Trump Criticizes '8-Year Assault' On Gun Rights At National Rifle Association

Apr 28, 2017
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

The nation's powerful gun lobby spent a lot of money in last year's presidential race. And today the winner of that race showed up to thank them for their effort.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: The eight - year assault on your Second Amendment freedoms has come to a crashing end.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

That's President Trump delivering the keynote speech at the National Rifle Association's annual convention in Atlanta today. In a few moments, we'll hear how gun control advocates are focusing their strategy in the Trump era.

SHAPIRO: First, with a friendly president and a Republican controlled-Congress, the NRA is ready to go on offense. NPR's Scott Horsley takes a look.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Donald Trump is the first sitting president since Ronald Reagan to attend an NRA convention. He told the gathering in Atlanta, he's well aware the NRA worked long and hard to put him in the White House.

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TRUMP: You came through for me, and I am going to come through for you.

HORSLEY: The NRA did come through for Trump, spending tens of millions of dollars on advertising in last year's election at a time when many conservative groups were sitting out the presidential race.

Sheila Krumholz directs the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks campaign money. She says the NRA and its affiliates were among the top 10 spenders in last year's race.

SHEILA KRUMHOLZ: They're a powerhouse. The NRA has long been one of the most powerful lobbies in Washington. They have money and members, and they use both to great effect.

HORSLEY: The NRA seemed less concerned about electing Trump last year than defeating Hillary Clinton. Krumholz says the group spent more than $10 million on pro-Trump TV ads. But it spent almost twice that much on commercials targeting Clinton like this one, which shows a woman reaching for a handgun when an intruder breaks into her house.

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UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: She'll call 911. Average response time - 11 minutes. Don't let Hillary leave you protected with nothing but a phone.

HORSLEY: These ads ran heavily in battleground states like Pennsylvania, Ohio and North Carolina. Trump won all three. And at today's convention, Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre of the NRA was ready to celebrate.

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WAYNE LAPIERRE: Our victory in that fight has made possible the fights we continue to face, and face them we will.

HORSLEY: In Washington at least, the NRA no longer has to worry about fending off gun safety proposals like expanded background checks or limits on magazine sizes. Instead, it can push its own affirmative agenda. And topping that list is national reciprocity for concealed carry permits. LaPierre notes the NRA has been pushing for concealed carry for 20 years.

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LAPIERRE: The NRA is the reason today that 15 million Americans legally carry a firearm for personal protection.

HORSLEY: If the group's successful in winning national reciprocity, anyone with a permit to carry a concealed weapon in one state would be allowed to do so in all 50 states, essentially overriding the rules in states with stricter concealed carry laws. Trump has backed the idea. Though, he didn't discuss it in his speech today.

Instead, the president made an appeal to hunters and fishermen, noting his interior secretary has reversed a last-minute Obama rule restricting lead shot and fishing sinkers. Over the last two decades, though, personal protection has eclipsed hunting as the leading rationale for gun ownership. And the NRA has shifted its focus, too. LaPierre today sounded a populist, nationalist tone very much in keeping with Trump's own campaign rhetoric.

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LAPIERRE: It's up to us to speak up against the three most dangerous voices in America - academic elites, political elites and media elites. These are America's greatest domestic threats.

HORSLEY: The NRA leader is putting gun rights dead center in the culture wars. And there's nothing concealed about the political weapons he's carrying. Scott Horsley, NPR News, the White House. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.