GOP presidential hopefuls flock to NRA convention


(INDIANAPOLIS) — Just days after two mass shootings, former President Donald Trump addressed gun rights activists at the National Rifle Association’s annual meeting in Indianapolis on Friday.

“I was proud to be the most pro-gun, pro-Second Amendment president you’ve ever had in the White House — I think that’s been acknowledged — and with your support, in 2024, I will be your loyal friend and fearless champion once again as the 47th president of the United States,” Trump said Friday.

Trump spoke for nearly an hour and the recent Nashville, Tennessee, and Louisville, Kentucky, shootings only came up towards the very end of his speech.

“It is a scandal and a tragedy that year after year, Democrats in Washington continue to hold commonsense school safety measures hostage to their radical gun control agenda, which, in virtually all cases, would do nothing to prevent attacks by demented and disturbed individuals,” Trump said.

The former president did not blame guns for the tragedies.

“This is not a gun problem,” he added. “This is a mental health problem, this is a social problem, this is a cultural problem, this is a spiritual problem.”

Earlier, former Vice President Mike Pence said he’s tired of “pointless calls for gun control.”

“I’m tired of it. Tired of the excuses, the predictable blame shifting, the pointless calls for gun control against law abiding Americans,” Pence said. “I’m tired of the senseless violence and the loss life that could be prevented if our leaders would support law enforcement, protect our schools, institutionalize the obviously mentally ill and enact legislation to ensure that anyone thinking about these heinous acts of mass shooting knows that they will face justice and face justice swiftly.”

The convention highlights the iron grip the NRA still has on Republican politicians: several 2024 presidential hopefuls and possible contenders are appearing at the gun convention this year, including Asa Hutchinson, Nikki Haley, Tim Scott, Kristi Noem, Chris Sununu, Vivek Ramaswamy, Ron DeSantis, and the former President Donald Trump.

DeSantis, Haley and Scott appeared via taped video message, not in person.

While the two-time former running mates Pence and Trump are at the same gathering for the first time since leaving office, it’s unlikely the two will actually cross paths.

The politicians are courting gun rights activists just days after recent mass shootings at a private religious school in Nashville, Tennessee and a bank in Louisville, Kentucky.

“I came here today before the NRA to say enough is enough. It’s time we took a stand for America and for freedom,” Pence said to the crowd.

Pence spoke for about 20 minutes. There were a few audible boos as he first walked out on the stage in his home state, though one person screamed out, “I love you, Mike!” and he responded, “I love you, too.”

“I promise you with a new Republican Congress and a new Republican President, we will kick these liberal meddlers are out of our gun stores and out of your lives,” Pence said.

“But let me make you a promise. As long as there is breath in my lungs, I will stand with you to ensure that the right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed,” he said.

“We don’t need gun control. We need crime control. We don’t need lectures about the liberties of law-abiding citizens, we need solutions to protect our kids,” he said.

“So, I say to Joe Biden and the gun control extremists: give up your pipe dreams of gun confiscation in this free society. Stop endangering our lives with gun bans and stop trampling on the God given rights of the American every time tragedy happens,” he said.

Pence said a solution could be to install a federal death penalty statute: “I believe the time has come to institute a federal death penalty statute, with accelerated appeal to ensure that those who engage in mass shootings, face execution in months, not years.”

“The answer to mass shootings is not fewer guns,” he said, adding that “institutional mental health care” in the US should be boosted.

He called on the Biden administration to focus on ending violent crime and protect the southern border.

The convention this week is reminiscent of last year’s NRA convention that went on as planned in Houston just days after 19 children and two adults were killed by a gunman roughly 300 miles away in Uvalde, Texas.

At the time, Trump mocked other Republicans for skipping the event.

Pence closed his remarks by calling on the audience to “stand your ground in these troubled times for our nation.”

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