NRA supporters watch as Donald Trump addresses the group's 2024 Annual Meeting
NRA supporters watch as Donald Trump addresses the group's 2024 Annual Meeting / Stephen Gutowski

Trump Announces Mobilization Effort at NRA Conference Because ‘Gun Owners Don’t Vote’

Dallas, Texas — “The gun owners don’t vote. It’s so crazy. I would think that they would vote more than any other group of people and it’s just the opposite. They don’t vote.”

That was former president Donald Trump’s message to the National Rifle Association on Saturday at the Kay Baley Hutchinson Convention Center. As he accepted the gun-rights group’s formal endorsement, he told the crowd about a new get-out-the-vote effort. He said Gun Owners for Trump would be a new part of his campaign dedicated specifically to activating gun voters.

The campaign’s website featured merchandise, a voter registration portal, and a way to sign up for absentee ballots. It also has a list of pro-gun accomplishments from when Trump was in office, though the effort to designate gun businesses as essential during the pandemic is listed twice.

Trump’s comments coupled with his appearance at the NRA, his second speech to the group this year, signals he places a particularly high value on gun voters. The candidate, whose myriad felony indictments have cost him time on the campaign trail as well as the ability to obtain new guns, also seems unsure whether those voters will turn out for him.

That’s despite the NRA’s longtime and unwavering support for Trump, which began before most other major political groups and has extended through points–such as Trump’s bump stock ban–where they’ve differed on policy. The NRA was the top outside spender, dolling out over $50 million, in the 2016 bid that carried Trump to a surprise White House victory.

However, the group has fallen on hard times since former CEO Wayne LaPierre was accused of diverting millions of dollars of the group’s funds toward lavish personal expenses. He resigned earlier this year, shortly before a New York civil jury found him liable for $5.5 million in diverted funds. The scandal has roiled the NRA and left it in turmoil for almost half a decade, with another battle for control of the organization happening behind the scenes as Trump spoke.

All of that has caused members to flee the NRA, taking the revenue from their dues with them. That’s resulted in the NRA falling behind its rivals in political fundraising and being unable to muster for Trump’s latest re-election bid even half of what it did for his first campaign.

Still, Trump appears to value the group as much as ever. His Saturday speech was similar to the one he gave to the NRA in February. While he went off onto long, familiar tangents about all sorts of issues political and personal, he also promised to undo all of President Joe Biden’s gun-control efforts–including firing ATF Director Steven Dettlebach on day one. He also issued a series of platitudes on how he would protect gun owners.

“With me in the White House, the radical gun grabbers will run straight into a very powerful brick wall,” he said.

Trump has lost some ground to Biden in the months since his last NRA speech. While the race has remained within the margin of error in most polling, Biden has improved slightly since February. He now sits within one point of Trump in the Real Clear Politics average of polls and is tied in The Hill’s average.

Trump doubled down on the distinctions between him and Biden on gun policy, though.

“Let there be no doubt the survival of our Second Amendment is very much on the ballot,” he said. “You know what they want to do? If they get in, our country is going to be destroyed in so many ways, but the Second Amendment will be under siege. And but with me, they never get anywhere.”

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Created by potrace 1.16, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2019

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Created by potrace 1.16, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2019

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