Trump vows to end the war on guns, but not the only speaker to wow the crowd at NRA

AP Photo/Susan Walsh

Former president Donald Trump was raucously greeted to the NRA’s Annual Meetings in Indianapolis on Friday afternoon, with a standing ovation and loud cheers as he took to the stage at the Indianapolis Convention Center.


Like many of the earlier speakers at the NRA-ILA Leadership Forum, Trump took aim at the Biden administration’s war on guns; contrasting his own record with Joe Biden’s nearly non-stop calls for a ban on “assault weapons”. Trump declared himself to be the most pro-gun, pro-Second Amendment president to occupy the White House, and vowed to continue to champion the right to keep and bear arms if he’s re-elected next year.

Trump’s speech was a little slow to get to Second Amendment-specific content, with him mentioning the FDA earlier than he invoked the ATF, but it wasn’t long before he turned to his record and pledged that if returned to the White House, “no one will lay a finger on your firearms.”

The former president pointed to the nearly 300 federal judges who “interpret the law as written” he was able to appoint and facing down the “vile attacks from the radical left” to confirm three Supreme Court justices, but also noted that he revoked Barack Obama’s signature from UN Arms Trade Treaty and cancelled Obama’s use of social security data to deprive people of their 2A rights, “proudly designated gun and ammunition retailers as critical infrastructure” during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, and petitioned the Supreme Court to overturn NYC’s ban on transporting handguns outside the home; tying that case (which was ultimately mooted when New York changed its law) to the Supreme Court’s decision in Bruen.


Trump announced that he’d repeal the ATF’s administrative order treating stabilizing brace-equipped pistols as short barreled rifles (oddly ad-libbing that “they wanted me to put that in” when that line didn’t get the applause he apparently expected), and declared it was time for a national right to carry reciprocity law.

The former president also vowed that the federal government would be going after criminals instead of responsible gun owners. Trump said that in cities like San Francisco, Portland, and Washington, D.C., shooting suspects have an average of 8, 11, or even 13.9 arrests to their name (in the case of San Francisco), but prosecutors often fail to pursue these criminals to the fullest extent of the law.. though he noted that these same prosecutors are eager to go after him.

Trump did get into the 2024 presidential race, pointing out multiple polls showing him leading “DeSanctimonious” by wide margins. Trump took a mild swipe at Pence, asking if the crowd had given him a warm reception when he appeared earlier in the day (I’d describe it as more tepid than warm) but calling him a “nice” man before touting more poll numbers. The vast majority of Trump’s fire was directed against Joe Biden and the “communist left”, including soft-on-crime prosecutors and anti-gun Democrat mayors.


Trump addressed the recent shootings in Nashville and Louisville, pledging to increase school safety and blaming Democrats for focusing on gun control measures instead of adding more school resource officers. He also endorsed armed school staff, promising to get legislation to his desk that would reimburse teachers and other school staff who go through the training to protect kids on campus; arguing that if we can spend $120-billion on Ukraine we can find 1/10th of that to ensure the safety of our schools.

Trump wasn’t the only 2024 contender on stage or with a presence in Indianapolis, of course. While potential rivals Ron DeSantis, Nikki Haley, Mike Pompeo, and Tim Scott appeared via video, as mentioned former vice president Mike Pence was on hand to receive a mostly polite hometown welcome from the crowd, though there were a few “boos” when he appeared on stage; something Pence wryly acknowledged.

Like Trump, Pence excoriated the ATF and its cozy relationship with the gun control lobby, declaring that when Republicans take back the White House “liberal meddlers” would be kicked out of gun stores and the private lives of gun owners.


Pence also took on the shootings in Nashville and Louisville, declaring that gun control is doomed to fail as a way to stop these types of cowardly attacks and imploring Joe Biden and the gun control lobby to “give up your pipe dreams of gun confiscation in this free society” and focus on things that can actually make a difference; take on violent crime, mental health, and securing the southern border for starters. 

For someone who wasn’t on stage, Gov. Ron DeSantis had a great response from the crowd as well; receiving cheers when his video was introduced. DeSantis proudly touted his record as governor, including signing “constitutional carry” into law earlier this year (something some 2A activists in Florida would take issue with, given that open carry is still prohibited in the state, even with a carry license) and pending legislation that would fine credit card companies that use merchant category codes for purchases at gun stores.

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu was exuberant as he took the stage, appearing to be truly delighted to be at the NRA meeting and celebrating freedom. Sununu, who signed constitutional carry into law and has vetoed every piece of gun control legislation that’s arrived at his desk since he was elected, gave a great speech as well. The governor called out Republicans who “bend to the pressure” when it comes to gun control, and took a jab at Donald Trump specifically by noting without name Trump’s comment about “taking the guns away first” in support of a red-flag law, in contrast to his own “red pen veto” of Extreme Risk Protection Order legislation. Sununu also dinged DeSantis over constitutional carry, noting that while the Florida governor said he would get it done “in four years”, Sununu signed a constitutional carry bill into law “in four weeks.”


Much of Sununu’s speech was dedicated to laying out his own positive vision of a “new generation of leadership”, and his optimistic message and frank talk about needing to appeal to independent voters and undecideds in order to defeat Democrats next year went over extraordinarily well with the crowd. Sununu’s cheers as he left the stage were louder than the applause that greeted him, which is always a good sign, and I encourage you to check out his entire speech online over the weekend.

Even though South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem isn’t being mentioned as a presidential candidate in 2024, she could very well be a pick for vice president, especially after her speech today. Noem eloquently explained why she supports the right to keep and bear arms, weaving in history and current events to make the case that the Second Amendment is more important than ever before.

Noem brought the crowd to their feet when she brought NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre on stage so he could witness her signing an executive order that blocks state agencies from contracting with large banks that discriminate against firearms-related industries; quoting Thomas Jefferson “I prefer dangerous freedom over peaceful slavery” before she put pen to paper.


Noem’s speech should elevate her status as a potential running mate for whoever wins the 2024 nomination, and was one of the real highlights of the Leadership Forum.

I had to step away for a few minutes to do an interview and missed most of Vivek Ramaswamy’s speech, unfortunately, but I did catch his call to abolish both the FBI and the ATF, enshrine constitutional carry, and arm every Taiwanese citizen to stop an invasion from China. Ramasamy’s energy and fire was undeniable and had the crowd applauding, but in the short portion of his speech that I was able to catch, it seemed like he was trying just a little too hard to toss out red meat to his audience; perhaps understandable given that he acknowledged growing up in a household without guns and only recently purchasing one for himself.

Trump was undeniably the star of the show, but Noem, and Sununu really delivered spectacular addresses as well, and Ramaswamy’s speech seemed to connect with the in-person audience, even if what I heard left me a little cold. Fans and supporters of the former president can be cheered by his appearance, while those who are hoping for a fresh face for Republicans in 2024 may have found their new favorite candidate on the NRA’s stage.

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