HARRISBURG, Pa. — Former President Donald Trump told thousands of members of the National Rifl e Association that “no one will lay a finger on your firearms” if he returns to the White House, and bragged that during his time as president he “did nothing” to curb guns.
“During my four years nothing happened. And there was great pressure on me having to do with guns. We did nothing. We didn’t yield,” he said Friday evening as he addressed the NRA’s Great American Outdoor Show in Harrisburg.
Casting himself as “the best friend gun owners have ever had in the White House,” Trump pledged to continue to protect gun owners’ rights, even as the country grapples with a crisis of gun violence and mass shootings that have left more than 3,000 dead since 2006.
“Your Second Amendment will always be safe with me as your president,” he said.
Fresh off another dominant win in the Nevada caucuses Thursday night, Trump used the NRA forum to highlight his support of gun rights, a major priority for GOP voters. The issue is also a major motivator for Democrats as well as younger voters who grew up participating in active shooter drills and have witnessed a spate of school shootings in recent years.
Next week will mark the sixth anniversary of one of those shootings, the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida that left 17 dead.
Trump grappled with Parkland and other mass shootings as president, and at times pledged to strengthen gun laws, only to back away from those vows. He later expressed support for modest changes to the federal background check system and for arming teachers.
In December 2018, his administration banned bump stocks, attachments that allow semiautomatic weapons to fire like machine guns that were used during the October 2017 shooting massacre in Las Vegas.
Trump’s appearance Friday in the critical swing state came as the Republican nominating contest turns toward South Carolina. The state’s Feb. 24 primary may prove the last chance for Nikki Haley, Trump’s last remaining rival, to blunt the former president’s march toward the nomination. He and Haley will hold dueling campaign events there this weekend.
Trump hopes that a commanding win in the firstin-the-South race will deliver a devastating blow to Haley, who has yet to win a GOP c o n t e s t . Haley, who was elected South Carolina’s governor twice, is betting that a home state advantage will lift her to a strong performance that could keep her in the race through Super Tuesday on March 5, when more than a dozen states will hold contests awarding a massive swath of the delegates needed to capture the GOP nomination.
“We’re leading everybody,” Trump said late Thursday following his Nevada victory. “Is there any way we can call the election for next Tuesday? That’s all I want.” Trump had no competition in Nevada after Haley chose to skip Thursday’s caucuses to participate in an earlier primary that off ered no delegates. Even without Trump on that ballot, Haley came in a distant second, swamped by GOP voters who picked a “none of these candidates” option.
Trump’s speech to the NRA — his eighth, according to the group — comes as the former political juggernaut has played a diminished role this election cycle amid financial troubles, dwindling membership and infighting.
The group’s longtime CEO, Wayne LaPierre, resigned last month ahead of a trial in New York over allegations that he treated himself to millions of dollars in private jet fl ights, yacht trips, African safaris and other extravagant perks at the powerful gun rights organization’s expense.
The New York attorney general sued LaPierre and three co-defendants in 2020, claiming widespread misspending and self-enrichment. The organization filed for bankruptcy and sought to incorporate in Texas instead of New York, but a judge rejected the move.