The National Rifle Association officially backed presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump to the amplified applause of convention-goers Friday, during the group’s annual meetings in Louisville, Kentucky.
Trump took the stage shortly after NRA-ILA Executive Director Chris Cox made the announcement when he and Trump called Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton the biggest threat to the Second Amendment. Clinton was a reoccurring theme at the group’s convention last year and this year was no exception through the convention’s first day.
Clinton’s name came up several times before the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action leadership forum began, with references to the 2012 attack of a U.S. embassy in Benghazi, Libya. The incident, which occurred on the 11-year anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and left one U.S. ambassador and three others dead, was the subject of Michael Bay film “13 Hours.”
A trailer for the movie played while NRA supporters filed into the nearly 20,000-capacity Freedom Hall before the event began.
“Hillary Clinton wants to abolish the Second Amendment, just remember that. We’re talking about change here,” Trump said. “We’re not going to let that happen, I can tell you that right now. We’re going to preserve it. We’re going to cherish it. We’re going to take care of it.”
Trump said that if the victims in the Paris terrorist attacks were armed, there would have been less carnage.
“If [the terrorists] knew there were guns in the room, it probably wouldn’t have happened,” Trump said. “But if it did, you would have had bullets going in the opposite direction.”
Trump also mentioned the deadly San Bernardino terrorist shooting, implying that he would have fired back had he been there and the shootings victims should have been armed too.
“If we had guns on the other side, it wouldn’t have been that way. I would have…boom,” Trump said.
Trump also said he’d get rid of gun-free zones and touted his concealed carry permit, which “nobody knows about.”
But during all the Clinton bashing, Trump found some time to prop up her opponent, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.
“He should run as an independent,” Trump said. “The three of us on that debate stage.”
Though the NRA gave Sanders a passing grade of C- on his voting record as it pertains to gun issues, the group also hasn’t come out against him. An NRA spokesperson has told Guns.com the group isn’t against Sanders in his bid for president, but that they’d support anyone but Clinton.
Gun control group Everytown for Gun Safety expressed its dissatisfaction in Trump’s remarks, saying he’s pandering to an extremist organization.
“The irony of someone who says he will repeal the protections that keep guns out of our children’s schools on the first day of his presidency receiving the gun lobby’s endorsement at an event where guns were not allowed will not be lost on the American people, a strong majority of whom support strengthening gun laws,” said Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, an Everytown sub-group.
While Watts was correct about guns not being allowed in Freedom Hall, where Trump and other politicians and public figures spoke, the greater convention center and thus the whole of the NRA convention did not have a ban on guns.
“The NRA leadership and lobbyists and the politicians who kowtow to them don’t speak for us – we represent the vast majority of Americans, including gun owners and NRA members, who support the Second Amendment and know that with that right comes a responsibility to keep guns out of dangerous hands,” Watts said in a statement.
The group is planning a convention protest on Saturday.