ATLANTA (CN) – On the eve of his 100th day in office, President Donald Trump spoke to an enthusiastic crowd of thousands at the National Rifle Association’s annual convention, who stood at attention for his entire speech.
Trump reassured the crowd that his administration would oppose any and all “threats” to the Second Amendment.
“I am here to deliver you good news,” Trump told the NRA supporters. “The 8-year assault on your Second Amendment freedoms has come to a crashing end. You have a true friend and champion in the White House.”
After receiving more than $30 million in campaign support from the NRA during his 2016 bid for the presidency, Trump appeared focused on expressing his gratitude and loyalty to the organization.
“You came through for me, and I am going to come through for you,” he said to raucous applause before vowing to “never, ever infringe” on the Second Amendment.
Prior to Trump’s appearance, NRA-ILA executive director Chris Cox called the president the “most proudly pro-Second Amendment nominee in American history.”
But before his run for office, Trump’s views on gun control were much more tempered. In his 2000 book “The America We Deserve” he wrote, “I generally oppose gun control, but I support the ban on assault weapons and I also support a slightly longer waiting period to purchase a gun.”
During a Republican presidential primary debate in March 2016, Trump reversed his position, stating that he unequivocally opposes the ban on assault weapons. He has since called gun-free zones a “catastrophe” and a “feeding frenzy for sick people.”
Ironically, Friday’s event was at least for a time a gun-free zone: no guns were allowed inside the venue during Trump’s remarks.
After his NRA speech, the president hosted a private fundraiser for Karen Handel, the Republican congressional candidate in Georgia’s Sixth Congressional district. Handel will compete in a runoff against Democratic rival Jon Ossoff in June to fill the seat formerly held by Tom Price, Trump’s new Health and Human Services Secretary.
Trump has described Handel as “incredible” and criticized Ossoff in Friday’s speech, accusing the Democratic candidate of supporting “open borders” and being weak on crime.
Handel, who fundraised poorly in the lead-up to the initial election earlier this month, has fully embraced Trump’s support despite her earlier reticence to align herself with the president. The fundraiser’s ticket started at $2,700, and supporters could shell out $25,000 for a “host sponsorship.”
“She’s totally for the NRA and she’s totally for the Second Amendment. So get out and vote. You know, she’s running against someone who is going to raise your taxes to the sky and destroy your health care,” Trump told the convention crowd.
The president has repeatedly thrown his support behind Handel in an effort to ensure that she triumphs in what was once a sure-win district for Republicans. Ahead of the April election, the president tweeted several times in opposition to Ossoff and recorded a robo-call encouraging Republicans to cast their vote for Handel.
“We know what’s at stake here is bigger than any one person,” Handel said in a recent statement. “In the next two months, we need every single Republican we can get – including the president – to be coalesced and united.”
But while gun lovers rallied inside the convention center to celebrate their right to bear arms, Georgia has recently experienced a sharp uptick in gun violence. In the three days before the NRA convention, at least seven people were shot to death in Georgia and another four were wounded, including a police officer from Banks County.
Protesters took to Atlanta’s streets and parks to oppose the NRA’s pro-gun platform. One of the largest protests, organized by Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and the Everytown Survivor Network, will take place Saturday. Rep. John Lewis, downtown Atlanta’s congressional representative, will join the protest.
Lewis sparred with Trump earlier this year after the congressman publicly stated he would not attend the president’s inauguration. Trump struck back via Twitter, telling Lewis to focus on his congressional district “which is in horrible shape and falling apart.”
In a statement released ahead of the protest, Lewis said, “It seems that some public servants have forgotten their duty to the American people. We serve in Congress to represent their concerns. Ninety percent of Americans say they would like to see some kind of common-sense gun regulation, but there has been no action on the Hill.”
He added, “The easy access to guns has had constant deadly consequences in our society. I stand with the people in their struggle to demand common-sense reforms and to tell the gun lobbyists that human life is more precious than profit.”