Saturday 24 March 2018

'You have a true friend and champion in the White House' - Trump tells National Rifle Association

President Donald Trump speaks at the National Rifle Association Leadership Conference, Friday, April 28, 2017, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
President Donald Trump speaks at the National Rifle Association Leadership Conference, Friday, April 28, 2017, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Jonathan Lemire

Donald Trump has reaffirmed his support for gun rights, telling a National Rifle Association (NRA) convention that "the eight-year assault on your Second Amendment freedoms has come to a crashing end".

Mr Trump, the first sitting president to address the group's annual convention in more than 30 years, assured the audience that he would defend their right to bear arms.

"You have a true friend and champion in the White House," he said.

The president's trip to Atlanta also serves as his first foray into a congressional race since taking office.

Mr Trump is expected to attend a private fundraiser for Republican congressional candidate Karen Handel, a local election that has become a national referendum on his presidency.

Mr Trump has been a champion of gun rights and supportive of NRA efforts to loosen restrictions on gun ownership.

During the campaign, he promised to do away with President Barack Obama's efforts to strengthen background checks and to eliminate gun-free zones at schools and military bases.

The last president to address an NRA convention was Ronald Reagan, who spoke to the 1983 gathering, according to the powerful gun rights lobby. Mr Trump's appearance in Atlanta has sparked protests.

The NRA is pushing for federal legislation to make any state's concealed-carry permits valid nationwide.

Opponents say the move would 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 Mr Trump quickly signed it.

Mr Trump, who also attended last year's NRA convention as a candidate, boasts of owning a pair of guns and says his two adult sons are avid hunters.

He stirred controversy during the campaign when he suggested that "Second Amendment people" could stop his opponent Hillary Clinton, which some interpreted to be a call for violence against the Democratic nominee. Mr Trump disputed that charge.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer said on the plane trip from Washington that NRA members supported Mr Trump during the election based on his strong commitment to gun rights. He also cited Mr Trump's appointment of Judge Neil 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.

Kevin Michalowski, executive editor of a magazine published by the United States Concealed Carry Association, said seeing that a president will be addressing the annual meeting "gives the gun industry a feeling of he's on our side".

The political landscape has changed dramatically with a president now in the White House friendly to the gun industry and gun rights.

But Mr Michalowski said it is premature to get complacent with gun sales having tapered off since the election and "there's always a group out there that opposes the Second Amendment and what it stands for".

Press Association

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