DALLAS — President Donald Trump is set to address National Rifle Association members at their 2018 annual meeting Friday, a signal the administration is looking to reassure members their Second Amendment rights are safe in the midst of a national conversation on gun law reform.
“This is a great organization that loves this country,” Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One en route to Dallas. “The NRA is a truly great organization that loves this country. And we have a record crowd.”
This is Trump’s fourth consecutive address to the NRA’s annual meeting, but his first remarks to the group since the tragic Parkland, Florida, high school shooting that left 17 dead and sparked a national student-led push for gun law reform.
“The world is watching and we’re going to come up with a solution,” Trump assured a group of people affected by the nation’s deadliest school shootings during an emotional White House listening session one week after the attack.
In a separate meeting with lawmakers following the shooting, Trump vowed to get tough on guns, potentially expanding background checks, taking guns away from the mentally ill, and raising the minimum age for purchase.
The White House ultimately proposed providing some school personnel with “rigorous” firearms training and backed a bill to improve criminal background checks on gun buyers that has since passed, but backpedaled on the idea of increasing the minimum age to buy certain firearms — a policy Trump had initially said he would support.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders later said “the door isn’t closed” for a White House push for raising the age of gun purchases, but added that Trump’s focus is “pushing through things we know have broad support” in the Republican-controlled Congress.
Meanwhile, NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre doubled down on his efforts to block new gun restrictions in remarks to the Conservative Political Action Conference one week after the shooting, calling for increased school security but telling the conservative activists that voters should be “frightened” of future Democrat election victories, accusing Democrats of exploiting the deaths in an effort to destroy the Second Amendment.
The NRA spent more than $30 million to help elect Trump in the 2016 presidential election, according to the Center of Responsive Politics, and provided a boon of conservative bona fides at a time when Trump’s candidacy was met with skepticism by many who doubted his conservative credentials.