Trump accepts NRA endorsement, urges gun owners to turn out to vote

Gun Rights

DALLAS — The National Rifle Association is formally supporting former President Donald Trump, an expected endorsement that came Saturday at the group’s annual convention in Dallas.

The endorsement of his presidential campaign came shortly before Trump took the stage to keynote the NRA’s annual meeting, a speech he used to paint a picture of President Joe Biden as trying to erode gun rights without citing specifics.

“We have to have a Second Amendment that is meaningful. We will have … death and destruction like we have never see before,” Trump told a packed ballroom at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center of the possibility of a Biden re-election win.

Trump used the event to try and boost enthusiasm among a largely friendly audience to turn out to vote for him.

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“Gun owners must vote,” Trump said to the room, filled with politically active gun owners. “We want a landslide.”

On Saturday, hours before he took the stage, Trump’s campaign rolled out the “Gun Owners for Trump” coalition, a group of 50 Olympic athletes and gun industry leaders who are endorsing Trump’s campaign.

Donald Trump, Politicos And Gun Enthusiasts Attend Annual NRA Meeting In Dallas
Donald Trump speaks at the National Rifle Association’s annual meeting in Dallas on Saturday.Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

Trump spent periods of his time talking about gun rights and the fact that if he were elected, he would roll back Biden administration executive orders designed to curtail gun violence. But he spent much of his roughly two-hour speech focused on immigration, crime rates, and baseless conspiracy theories about the 2020 election being stolen.

Everytown for Gun Safety, a prominent gun control advocacy group, took shots at Trump not only for his position on gun safety, but also for another characteristically rambling speech that did not have any real direct focus.

“In between meandering rants about Al Capone, the President of France, and golf handicaps, Donald Trump once again made clear that he is all in on the NRA’s politically toxic agenda of undoing the life saving progress we have made on gun safety under President Biden,” said John Feinblatt, the group’s president. “As his first term showed us, we must believe Trump when he says that he will do nothing to protect our communities from gun violence if re-elected.”

Trump did blast the presidential campaign of Robert F. Kennedy Jr., an independent candidate who is seen as a potential spoiler for both major political parties in a race expected to be decided by razor-thin margins. An NBC News poll released last month found that Kennedy’s candidacy hurt Trump more than Biden.

Trump led Biden by two percentage points in a head-to-head matchup, but when the field was extended to five, including Kennedy, Jill Stein and Cornel West, Biden took a two-point lead, besting Trump 39%-37%.

“For some reason, he … is hurting Biden a little bit more,” Trump said of Kennedy’s independent presidential bid. “But we can’t waste any votes.”

Trump said he would use next week’s invitation to headline the Libertarian Party’s national convention to try and secure the voters that could be seen as leaning Kennedy’s way.

“Largely they have so much of what we have,” Trump said of libertarians holding policy positions similar to those of Republican base voters. “They get 3% every year no matter who is running.”

“We can’t take a chance on Joe Biden winning,” he added.

Trump has largely been confined to a Manhattan courtroom over the past month because of a trial related to allegations he paid $130,000 in hush money to adult film star Stormy Daniels during the 2016 election cycle.

Trump touched on the trial only briefly, acknowledging a gag order imposed by Judge Juan Merchan, something Trump has already violated 10 times, costing him $10,000.

Trump has used weekends and Wednesdays, the trail’s weekly off days, to hold rallies, campaign events and fundraisers.

His part-time campaign, though, has so far been working. He has maintained leads in the key states of Pennsylvania, Arizona, Michigan, Georgia and Nevada, according to a New York Times/Sienna Poll released last week.

“We are leading in every swing state by massive numbers,” Trump said of the New York Times poll, which he referenced by name.

The NRA has also suffered legal setbacks in recent months. The gun rights organization was found liable in a civil corruption trial in February. Former NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre diverted millions of dollars away from the group to fund his luxurious lifestyle and the NRA failed to manage its finances properly, jurors determined.

Once viewed as one of the largest fundraising vehicles for conservative political candidates, the NRA’s reach has waned considerably in recent years, capped off by faltering influence in the political sphere and declining membership rates. Membership fell to 4.2 million from nearly 6 million five years ago, The New York Times reported.

Membership dues dropped by $14 million from 2021 to 2022, according to an audit filed as part of the lawsuit.

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