Being Trump, he tried to make that sound like a virtue.
Speaking at a National Rifle Association gun show in Pennsylvania’s capital city Friday, Trump bragged about his record of inaction.
“During my four years nothing happened,” Trump said. “And there was great pressure on me, having to do with guns. We did nothing. We didn’t yield.”
That’s Trump telling the truth for a change.
Here’s what did happen. From Jan. 20, 2017, to Jan. 19, 2021 – Trump’s time as president – the country saw 1,714 mass shootings in which four or more people were killed or wounded, with 1,679 deaths and 7,355 injuries, Everytown for Gun Safety, a nonprofit that advocates for solutions to stop gun violence, told me.
Trump didn’t mention that in his NRA speech. He also skipped the context, of course, of the moment six years ago when he suggested making changes to gun laws that the NRA didn’t want while accusing other Republicans of being too afraid to do it before eventually backing down.
Trump and NRA profit off our divided country
Trump can’t stand up to the NRA because they’re too alike. They sell the same product – division. They turn your fear into their money.
Trump uses that money to seek power and avoid responsibility, funneling campaign contributions to lawyers in his criminal and civil cases.
Does Trump prefer impeachment or courts? Former president thought the courts were safe bet against election denial charges. Now? Not so much.
The NRA uses that money to live large – private jets, luxury vacations, bespoke wardrobes – all while masquerading as a defender of good-old plain-spoken American folk.
Its leaders have long since made up from the momentary disagreement during Trump’s one term as president.
To be clear: The NRA doesn’t serve the crowd assembled Friday at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex to hear Trump. It is a lobbying arm of this country’s gun manufacturers.
The NRA doesn’t just want you to buy a gun. It wants you to buy as many guns as you can. And just like with Trump, division is its best marketing tactic.
The NRA’s constant clamor is Democrats want to seize guns from everyone. Its pitch is always about “the good guy with a gun” standing up in a shootout with a “bad guy” with a gun.
Guess what the good guy and the bad guy have in common – they both are armed with guns manufactured by companies that the NRA values more than your life.
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Trump once suggested standing up the NRA
Trump hosted a White House meeting on gun reform two weeks after that, where he accused Republicans in a bipartisan group of legislators of avoiding some firearm issues “because you’re afraid of the NRA.”
On the table in that meeting, Trump openly considered raising the age requirement from 18 to 21 to purchase an assault rifle and making it easier to seize guns from people considered a danger to themselves or others.
But he also supported an NRA-backed plan to arm teachers in schools.
Who’s afraid of the NRA? That’s all Trump. And why? The NRA spent more than $31 million to help Trump defeat Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election.
The NRA clearly only cares about the money
In 2020, as the NRA was splintering with an internal conflict about lavish spending by its leaders, the group still spent more than $16 million in Trump’s losing battle against Joe Biden.
This has never been about guns, for Trump or the NRA. It’s about money.
Wayne LaPierre, the NRA leader who resigned last month, acknowledged in testimony during a civil trial that he spent the group’s money and accepted gifts from vendors to live a lifestyle of private flights, luxury vacations and tailored suits.
He’s gone, but the gun grift goes on.
Trump’s speech Friday was the closing event for the NRA’s Great American Outdoor Show. A ticket to hear Trump cost $15 or came free with a new membership with the group, which ranges from $45 for one year or $1,500 for a lifetime membership.
Charles Cotton, the NRA president, introduced Trump, saying the group had “no greater friend” than the former president.
Trump won’t cross NRA again but will tell us to ‘get over’ the violence
The crowd, many wearing attire emblazoned with Trump’s “Make America Great Again” motto, welcomed him enthusiastically when he took the stage.
But Trump soon turned lethargic, sounding weary, and the crowd matched his energy as he rattled off a rolling repetition of his usual grievances about immigration and crime and the economy.
He twice predicted a “100% chance” of a major terrorist attack in the near future and the advent of World War III if he is not elected president again.
“An entire generation of young people could very well be decimated by something that could very well happen,” Trump said of that imagined war.
GOP impeachment case against president: Do you know what Republicans don’t need for a Biden investigation? Evidence, apparently.
He didn’t dare touch on the generations that have seen classmates murdered and wounded at school. Trump rarely seems to learn from his mistakes, but crossing the NRA is not a misstep he will repeat.
He has a new approach to the slaughter of children in classrooms – “get over it.”
Campaigning last month ahead of the Iowa caucuses, Trump addressed a recent school shooting that left an 11-year-old boy and his principal dead and six wounded before the 17-year-old gunman killed himself.
“It’s just horrible, so surprising to see it here,” Trump said while campaigning for an office where, by his own account, he did nothing to stop this sort of thing. “But we have to get over it, we have to move forward.”
School shootings are sadly no longer surprising. Neither is Trump’s shrug at the slaughter and eagerness to move ahead and cash in with the NRA without doing anything to stop it.
Follow USA TODAY elections columnist Chris Brennan on X, formerly known as Twitter: @ByChrisBrennan
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Trump NRA speech shows his cowardice on gun violence, school shootings