Trump salutes 2nd Amendment at NRA event

President urges members to vote for Republicans

DALLAS — President Donald Trump on Friday linked the sanctity of the Second Amendment to his party’s prospects in the 2018 midterm elections, telling supporters at the National Rifle Association’s annual convention that “we’ve got to get Republicans elected.”

Trump struck a tough tone months after he briefly strayed from the NRA’s message in the days after the Parkland, Florida, school shooting. He vowed that the Second Amendment will “never ever be under siege as long as I am your president.”

Trump’s speech in Dallas was his fourth consecutive appearance at the NRA’s annual convention. His gun comments were folded into a campaign-style speech, which touched on the Russia probe, the 2016 campaign, illegal immigration and his efforts in North Korea and Iran.

Trump said Democrats want to “outlaw guns” and said if the nation takes that step, it might as well ban all vans and trucks because they are the new weapons for “maniac terrorists.”

The speech came as the issue of gun violence has taken on new urgency after one of the deadliest school shootings in U.S. history. Student survivors of the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, which left 17 people dead, are now leading a massive national gun control movement. They too are looking to the midterm elections for action.

Though Trump embraced the Second Amendment right to bear arms before Friday’s speech, he had temporarily strayed from the strong anti-gun control message in the wake of the school shooting. While the shooting has not led to major changes from the White House or the Republican-led Congress, it did — at least briefly — prompt Trump to declare that he would stand up to the powerful gun lobby. He later backpedaled on that tough talk.

Trump referenced the Parkland shooting in his speech, saying he “mourned for the victims and their families” and saying he has taken steps on school safety. He noted that he signed a recent spending bill that included modest provisions to strengthen the federal background check system for gun purchases and money to improve school safety. He also repeated his support for “letting highly trained teachers carry concealed weapons.”

Asked earlier this week why Trump was attending the convention, given the current political tensions around gun violence, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said safety was a “big priority.” But, she added, “We also support the Second Amendment, and strongly support it, and don’t see there to be a problem with speaking at the National Rifle Association’s meeting.”

Trump said some people had advised him that attending might be controversial, but added: “You know what I said? ‘Bye-bye, gotta get on the plane.'”

Several groups announ-ced plans to protest over the weekend. The protesters will include parents of those killed in Parkland and in other shootings.