Washington, May 5: US President Donald Trump addressed the National Rifle Association (NRA) annual convention where he reassured his commitment to protect gun owners’ Second Amendment rights to keep and bear arms, media reports said.
“Thanks to your activism and dedication, you have an administration fighting to protect your Second Amendment and we will protect your Second Amendment,” CNN quoted Trump as saying to a pumped-up crowd on Friday in a Dallas arena.
“Your Second Amendment rights are under siege, but they will never ever be under siege as long as I am your President.”
His message in front of the adoring crowd was a stark departure from the defiant tone he took toward the NRA in the immediate aftermath of the February 14 shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people, when he embraced tougher gun restrictions and proudly boasted that the powerful gun lobby has “less power over me” than over Republican lawmakers, reports The Washington Post.
On Friday, Trump in a 45-minute speech allied himself with some of the gun group’s biggest priorities.
“The people in this hall have never taken our freedom (for) granted. Never,” Trump said. “And you have never stopped fighting for our beloved Constitution. Incredible people.”
Trump endorsed a top NRA goal to allow trained teachers to carry concealed weapons and to install more armed security guards in schools.
Signs declaring a school a gun-free zone, Trump argued, were essentially invitations to attackers to “come in and take us”.
“They love their students and they’re not going to let anybody hurt their students. But you have to give them a chance,” Trump said.
“In America, we trust the people to be wise and good… That is why in America, we’ve always trusted the people to keep and bear arms.”
This is the fourth year in a row that Trump has addressed the NRA, which has been a powerful ally from the earliest days of his presidential campaign, The Washington Post reported.
But Friday’s speech was his first appearance before NRA members since the Parkland shooting, which created a new wave of momentum for the gun-control movement nationwide led by the students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School themselves.
Trump also denounced European cities with tougher gun laws, invoking the November 2015 massacre in Paris to make a case that “if one employee or just one patron had a gun”, the citywide attack could have been stopped.
Meanwhile, gun owners at the annual meeting said they were relieved to have Trump in the White House, reports CNN.
“Our gun rights are in danger, but I do think that Trump is on our side,” a Texas resident clad in an NRA hat, said.
“I think some of that is reacting to the pressure of the moment. He gets a lot of input from the people around him. And that’s one of the things I like about him — he listens to a lot of ideas. And I think that came into play and things are settling down,” another resident said.
An intensive care unit nurse thinks Trump can play an important role because, she says, the organisation has been unfairly vilified in the wake of mass shootings.
“I’m excited for his support of the Second Amendment, and his staunch support of the NRA, even through all this craziness that’s been going on and the vilification of the NRA that’s been going on,” she said.