Trump will be first pres­i­dent to ad­dress NRA since Rea­gan

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY DAVID SHERFINSKI

Gun rights ac­tivists ral­lied to can­di­date Don­ald Trump in ways un­prece­dented in mod­ern pol­i­tics, and as pres­i­dent Mr. Trump is about to re­pay them with a per­sonal speech this week at the Na­tional Ri­fle As­so­ci­a­tion’s an­nual con­ven­tion.

He be­comes the first sit­ting pres­i­dent to ap­pear since Ron­ald Rea­gan, and Sec­ond Amend­ment ad­vo­cates say they are likely to give him a hero’s wel­come, prais­ing the change in at­ti­tude at the top of the ad­min­is­tra­tion, the Supreme Court pick of Jus­tice Neil M. Gor­such and other moves.

“If I had to grade him based upon ev­ery­thing that’s on his plate that he has to deal with, I’d have to give him an A,” said

Alan Got­tlieb, chair­man of the Cit­i­zens Com­mit­tee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms. “There’s no doubt that he calmed the fears of gun own­ers around the coun­try that the fed­eral govern­ment [will] be used as a tool to take their con­sti­tu­tion­ally pro­tected rights away. I mean, there’s no two ways about that.”

The NRA, in some­what of a sur­prise move, en­dorsed Mr. Trump at its con­ven­tion last year — months be­fore he for­mally ac­cepted the Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion. The group was one of Mr. Trump’s largest out­side back­ers in terms of TV air sup­port and ad­vo­cacy.

It marked a stun­ning turn­around for Mr. Trump, who in 2000 said he sup­ported stricter firearms con­trols, then turned into one of the fiercest op­po­nents of those con­trols as a pres­i­den­tial can­di­date.

“This pres­i­dent ran as the most proSe­cond Amend­ment, pro-in­di­vid­ual free­dom can­di­date in the his­tory of the coun­try, and if you look at how he’s gov­erned over the first 100 days, he’s ar­guably been the most ef­fec­tive and most suc­cess­ful in the first hun­dred days of any pres­i­dency,” Chris Cox, the head of the NRA’s lob­by­ing arm, said in a re­cent appearance on Fox News.

More than 80,000 NRA mem­bers are an­tic­i­pated at this year’s con­ven­tion in At­lanta.

In ad­di­tion to Mr. Trump, In­te­rior Sec­re­tary Ryan Zinke, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, and Mil­wau­kee County Sher­iff David A. Clarke are also slated to ad­dress the NRA In­sti­tute for Leg­isla­tive Ac­tion’s lead­er­ship fo­rum on Friday.

But Mr. Trump is un­doubt­edly the main at­trac­tion, and his appearance at the con­fer­ence sends a solid mes­sage to gun own­ers, said Philip Van Cleave, pres­i­dent of the Vir­ginia Cit­i­zens De­fense League.

“He courted gun own­ers, and some­times you get courted by politi­cians and then once they’re elected you’re” for­got­ten, Mr. Van Cleave said. “The fact that he’s go­ing to the con­ven­tion is just one more in­di­ca­tion that when he’s say­ing something, he means it.”

Gun con­trol groups are just as en­er­gized and are vow­ing to op­pose Mr. Trump at ev­ery turn. They are or­ga­niz­ing a rally in At­lanta for Satur­day, the day af­ter the pres­i­dent’s ex­pected speech.

The groups said they are pre­par­ing to try to stop NRA-led ini­tia­tives such as na­tional rec­i­proc­ity for con­cealed-carry per­mits ob­tained in one state.

“The ex­trem­ist lead­er­ship of the NRA spent $30 mil­lion for a seat at the ta­ble in the White House, and they are do­ing ev­ery­thing they can to get a re­turn on that in­vest­ment,” said Erika Soto Lamb, a spokes­woman for the group Every­town for Gun Safety.

Gun rights back­ers have big hopes for Mr. Trump, though early ef­forts have been mod­est.

The pres­i­dent did sign into law a re­peal of Obama-era reg­u­la­tions that would have re­quired the So­cial Se­cu­rity Ad­min­is­tra­tion to scour its records for peo­ple with men­tal de­fi­cien­cies and who were deemed un­able to han­dle their fi­nances and flag them as po­ten­tial dan­gers who must be blocked by the na­tional back­ground check data­base.

Erich Pratt, ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of Gun Own­ers of Amer­ica, ap­plauded Mr. Zinke’s move to lift an Obama-era ban on us­ing lead am­mu­ni­tion on cer­tain fed­eral lands.

“Pres­i­dent Trump has done more for gun rights in his first 100 days than any pres­i­dent in re­cent mem­ory,” Mr. Pratt said. “Mov­ing for­ward, we hope that what­ever Oba­macare ‘fix’ he pushes, it will pre­vent in­sur­ance companies, doc­tors and the ATF from fur­ther­ing a gun con­trol agenda.”

Gun rights groups spent much of the past eight years try­ing to de­rail at­tempts by Mr. Obama and con­gres­sional Democrats to im­pose fur­ther re­stric­tions on gun pur­chases, to ex­pand back­ground checks to cover per­sonal sales or trades and to limit am­mu­ni­tion mag­a­zine ca­pac­ity.

But Amer­i­cans, fear­ful of harsher re­stric­tions, rushed to stock up, set­ting pur­chase records in what be­came known as the Obama gun boom.

Early ev­i­dence sug­gests that the buy­ing spree has been cur­tailed with Mr. Trump in of­fice.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

As a pres­i­den­tial can­di­date, Don­ald Trump was em­braced by Na­tional Ri­fle As­so­ci­a­tion Ex­ec­u­tive Direc­tor Chris W. Cox (left) and Ex­ec­u­tive Vice Pres­i­dent Wayne LaPierre. Mr. Trump will re­pay their sup­port with a speech at the NRA’s an­nual con­ven­tion.

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