NRA Girds for Trump, a Gun Rights Champion Who's Repeatedly Flirted With More Firearms Restrictions

The “Second Amendment people” helped deliver the White House to Donald Trump. He’ll return to the NRA’s embrace Friday as a popular, if occasionally unreliable, ally after a rift stemming from the Florida school rampage three months ago and his short dalliance with expanded background checks and gun confiscation.The group's annual convention in Dallas will be the fourth straight to see Trump profess his love for the right to bear arms, and for the voters motivated to protect that right.“I love the Second Amendment,” he declared at the National Rifle Association's 2015 convention in Nashville, weeks before launching his presidential bid. A year ago, he became the first president to address the NRA’s annual gathering since Ronald Reagan in 1983. “You came through for me and I am going to come through for you,” he vowed in Atlanta. “The eight-year assault on your Second Amendment freedoms has come to a crashing end.”But his support for the gun lobby’s agenda has been inconsistent over the years. He had set aside his enthusiasm for restrictions by the time the NRA endorsed him two years ago, but it has flared repeatedly as mass shootings punctuated his tenure in the White House. Trump’s New York sensibilities have surfaced at odd moments even as he’s courted the pro-gun crowd — as at the NRA convention in Louisville, Ky., two years ago, when he boasted of his sons Donald Jr. and Eric’s fondness for hunting.“They have so many rifles and so many guns, sometimes even I get a little bit concerned," he declared, drawing some uncomfortable titters. "I say: 'That's a lot.'"In Dallas, NRA members are expected to gloss over his mixed record, welcoming Trump as a gun rights champion who has stocked the federal courts with ardent defenders of the Second Amendment.Darren Luck, 42, a Fort Myers, Fla., gun owner attending his first NRA convention, was admiring a case full of rifles that will be raffled off during the convention. He grumbled about the extra security the presidential visit entails but said, "I'm glad he's here."He doesn't see Trump as an overly assertive champion of the Second Amendment. "He doesn't want to mess with it. He's not fighting against it," Luck said, and that's good enough. Joining the NRA, he said, "makes it very clear where he stands. ... By showing up to this, he's going to get so many votes."In his 2000 book, The America We Deserve, Trump expressed support for an assault weapons ban and waiting periods for gun purchases, though he later distanced himself from a ban, saying it would only keep weapons from law-abiding citizens who need them to protect themselves and others from future massacres. He also called out Republicans who “walk the NRA line” and resist “even limited restrictions.”After the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School rampage in Newtown, Conn., he lauded President Barack Obama’s call to tighten gun laws. "President Obama spoke for me and every American in his remarks in #Newtown Connecticut," Trump tweeted.Trump's varying stancesAs a Republican candidate for president, he called gun-free zones an invitation to “sickos” and a “catastrophe.” His platform called it “common sense” to let millions of Americans have concealed carry permits, and it called bans on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines a “total failure.”But in the wake of a July 2016 nightclub massacre in Orlando, Fla., that left 49 people dead, Trump renewed calls for restricting gun sales, pushing the idea of barring sales to anyone on federal terror watch lists. The Orlando shooter, Omar Mateen, had been removed from such a list in 2014. The NRA denounced the “no fly, no buy” approach as ineffective and potentially unconstitutional on grounds that it probably would affect people who had never been convicted of any crime.Trump’s willingness to broach the topic and to flirt with gun control measures irked the NRA and set him apart from traditional Republicans. But once he cleared the GOP field, top NRA leaders prodded members to fall in line.Vice President Mike Pence is also scheduled to address the NRA in Dallas, a signal of the administration’s eagerness to keep gun rights supporters enthused heading into midterm elections in which the GOP majorities in Congress are at risk.At the NRA’s convention in Louisville in May 2016, Trump collected the organization’s endorsement and warned that “Heartless Hillary” Clinton would “abolish” the Second Amendment if elected. Trump wasn’t the top pick for many in the NRA, but their aversion to Clinton primed them for wholehearted support."The only way to save our Second Amendment is to vote for a person that you all know named Donald Trump,” he declared. "I will never let you down. I will protect our Second Amendment."  Continue reading...

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