In the direct aftermath of the horrific Newtown school shooting in 2012, Donald Trump proudly stood with President Obama, shortly before the president would start his legislative standoff with the National Rifle Association.
“President Obama spoke for me and every American in his remarks in [Newtown,] Connecticut,” Trump tweeted on December 17, 2012, just one day after Obama had declared there was no “excuse for inaction” on gun-violence prevention measures.
Three and a half years later, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee strutted on stage at the NRA’s convention in Kentucky to stand with the NRA, bash Obama and the Democrats, and enthusiastically accept their presidential endorsement.
“I will not let you down,” Trump told the pro-gun crowd on Friday afternoon, thanking them for the “fantastic honor” of their endorsement. The NRA’s chief lobbyist Chris Cox had just introduced the real estate mogul as “the next President of the United States.”
Trump continued to whip the crowd into a frenzy by explaining how Hillary Clinton would “strip away” Americans’ gun rights, and how President Trump would make “getting rid of gun-free zones” a top priority.
Trump’s past squishiness on—if not hostility toward—the NRA’s hardline agenda is well known and well documented. But that hasn’t stopped him from rebranding himself lately as a major champion, if not savior, for the Second Amendment and the excesses that come with it.
“If I run for president, and if I win, the Second Amendment will. Be. Totally. Protected. That I can tell you,” Trump told the annual NRA gathering last year.
It’s not a surprise that Trump would jettison any hint of a moderate position on guns while running for president and seeking the NRA’s coveted endorsement. In a post-Sandy Hook political environment, the NRA has since kicked into high gear to quash anything even slightly resembling real gun reform.
Right around the time Trump had praised Obama for his leadership in the direct aftermath of the Newtown massacre, the NRA was busy telling America that Obama—like a tyrant or a dictator—was coming to take their guns.
The gun lobby also threw every scare tactic and culture-war trope they knew at the wall, hoping most of it would stick.
“I mean we have blood-soaked films out there, like American Psycho, Natural Born Killers—they’re aired like propaganda loops on Splatterdays and every single day,” NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre said in his post-Sandy Hook press conference in December 2012.
Throughout the years, he and his organization have routinely maintained that the proliferation of guns in America is basically all that is standing between you and the terrorists and “rapers.”
“There are terrorists and home invaders and drug cartels and carjackers and knockout gamers and rapers, haters, campus killers, airport killers, shopping mall killers, road-rage killers, and killers who scheme to destroy our country with massive storms of violence against our power grids, or vicious waves of chemicals or disease that could collapse the society that sustains us all,” LaPierre ranted against in 2014.
And now the NRA has their candidate for 2016: a man today insisted that “the Second Amendment is under threat like never before,” and that his Democratic opponent is “the most anti-gun, anti-Second Amendment candidate ever to run for office.”
“The Second Amendment is on the ballot in November,” Trump said as he accepted the NRA’s endorsement on Friday.
“The only way to save our Second Amendment is to vote for a person that you all know named Donald Trump,” he insisted.
—Andrew Desiderio contributed reporting.