The National Rifle Association is preparing its annual convention to include a special appearance by President Donald Trump, the first sitting commander-in-chief to do so since Ronald Reagan in 1983.
The gun group put out a video Monday touting the comparison. On the campaign trail Trump often invoked Reagan, who many Republicans express admiration for, but how they actually compare is up for debate.
During their campaigns, both presidents endured criticism for approaching complex issues with simple solutions, but in entering office faced vastly different political landscapes. While talking points in the gun debate remain intact, attitudes toward policy have changed.
When Reagan addressed NRA members on May 6, 1983, he advocated crowdpleasers like using handguns for self-defense, civilian marksmanship programs and strictly enforcing penalties for criminal behavior. But he also voiced support for prohibiting armor-piercing bullets and then years later supported the Brady background check bill. Today, the NRA vehemently opposes the latter two.
Fast forward 33 years, the gun lobby would endorse Trump, who told NRA members as president he would nominate a pro-gun Supreme Court Justice and then attacked gun-free zones. Except for a couple instances where he advocated “No Fly, No Buy” policy proposals, Trump has maintained the NRA’s platform as his own approach toward policy.
While the NRA would stump against a record like Reagan’s now, other gun rights supporters thought he was still the better candidate even though they admonish his take on certain gun rights issues.
Larry Pratt’s group, Gun Owners of America, is seen as to the right of the NRA, often taking a harder stance on issues and adopting a no compromise approach to dealing with gun control advocates.
“I happily voted for Ronald Reagan twice, but he was very confused about the firearms issue,” Pratt told Guns.com in an email.
“Neither Reagan, nor other supporters of the background check, have been able to point to any diminution in violent crime brought about by this unconstitutional treatment of gun purchases,” Pratt said. “Thankfully we have not yet succumbed to a background check and/or a waiting period for the exercise of the First Amendment.”
Trump is expected to speak at the NRA’s leadership forum Friday afternoon.