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    Tuesday, June 18, 2024

    NRA endorses Trump as he vows to protect gun rights

    Former President Donald Trump speaks during the National Rifle Association Convention, Saturday, May 18, 2024, in Dallas. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

    Dallas — Former President Donald Trump urged gun owners to vote in the 2024 election as he addressed thousands of members of the National Rifle Association, which officially endorsed him just before Trump took the stage at their annual meeting in Texas on Saturday.

    “We’ve got to get gun owners to vote," Trump said. “I think you’re a rebellious bunch. But let’s be rebellious and vote this time."

    Trump, in his speech, said the Second Amendment “is very much on the ballot" in November, alleging that, if Democratic President Joe Biden “gets four more years they are coming for your guns, 100% certain. Crooked Joe has a 40-year-record of trying to rip firearms out of the hands of law-abiding citizens.”

    The Biden administration has taken a number of steps to try to combat gun violence, including a new rule that aims to close a loophole that has allowed tens of thousands of guns to be sold every year by unlicensed dealers who do not perform background checks.

    Trump has pledged to continue to defend the Second Amendment, which he claims is “under siege," and has called himself “the best friend gun owners have ever had in the White House” as the United States faces record numbers of deaths due to mass shootings. Last year ended with 42 mass killings and 217 deaths, making it one of the deadliest years on record.

    The presumptive Republican presidential nominee has been criticized by Biden, specifically for remarks that Trump made this year after a school shooting in Iowa. Trump called the incident “very terrible” only to later say that “we have to get over it. We have to move forward.”

    Trump, during his speech, also laced into independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr., calling him “radical left" and “a disaster,” and noting that Kennedy had once called the NRA a ”terror group."

    “Don’t think about it. Don’t waste your vote,” he said. “He calls you a terrorist group, and I call you the backbone of America.” (Kennedy later said in a Fox News interview that he didn’t remember his 2018 tweet. “I don’t consider them a terror group, and I support the Second Amendment," he said.)

    Trump noted he will be speaking next week at the Libertarian Party's convention and said he will urge its members to vote for him.

    “We have to join with them," he said. “We have to get that 3% because we can’t take a chance on Joe Biden winning."

    Earlier Saturday, Trump’s campaign and the Republican National Committee announced the creation of a new “Gun Owners for Trump" coalition that includes gun rights activists and those who work in the firearms industry.

    Biden has made curtailing gun violence a major part of his administration and reelection campaign, creating the White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention overseen by Vice President Kamala Harris. Biden also has urged Congress to ban so-called assault weapons — something Democrats shied from even just a few years ago.

    “Tonight, Donald Trump confirmed that he will do exactly what the NRA tells him to do — even if it means more death, more shootings, and more suffering," said Biden spokesman Ammar Moussa.

    When Trump was president, there were moments when he pledged to strengthen gun laws. After a high school mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people and wounded 17 others, Trump told survivors and family members that he would be “very strong on background checks.” He claimed he would stand up to the NRA but later he backpedaled, saying there was “not much political support.”

    On Saturday, Trump also brought up the criminal cases against him as his hush money trial heads into the final stretch next week and accused Democrats of being behind these cases because he is Biden's opponent.

    “Never forget our enemies want to take away my freedom because I will never let them take away your freedom,” he said.

    Trump criticized Biden's border policies, repeating his pledge that he will order the largest domestic deportation operation. He spoke about abortion and warned Republicans not to be so extreme on abortion to remain electable.

    “In my opinion, Republicans have not been talking about it intelligently. They haven’t been talking about it with knowledge," he said. “Remember, speak from your heart. But you also have to get elected again.”

    Associated Press writer Jill Colvin in New York contributed to this report.

    Former President Donald Trump gestures as he is applauded before speaking at the National Rifle Association Convention, Saturday, May 18, 2024, in Dallas. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
    Former President Donald Trump speaks during the National Rifle Association Convention, Saturday, May 18, 2024, in Dallas. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
    Supporters cheer for former President Donald Trump before he speaks at the National Rifle Association Convention, Saturday, May 18, 2024, in Dallas. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
    Former President Donald Trump stands on stage before speaking during the National Rifle Association Convention, Saturday, May 18, 2024, in Dallas. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

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