Donald Trump told National Rifle Association members on Friday that “no one will lay a finger on your firearms” if he wins the presidency, vowing to roll back Biden-era gun restrictions.
“Every single Biden attack on gun owners and manufacturers will be terminated on my very first week back in office, perhaps my first day,” Trump said at the NRA’s Presidential Forum in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
The former president specifically said he would roll back the Biden administration’s ‘Zero-Tolerance’ policy that revokes federal licenses from firearm dealers that violate gun laws. And he said he would undo regulations on pistol braces, or stabilization devices that have also been used in gun massacres.
Trump also responded to Special Counsel Robert Hur’s report on President Joe Biden’s handling of classified documents. Trump said that if Biden is not going to be charged, then he should not be, either.
“This is nothing more than selective persecution of Biden’s political opponent, me,” Trump said, before saying he doesn’t blame Biden “because I don’t think he knows he’s alive.”
Trump claimed he cooperated with federal investigators “far more than Biden did,” though Hur’s report drew the opposite contrast, saying Trump allegedly refused to return classified documents for months and directed other people “to destroy evidence and then to lie about it.”
Trump’s remarks came a day after the special counsel investigating Biden’s handling of classified documents concluded no criminal charges are warranted in part because a jury would perceive him as a “well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory.”
Trump first addressed the gun rights group in 2015, and over the course of his presidency and throughout his presidential campaign the former president and the NRA have maintained strong ties. But while the NRA remains the top gun group in the country, it has also recently been mired by infighting, controversies and financial strains.
The NRA and its executive leaders are currently being sued by New York Attorney General Tish James on widespread civil corruption charges. And last month Wayne LaPierre, the longtime leader of the powerful gun rights group, stepped down in the wake of accusations that he mishandled millions to fund his own lavish lifestyle. LaPierre has denied those allegations and left the role, according to the president of the NRA, due to health problems.
While in the White House, Trump supported loosening gun restrictions for hunting and fishing on public lands. He declared gun stores, shooting ranges and weapons manufacturers “essential services” during the pandemic. And he appointed more than 200 federal judges with conservative records on Second Amendment rights.
But Trump and the NRA were at times at odds. Trump encouraged states to pass Extreme Risk Protection Orders, or Red Flag laws, which allow people to seek a court order to prevent a potentially dangerous person from purchasing or having a gun. And the Trump administration banned bump stocks, a firearm attachment that enables semi-automatic weapons to function like machine guns. The devices have been used in some of the worst mass shootings.
In a statement released ahead of Trump’s speech, John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety said, “With Trump recently telling Americans to ‘get over’ school shootings, we know what a second term would be like: The NRA would once again treat the White House like its clubhouse, and the bipartisan, life-saving progress we’ve made on gun safety will be in grave danger.”
Trump spent much of his speech making a pitch to voters beyond the arena in Pennsylvania and focused on issues like crime and illegal immigration at the Southern border.
In two weeks, Trump will compete against Nikki Haley in the South Carolina primary. On Thursday night, Trump locked up the Republican delegates from the state of Nevada when he won the caucus. Haley chose to participate in the Nevada primary instead, which does not allot delegates as part of the presidential nominating process.
“We’re going to win the South Carolina primary,” Trump predicted. “We only have a 42 point lead.”
According to a Washington Post-Monmouth University poll released earlier this month, Trump holds a 26-point lead in South Carolina over Haley.