President Donald Trump declared his continuing commitment to gun rights, construction of a border wall and keeping out immigrants sympathetic to Islamist extremists before a gathering of one of the nation’s largest and best-organized conservative groups.
“You came through for me, and I am going to come through for you,” Trump said Friday at the National Rifle Association convention in Atlanta.
Trump’s visit to the group’s 2017 Leadership Forum was the first by a sitting president since Ronald Reagan in 1983. Coming just one day before his 100th day in office on Saturday, his speech both celebrated his electoral victory as a blow to the NRA’s political opponents and showcased his support for the causes that helped galvanize the culturally conservative working-class whites who helped him win office.
While Trump has had trouble winning funding from Congress for construction of the border wall that was a centerpiece of his presidential campaign, he offered assurances the project would be completed.
“We’ll build the wall. Don’t even think about it,” Trump said.
He pledged that opponents of gun restrictions now “have a true friend and champion in the White House.”
The NRA, which endorsed Trump when he spoke at last year’s annual meeting, stood by him during his campaign even as other conservative organizations approached him more cautiously. In all, the group spent $30 million in 2016 on ads supporting him and attacking Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
His first pick for a Supreme Court vacancy, Neil Gorsuch, was praised by the NRA, and is widely expected to follow in the footsteps of his seat’s previous occupant, Antonin Scalia, in ruling against gun-control laws.
Trump’s trip to Atlanta and a handful of actions he’s taken during his first 100 days send clear signals. In February, Trump signed a Congressional Review Act bill reversing an Obama-era regulation that allowed the Social Security Administration to notify the FBI background check system about potential gun buyers who are on receiving disability payments and are considered mentally impaired.
The Trump administration also has reversed a policy adopted under President Barack Obama banning the use of lead ammunition and fishing tackle on federal wildlife refuges and protected wetlands. The Obama administration said the step would prevent plants and animals from being poisoned by lead left on the ground or in water. Gun rights advocates including the NRA and some hunting groups opposed the step because lead is standard in ammunition and lead-free bullets are more expensive.
While in Georgia, Trump also planned to attend a fundraiser for Karen Handel, the Republican running in a special election for the House seat vacated by his health and human services secretary, Tom Price. Handel came in second during the first round of voting, behind Jon Ossoff, a Democrat. At the NRA, Trump mentioned the contest, calling it “an incredible fight” and encouraging Republicans to turn out.
Michael Bloomberg, the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, serves on the advisory board of Everytown for Gun Safety, which advocates for universal background checks and other gun control measures.