WASHINGTON (AFP) – The US National Rifle Association on Friday announced its endorsement of Donald Trump for president, saying it was time to unite behind the Republican or “kiss your guns goodbye” if Hillary Clinton is elected.
“We have to unite and we have to unite right now,” Chris Cox, head of the NRA’s lobbying arm, said at the gun rights group’s annual convention in Louisville, Kentucky.
“So on behalf of the thousands of patriots in this room, the five million NRA members across this country, and the tens of millions who support us, I’m officially announcing the NRA’s endorsement of Donald Trump for president.”
The NRA’s endorsement of a Republican nominee is no surprise.
But the timing is notable because it came months earlier than in the previous two elections, suggesting the nation’s largest gun-rights advocacy group was seeking to help the Republican Party unite conservatives fractured over Trump.
The group’s chief executive Wayne LaPierre declared it was time to prevent Clinton, the Democratic frontrunner, from gaining the White House and appointing a new justice to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court.
“If she gets just one Supreme Court nomination, Hillary’s court will hold that the (US Constitution’s) Second Amendment is the government right, not an individual right, and you can kiss your guns goodbye,” LaPierre said.
Trump addressed the meeting, tossing out line after line of red meat to gun rights supporters.
“We’re getting rid of gun-free zones, OK? I can tell you,” Trump said to loud applause.
While advertising his own support for gun rights – his sons own so many firearms that “even I get a little bit concerned,” he said – Trump sought to paint Clinton as an anti-gun radical who will take away Americans’ constitutional rights.
“The Second Amendment is under a threat like never before,” Trump declared.
“Crooked Hillary Clinton is the most anti-gun, anti-Second-Amendment candidate ever to run for office.
Trump also repeated his assertion that the terror strikes in France last year could have been minimized or even avoided if citizens had been armed.
“Paris is, probably in the world, the toughest place to have a gun,” he said.
“No guns on the other side, folks. If you would have had guns on the other side... I promise there wouldn’t have been 130 people killed and hundreds of people lying in the hospital to this day.”