Donald Trump won’t turn his back on the National Rifle Association—he gets too much joy out of its members.
Despite speculation earlier in his presidency that he could inch his party away from the clutches of the NRA, the president showed on Friday that he is more aligned with the organization than ever, capping off a slow-by-the-standards-of-2019 week by addressing the group’s national convention in Indianapolis.
Just before noon, Trump entered stage left to thunderous applause and Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the U.S.A.” He seemed in high spirits—grinning, clapping, pointing to fans in the 10,000-person crowd.
He appeared, in other words, at his happiest.
“I’m a champion for the Second Amendment and so are you,” Trump said. “It’s not going anywhere. It’s under assault. It’s under assault, but not when we’re here. Not even close.”
There was a brief time when many believed that Trump might, just might, take a different tack from Republican presidents past on the issue of guns. In February 2018, following the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in which 17 were murdered, Trump convened a bipartisan group of lawmakers at the White House to discuss solutions to the gun-violence epidemic. “We have to do something about it. We have to act,” he opened the meeting. “We can’t wait and play games and nothing gets done.” In the days after Parkland, the president advocated for strengthening background checks and banning bump stocks (which were finally outlawed at the federal level late last month). He proposed raising the minimum age to purchase semiautomatic weapons from 18 to 21. And when one GOP senator seemed skeptical, Trump accused him of being “afraid of the NRA.”