Trump to NRA: You Have a Friend in WH 04/29 10:49
ATLANTA (AP) -- For nearly a decade, gun owners felt like they were living
on pins and needles, worried about gun rights being taken away and feeling as
though their way of life was scorned and under attack.
All those fears disappeared the moment Donald Trump was elected president
and, this weekend, National Rifle Association members gathering for the gun
lobby's annual meeting are celebrating and rejoicing.
A year ago, Trump was addressing the NRA as a candidate. Friday offered a
homecoming of sorts as President Trump thanked its members for their support.
They responded with cheers as he rattled off the names of several of his
appointees --- from newly installed Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch to
Attorney General Jeff Sessions --- and boos for his usual foes: Hillary Clinton
and the media.
The first sitting president to address the NRA since 1983, Trump made it
clear in a stump-style speech that he wasn't wavering in his support for gun
rights: "The eight-year assault on your Second Amendment freedoms has come to a
Mike Van Durme, a retired environmental police officer in New York and
co-author of a book on hunter safety, said it's been a relief to have a
president in the White House who is a gun owner and supportive of gun rights.
"It was eight years of being frustrated and sad that the guy who is supposed
to represent us embarrassed me," Van Durme said, describing Barack Obama as
disrespectful of members of law enforcement and the military and too
deferential to foreign leaders. "The guy we just saw here? Like the song says,
'He's proud to be an American.'"
During the campaign, the NRA poured more than $30 million into Trump's
effort. Trump himself has said he has a concealed-carry permit and owns guns
and son Donald Trump Jr. is a well-known hunter and key supporter of efforts to
ease restrictions on the sales of suppressors. During the campaign, Trump
promised to do away with Obama's efforts to strengthen background checks and to
eliminate gun-free zones at schools and military bases.
Trump's address was reminiscent of his election rallies. He told NRA members
he would not back away from defending the right to bear arms.
"You have a true friend and champion in the White House," he said.
Leading up to his taking the stage, the NRA played a video with snippets of
various celebrities and political pundits poo-pooing the chances of Trump being
elected president interspersed with Election Night newscasts as state after
state came in for Trump. The underdog emerging victorious proved popular to
those in the crowd who view Trump as their champion --- most especially when it
comes to gun rights.
Still, his appearance in Atlanta sparked protests from people advocating for
stricter gun control measures.
Lorraine Bascombe, who works in the health care industry and lives in
suburban Atlanta, said she expected any Republican president to favor fewer
regulations on gun purchases. But she worries Trump won't listen to people who
want "sensible, safe" gun control.
Bascombe said Republicans "stalled and prevented" Obama from increasing
restrictions on gun sales, a stalemate she found frustrating.
"The NRA has so much lobbying power and I don't see that changing anytime
soon," she said. "That's my angst."
Protesters were particularly worried about efforts to push for federal
legislation to make any state's concealed-carry permits valid nationwide, which
they fear will effectively turn the weakest gun standards in the nation into
the law of the land. The GOP-led Congress already passed a resolution to block
a rule that would have kept guns out of the hands of certain people with mental
disorders, and Trump quickly signed it.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer said on the plane trip from
Washington that NRA members supported Trump during the election based on his
strong commitment to gun rights. He also cited Trump's appointment of Gorsuch
to the Supreme Court.
"I know the NRA is glad to have a justice in that seat who is such a staunch
defender of the Constitution," he said.
For Ty Smith, who as a college student in north Georgia helped organize
students to vote for Trump, having the president in the same room gave him
chills. "I would do anything for this man," he said.
Smith said he found it inspiring to have a sitting president address the
NRA. "For me, I feel like he's fighting for me," he said.