Donald Trump, NRA take aim at Hillary Clinton in Louisville

05/20/2016 03:19 PM

LOUISVILLE — Politics took center stage at the National Rifle Association’s annual conference in Louisville on Friday with NRA leaders bashing Hillary Clinton and promoting the candidacy of Donald Trump.

Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, spoke directly to the gun lobby that he has been an NRA member for a long time, and that it was “a fantastic honor” to receive the group’s endorsement.

The New York businessmen said his sons, Eric and Donald, own a lot of guns and are also members of the NRA.

“They have so many rifles and so many guns that sometimes even I get concerned, because that’s a lot,” Trump said of his sons.

Trump bounced around in his comments at the NRA-ILA Leadership Forum at Freedom Hall saying “radical Islamic terrorism” is a world problem.

“Airplanes are getting blown up in the air, it’s just not the same bring it back to a real place where you won’t be so frightened,” Trump said hinting that the EgyptAir flight that crashed at sea with 66 people on-board could be connected to terrorism.

“Defense is number one, without defense we don’t have a country,” Trump said. “Our military is being decapitated. What they’re doing to our military is incredible.”

In his speech, Trump said he would make the “military bigger, better and stronger than ever before and nobody would push us around.”

Fifty-four percent of discretionary spending in 2015, $598.5 billion, was spent on the military — more than all other areas of government put together including: education, healthcare, energy, science, Social Security and transportation.

He also lamented that other countries had stricter gun laws than the U.S., using recent terrorist attacks in Paris to illustrate his point. He suggested that the entire attack, which left 130 dead, could have been avoided if Parisians had firearms handy.

“If you would have had guns on the other side, if I took a couple of these folks in here, especially wearing the red caps, ‘Make America Great Again,’ I promise there wouldn’t have been 130 people killed and hundreds of people lying in the hospital to this day,” Trump said.

“It might not’ve happened because if they knew there were guns in the room, it might not have happened. But if it did, you would’ve had bullets flying in the opposite direction, and believe me, the carnage would not have been the same by any stretch of the imagination.”

In the domestic terrorism attacks of San Bernardino, Calif., in December, Trump also suggested that the victims — 14 dead and dozens injured — should’ve been armed to counter the radicalized attackers.

“If we had guns on the other side, it wouldn’t have been that way,” he said before motioning with his thumb and index finger as if drawing a handgun. “I would’ve, boom. If we had guns on the other side, it wouldn’t have been that way.”

Trump took aim at Clinton, his potential rival, saying that the Democratic candidate would take away firearms and appoint liberal judges. The former reality television star called on Clinton to list the judge’s she would consider naming to the U.S. Supreme Court to replace Antonin Scalia who died in February.

As he jumped points, Trump did turn to pre-written notes, which consisted of lines of attacks against Clinton.

“I actually look very forward to 2the debates,” Trump said of the potential matchup with Clinton, adding that he had never debated before the GOP primary.

“That was a big question mark in my mind,” he continued. “I mean, how will I do in debates? I’m debating people that were on their national debating teams and all of these top debaters, but they never had people interrupting them every other word they’d say. ‘You’re a liar, you’re a liar,’ and they’d try and speak and they can’t speak.”

Trump also told the crowd, which had been screened for firearms before entering the legislative forum, that he would be getting rid of gun free zones if elected president.

Bernie Sanders, who is challenging Clinton in the Democratic primary, was also brought up in the speech by Trump, who said the Vermont Senator should run as an independent.

“Let him run,” Trump said.

Trump has flip-flopped on gun rights, in his book The America We Deserve, published in 2000, the likely nominee said he supported bans on assault weapons and longer waits periods to purchase guns, according to multiple news outlets.

The tone of the event also started with plenty of rhetoric pointed at Clinton.

Chris Cox, executive director and political strategist for the NRA, described the Nov. 8 presidential election as a “do or die fight for our country.”

“Now is the time to unite,” Cox said, adding that if someone’s preferred candidate didn’t make it through the primary it was “time to get over it.”

Casting Clinton as an uber liberal, Cox said if the former Secretary of State is elected she would appoint a radical anti-gun activist to the U.S. Supreme Court. Cox said, that would mean gun stores would go out of business, and gun ranges closed. He said her presidency would end with the right to own guns taken away.

Gov. Matt Bevin hasn’t endorsed Trump in the presidential election, but he said voters must stand against “the tyranny and the hypocrisy and the corruption that comes from career, fake politicians like Hillary Clinton.”

“The world is being suffocated,” he said. “We are being suffocated even in this nation. This is why these elections matter. … How badly do you want a better America?”

Like the speakers before him, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, who faces Democratic Lexington Mayor Jim Gray in the Nov. 8 election, used his speech to bolster his belief in the Second Amendment and other freedoms enjoyed by Americans.

“The right to own a gun is not a historic relic,” he said. “It’s a vital, enduring right of free men and women. Our founders saw gun ownership as the ultimate defense against tyranny. Our founders could not imagine a government that would ban self determination or self defense.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had been scheduled to attend Friday’s NRA convention, but he had other matters to attend after the scheduled speeches were delayed by about an hour, according to U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala.

Political reporter Kevin Wheatley contributed to this report.


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