America’s leading gun lobby, the National Rifle Association (NRA), has endorsed presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump, who had once backed expanded control on guns.
“Hillary wants to disarm vulnerable Americans in high-crime neighbourhoods,” Trump said on Friday at the annual convention of the NRA, attacking the Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton.
“Whether it’s a young single mom in Florida or a grandmother in Ohio, Hillary wants them to be defenceless, wants to take away any chance they have of survival... And that’s why we’re going to call her ‘Heartless Hillary.’ ”
Clinton has made gun control a significant campaign promise, using it to relentlessly attack her Democratic rival Bernie Sanders on his somewhat ambivalent position on the issue.
Clinton shot back at Trump’s attack in a tweet: “You’re wrong, @realDonaldTrump. We can uphold Second Amendment rights while preventing senseless gun violence”.
She did not mention, however, that Trump had a patchy record on gun control issues. As the Washington Post pointed out, he had supported a ban on assault rifles in 2000.
After the Newtown school massacre in 2012, in which 20 children were killed, he had tweeted: “President Obama spoke for me and every American in his remarks in #Newtown,” referring to Obama’s call for policy changes on guns to prevent such shootings. But much to his later frustration with the NRA prevented him from carrying out even the slightest of changes.
On Friday, Trump said the right to bear arms was the “the most basic human right,” and he promised to end gun-free zones, arguing they are a standing invitation to “sickos”.
Trump has argued — as did other gun lobbyists — that mass shootings, and even terrorists attacks, can either be foiled by people carrying guns or minimize the damage.
And he threw in a personal touch as well to steal the show: “My sons have been members of the NRA for many, many years, and they’re incredible — they have so many rifles and so many guns, sometimes even I get a little bit concerned. I say: ‘That’s a lot’”.