As if there were any question as to which presidential candidate it would back, the National Rifle Association announced Friday afternoon at the group’s annual convention that it’s endorsing Donald Trump. “Now is the time to unite,” said the executive director of the group’s lobbying arm, Chris Cox, shortly before Trump took the mic. “If your preferred candidate dropped out of the race, it’s time to get over it.”
Trump’s allegiance to gun rights has been spotty. He once expressed strong support for an assault-weapons ban and criticized politicians who “walk the NRA line.” Of course, he’s changed his mind since he got into politics, and that’s enough for the NRA. The group, as divisive as any in American politics, was never going to endorse a Democrat like Hillary Clinton, who unambiguously supports gun control. Bernie Sanders, whom Clinton has targeted for voting against background checks and other gun-control measures, is nevertheless strongly opposed by the NRA.
The Kentucky NRA meeting was an opportunity for Trump to “reassure wary conservatives” worried about his record, as NBC put it Friday. In his speech, Trump repeated lines he’s honed over the course of the campaign. He invoked the “good guy with a gun” trope, arguing that an armed citizenry could have stopped the terrorist attacks in San Bernardino, California, and Paris. The latter “might not have happened” if the attackers knew people were armed, Trump said. The “carnage would not have been the same by any stretch of the imagination.” In a bizarre coincidence, just as Trump wrapped up his speech, a shooting was reported outside the White House.