US President Donald Trump became the first sitting commander-in-chief in more than 30 years to speak to the National Rifle Association, promising the guns-rights activists that he would “never, ever infringe” on the Second Amendment to the Constitution.
“The eight-year assault on your Second Amendment freedoms has come to a crashing end,” Trump said during his speech to the NRA’s leadership forum in Atlanta, Georgia on Friday.
Trump began his speech by praising Karen Handel, the Republican candidate in the June special election runoff for Georgia’s 6th Congressional District. He listed all the problems with her opponent without naming him, but then joked that “other than that he’s doing a tremendous job!”
The president also took a moment to remember the deceased former NRA president and actor Charlton Heston, whom he called a “beloved patriot” and “a great guy” who fought for gun rights “when maybe a lot of people didn’t want to be fighting” during his five terms at the helm of the NRA.
Looking back on the 2016 presidential election, Trump thanked his “friends at the NRA” for all their support, as he was the only general election candidate to address the group. “You came thru for me and I am going to come through for you,” he promised, before waxing poetic about his “exciting” victory. In 2020, though, the NRA should expect to “have plenty of those Democrats coming over, and you’re going to say, ‘No, sir, no thank you. No, ma’am.’ Perhaps ma’am,” he warned.
“It may be Pocahantas, remember that,” Trump said, using his nickname for Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts). “And she is not big for the NRA, that I can tell you.”
The speech came on the eve of Trump’s 100th day in the White House, and he promised the audience that his administration is “doing a really top job already” on a variety of issues, including veterans services and filling the empty seat on the Supreme Court with a conservative justice.
“We’ve also taken action to stand up for America’s sportsmen,” Trump said. “On their very last full day in office, the previous administration issued an 11th hour rule to restrict the use of lead ammunition on certain federal lands… On his first day as secretary of the interior, Ryan Zinke eliminated the previous administration’s ammunition ban.”
Another issue the executive branch has “moved very quickly” on is “to restore something gun owners care about very, very much: It’s called the rule of law.” This means “always” supporting “the incredible men and women of law enforcement,” many of whom are also members of the NRA “because our police know that responsible gun ownership saves lives and that the right of self-defense is essential to public safety,” Trump said.
“Our police and sheriffs also know that when you ban guns, only the criminals will be armed,” he continued. “For too long Washington has gone after law-abiding gun owners while making life easier for criminals, drug dealers, traffickers and gang members.”
Trump promised that it’s “not pleasant anymore, not pleasant at all” for the deadly MS-13 gang, which he called “a bad group.”
“Get ‘em the hell out of here, right? Get ’em out. We are protecting the freedoms of law-abiding Americans, and we are going after the criminal gangs and cartels that prey on our innocent citizens. And we are really going after them,” he vowed.
Trump’s administration, along with other Republican lawmakers like Senators David Perdue of Georgia and Ted Cruz of Texas, understand that “public officials must serve under the Constitution, not above it,” the president said. “We all took an oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, and that means defending the Second Amendment.”
“Freedom is not a gift from government, freedom is a gift from God,” Trump added. “It was this conviction that stirred the heart of a great American patriot… Paul Revere.”
Since the Revolutionary War, Americans have fought for the right to govern themselves, Trump said, promising that was the same guiding principle for both his administration and the NRA.
“In America, we are ruled by our citizens, we are ruled by each and every one of you. But we can’t be complacent. These are dangerous times. These are horrible times for certain obvious reasons, but we’re going to make them great times again,” he said. “Every day, we are up against those who would take away our freedoms, restrict our liberties, and even those who want to abolish the Second Amendment. We must be vigilant, and I know you are all up to the task.”
The NRA spent $30.3 million to support Trump, the majority of the $50.2 million it spent on federal races during the 2016 election, the Center for Responsive Politics reported.