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Trump Addresses The National Rifle Association, Discusses Preventing School Shootings

May 4, 2018
Originally published on May 4, 2018 6:44 pm
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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

After the mass shooting at a Florida high school earlier this year, President Trump indicated he would support stricter gun control measures. He suggested some Republican lawmakers were, quote, "afraid of the NRA." Well, today he addressed tens of thousands of National Rifle Association members at their annual meeting in Dallas, and he struck a very different tone.

NPR's Wade Goodwyn joins us from the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center to talk more about what the president had to say. Hey there, Wade.

WADE GOODWYN, BYLINE: Good afternoon.

CORNISH: So set the stage for us. What was the tone of this event?

GOODWYN: Well, I guess it had a couple of different tones. It was on one hand celebratory and defiant, and on the other it was kind of combative and defensive. There were a lot of attacks on the national media, who were depicted as unrepentant liars determined to rob freedom-loving gun owners of their ability to defend themselves. And there was acknowledgment, I think, that the high school students who have organized and marched and walked out of their schools after the Parkland killings have had some effect. Here's President Trump speaking to the changing political landscape.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Your Second Amendment rights are under siege. But they will never, ever be under siege as long as I'm your president.

(CHEERING)

GOODWYN: You'll remember after the killings at Parkland President Trump suggested that the age at which Americans can buy guns should be raised to 21 from 18, and he vowed to help convince the NRA leadership about this. But there was no mention of anything like that today I think because the president was clued in pretty quickly that there was no appetite for that kind of thing in the Republican-controlled Congress and Senate.

CORNISH: Was there also a feeling of a kind of, like, campaign rally? And I ask because this conversation about midterm elections and Democrats gaining more power in Washington, that is always never far behind when it comes the NRA.

GOODWYN: There was plenty of it - plenty of talk from the lectern from pretty much every speaker that appeared. Of course they know that they're preaching to the choir because the audience in this arena are not the ones they're going to have to worry about. These people are going to vote. Still, the speakers and President Trump exhorted everyone repeatedly to get out there and help turn out the vote for Republicans. And President Trump gave a little explainer.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TRUMP: Think about it. You win. You have this great win. Now you take a breath. You relax. All of a sudden, two years is up. They're fighting like hell, and you're complacent. We cannot get complacent. We have to win the midterms.

(APPLAUSE)

GOODWYN: The president pleaded with everyone to get out and vote and not allow the GOP to lose their majorities on Capitol Hill.

CORNISH: Another interesting moment - I understand President Trump also criticized the gun laws in France. How did that come into play?

GOODWYN: Yes. He referenced an attack in - 2015 terrorist attack which included a bomb blast at a stadium and then coordinated attacks at restaurants and cafes in a suburb north of Paris.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TRUMP: But if one employee or just one patron had a gun, or if one person in this room had been there with a gun aimed at the opposite direction, the terrorists would have fled or been shot. And it would have been a whole different story.

(APPLAUSE)

GOODWYN: And in that same vein, Trump repeated his pitch for teachers to be able to carry guns in schools. He said, whenever schools have signs labeling them as gun-free zones, they're basically welcome signs for mass shooters.

CORNISH: That's NPR's Wade Goodwyn. Wade, thank you.

GOODWYN: It's my pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.