President Donald J. Trump gave a rousing speech at the National Rifle Association (NRA) annual convention on Friday, making him the first president to return since 1983. Not since Ronald Reagan addressed the gun-rights group has a sitting Republican president returned to show his appreciation.
The President took to the stage to cheers of “USA, USA” after Lee Greenwood opened up with “God Bless the U.S.A.” He thanked Wayne LaPierre for his “unflinching” fight for freedom and support during the presidential election.
“It’s truly good to be back in Atlanta and back with my friends at the NRA,” he said. “Only one candidate during the general election came to speak to you and that candidate is now standing before you as the President of the United States.”
“You came through for me, and I am going to come through for you.”
The NRA endorsed the then-presumptive Republican nominee for President last May at an event in Louisville, Kentucky, marking the earliest time the group ever endorsed a candidate in a presidential election.
President Trump pledged at the time to “save our Second Amendment” and appoint judges which would support expansive gun rights. He has since appointed Neil Gorsuch, a textualist conservative who was confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court earlier this month.
The President said he came to “bring good news.”
“The 8 year assault on your Second Amendment freedoms has come to a crashing end,” President Trump said. “You have a true friend and champion in the White House.”
The President also touted his fulfilled promise to appoint a Supreme Court justice who follows the letter of the law, rather than a liberal activist who rewrites it from the bench. Justice Gorsuch is widely trusted among conservatives to protect the right of an individual to bear arms, and even got the best of Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., during an exchange over gun rights at his confirmation hearing.
“For the first time in the modern political era, we have confirmed a Supreme Court justice in the first 100 days,” he said to an applause from the crowd. “The last time that happened was 136 years ago in 1881.”
The President also ran down a list of cabinet names and offered each praise for the job they are doing.
“For the first time in your life you have a real pro-Second Amendment tough on crime attorney general and his name is Jeff Sessions,” President Trump said, adding “it’s about time” the nation’s top cop enforces the law.
He also urged Republicans to get out and vote for Karen Handel, who he said “is totally for the NRA.” Her opponent, he said, will “raise your taxes to the sky, destroy your healthcare, and isn’t even eligible to vote in the district.”
The NRA hosted President Reagan during his third year of his first term, even though every Republican candidate and president has courted the gun-rights group and its millions of members. George H.W. Bush, who was defeated during his bid for a second term, wrote a letter terminating his membership from the group in 1995. His son, President George W. Bush, sent Vice President Dick Cheney to the annual conference.
Not Donald Trump.
“Let me make a simple promise to the freedom loving people,” he said. “As your president I will never, ever infringe on the right of the people to keep and bear arms. Freedom is not a gift from the government. Freedom is a gift from God.”