum Saturday, May 18, 2024, at the Dallas Convention Center. Trump picked up the NRA’s endorsement.

At a memorial for the Allen victims, 20-year-old Isabel Spartz said mass shootings and other forms of gun violence are caused by weak gun laws.

“It’s permitted,” Spartz said. “It’s exacerbated by the gun industry’s deadly practices and inaction of lawmakers, and it doesn’t have to be this way.”

A national advocacy organization that supports gun rights, Women for Gun Rights, made an appearance at the convention Friday. Founder Dianna Muller said NRA conventions are like the largest family reunion of the year.

“It really gives us a time to come together with like-minded folks, see new products,” she said.

Muller said she would be scared to connect with rally members as a pro-gun owner. Those on her side are peaceful but “not harmless,” she said.

“I can guarantee you that if they are scared of being physically assaulted that I would put money on our side that we don’t do that,” she said. “We are the ones that are armed and we avoid confrontation.”

KERA filed an open records request for the 2019 contract the city-owned convention center signed with the NRA for the meeting this year. As of Friday, the city has not released the records of how much the pro-gun rights group is paying the city to use the Kay Bailey Hutchinson Convention Center despite a ruling to do so from the Attorney General’s Office.

The NRA convention continues through Sunday.

Got a tip? Email Caroline Love at clove@kera.org.

Caroline Love is a Report For Americacorps member for KERA News.

KERA News is made possible through the generosity of our members. If you find this reporting valuable, consider making a tax-deductible gifttoday. Thank you.

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