President Donald Trump on Friday declared that gun owners’ rights are “under siege,” pledging that his administration will work to protect them in an address at the National Rifle Association’s annual convention.
“Thanks to your activism and dedication, you have an administration fighting to protect your Second Amendment, and we will protect your Second Amendment,” Trump told a raucous crowd of NRA members in Dallas, Texas. “Your Second Amendment rights are under siege, but they will never, ever be under siege as long as I’m your president.”
Trump lauded efforts by the organization’s members and leaders to shield gun owners, while again plugging support for some of his most controversial proposals aimed at addressing mass shootings in schools.
“We strongly believe in allowing highly trained teachers to carry concealed weapons, if they're highly trained,” he said. “And we want highly trained security guards.”
The remarks came just over two months after the president expressed a willingness to “fight” the National Rifle Association to curb gun violence in response to the deadly school shooting in Parkland, Florida.
In the aftermath of the attack — which left 17 dead and numerous others injured — the president floated support for a number of measures intended to boost school safety. They included arming teachers, strengthening background checks, raising the age for certain gun purchases, banning the bump stock gun accessory and reopening mental institutions.
Trump, who as a presidential candidate was endorsed by the gun group, even floated challenging the NRA on gun issues. “Don’t worry about the NRA, they’re on our side,” Trump said during a meeting with state officials in February. He added: “But sometimes we’re going to have to be very tough and we’re going to have to fight them.”
His remarks about the NRA prompted skepticism from Democratic lawmakers, who questioned whether he would follow through on his words. And his praise for NRA officials earned sharp rebukes from some student survivors of the Parkland shooting, who have gained prominence as advocates of gun control measures.
Speaking to the crowd of NRA supporters on Friday, the president said he had been advised that addressing the group’s annual convention for the third straight year could draw further scrutiny. But Trump said he was not fazed by the notion.
“‘You know, before I left today a couple of people came up to me, good political people, they said, ‘Going to the NRA convention and speaking today, that will be very controversial, it might not be popular,’” the president recalled onstage. “You know what I said? ‘Bye-bye, gotta get on the plane.’”
Trump added: “Because you have to do the right thing.”