Today’s speech, at the NRA’s Leadership Forum in Atlanta, won’t be Trump’s first talk to the gun rights group. He was endorsed by the NRA in May and spoke at their convention at the time.
But his appearance later today marks the first time that a sitting president has addressed the group since Reagan did so in 1983.
The NRA is known for their sizable lobbying operation and by raising money for — and against — candidates. The group made over $52 million in donations to candidates during the 2016 election, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. They spent $30.3 million in support of Trump, the CRP reported.
Trump campaigned on the pledge to support and protect the Second Amendment, which he said during his May NRA appearance, was “under a threat like never before.” He pointed to his then-rival Hillary Clinton as the basis for that threat.
“Hillary Clinton wants to abolish the Second Amendment, not change it; she wants to abolish it,” Trump said at the time, although Clinton had never made such claims.
“The Second Amendment is on the ballot in November. The only way to save our Second Amendment is to vote for a person you know: Donald Trump,” he said.
Trump has noted that his two eldest sons, Donald Jr. and Eric, have been longtime members of the NRA, and during the May speech, he said that “they have so many rifles and so many guns, even I get concerned.”
During the second presidential debate, Trump promised to appoint Supreme Court justices that will “respect the Second Amendment and what it stands for and what it represents,” and said that the list of 20 judges that he released as possible picks all fit that bill. Judge Neil Gorsuch, who he later nominated and has since been appointed to the Supreme Court, was on that list.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that hundreds of protesters and gun control advocates are reportedly gathering near the convention site this morning. Part of the protest will feature a “die-in,” where 93 people will lie down in a local park to represent the number of people who die from gun violence every day, the paper reports.
There will be another protest on Saturday, and Rep. John Lewis of Georgia is scheduled to attend. Lewis and Trump have a turbulent history. Lewis did not attend the inauguration and said he did not see Trump as a “legitimate president.” Trump returned the favor by criticizing the civil rights leader, saying that he was “all talk, talk, talk — no action or results.”