Accepting N.R.A. Endorsement, Trump Pledges to Be Gun Owners’ Ardent Ally

Accepting N.R.A. Endorsement, Trump Pledges to Be Gun Owners’ Ardent Ally

Former President Donald J. Trump, accepting the endorsement of the National Rifle Association on Saturday, cast himself as a powerful ally for gun owners and gun businesses, contending that under President Biden the right to bear arms was “under siege.”

“If the Biden regime gets four more years, they are coming for your guns,” Mr. Trump said in Dallas, where he headlined the N.R.A.’s annual meeting.

Mr. Trump addressed the group as he is on trial in Manhattan on criminal charges that he falsified business records related to a hush-money payment to a porn star. Onstage in Dallas, he contended that he knew “better than anybody” what it was like to have rights taken away.

“In my second term, we will roll back every Biden attack on the Second Amendment,” he said to loud applause.

The annual gun rights gathering appeared far more muted than the last time Mr. Trump attended it, in 2022, in Houston, just days after the mass shooting of 19 children and two adults at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. Greg Abbott, the state’s governor, and John Cornyn, its senior senator, did not attend that year’s convention, citing other commitments. Several marquee musical performers pulled their participation out of respect, they said, for the victims and their families.

The N.R.A., the nation’s most prominent gun rights group and once a potent political force, has found itself in a hobbled state. In recent years, it has shed members and been besieged by setbacks, defections and internal strife. In February, a Manhattan jury ruled that its leaders had engaged in a yearslong pattern of financial misconduct and corruption.

On Saturday, speakers pushed back against suggestions that the group was in decline. “No matter what you’ve heard, we are strong,” said Andrew Arulanandam, the group’s interim chief executive.

Mr. Abbott, who provoked outrage from Texas Democrats after he pardoned on Thursday a man convicted of fatally shooting a protester in a Black Lives Matter demonstration in 2020, drew a standing ovation when he took the stage. He largely used his remarks to blast President Biden’s policies, which he argued had led to “open borders, gun control, riots on our college campuses and the gutting of our constitutional rights.”

“Donald Trump is the antidote to Joe Biden,” Mr. Abbott said, urging N.R.A. members to help the former president’s election efforts. “No president has fought harder to protect your Second Amendment rights.”

Outside Dallas City Hall, dozens of people had rallied earlier in the day to call for stricter gun laws. Gun safety groups hung up T-shirts with the names of people killed by gun violence in Dallas County. Participants pointed to polls that showed a majority of the public supported many of the safety measures they were asking for, including enhanced background safety checks.

“They don’t care that you’re scared to go to church, that you might get shot,” Ana-Maria Ramos, a Texas state representative, told those gathered, denouncing state and federal lawmakers blocking stronger gun safety laws.

Sitting in a lawn chair at City Hall Plaza, Jill Brown, 66, a retired school nurse, said she was worried about the long-term psychological impact of mass shootings and active shooter drills on students.

According to The Associated Press, 217 people died in 42 mass shootings in the United States last year, one of the deadliest years on record. On May 6, 2023, a gunman killed eight people at the Allen Premium Outlets, north of Dallas.

On Saturday, the Trump campaign named a white couple from St. Louis who pleaded guilty after pointing guns at Black protesters as they marched past their home in 2020 — and later received a pardon from Missouri’s Republican governor — to a Gun Owners for Trump coalition.

At the N.R.A.’s meeting, Mr. Trump, whose campaign fund-raising has lagged in Texas, urged gun owners to head to the polls to help deliver him the election. He also warned not to waste their time on Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the independent presidential candidate, whom he called “radical left,” adding, “Don’t think about it. Don’t waste your vote.”

Mr. Trump also pledged to reverse Biden administration policies, including measures to regulate firearms.

“It’s a disgrace what’s going on, but with me in the White House, the radical gun-grabbers will run straight into a very, very powerful brick wall,” he said.

Mr. Trump, who has called himself “the best friend gun owners have ever had in the White House,” has an uneven history on the issue.

Addressing thousands of N.R.A. members at a February outdoor show in Pennsylvania, he pledged that “no one will lay a finger on your firearms” if he returned to the White House. He also claimed that he “did nothing” to curb guns during his time in office.

But as president, Mr. Trump at times pledged support for stronger gun laws, and his administration rolled out one of the most significant measures to curb gun violence in recent decades — a rule banning bump stocks, the attachments that enable semiautomatic rifles to fire in sustained, rapid bursts. The lawfulness of the ban, which came after a mass shooting left 60 people dead at a Las Vegas music festival in 2017, is now being decided by the Supreme Court. The Biden administration has asked the justices to uphold it.

In the wake of another mass shooting in Parkland, Fla., in 2018, which left 17 people dead, Mr. Trump claimed that he would be “very strong on background checks,” but he eventually reversed course.

In a statement on Mr. Trump’s remarks at the N.R.A. convention, Vice President Kamala Harris, who is leading the first-ever federal office on gun violence prevention, promoted the Biden administration’s achievements on gun safety legislation. She pointed to the signing of major legislation limiting access to firearms and increased investments in the nation’s mental health system, measures that ended nearly 30 years of stalemate in Congress over how to address gun violence.

She also criticized Mr. Trump for saying, “We have to get over it” after a shooting in Iowa this year that killed a sixth grader. Mr. Trump “is catering to the gun lobby and threatening to make the crisis worse if re-elected,” Ms. Harris said.

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