President Trump is expected to speak at the National Rifle Association’s annual meeting in Dallas on Friday, a White House official confirmed, marking a return to a group that was one of Trump’s earliest and most ardent supporters.
This will be the fourth year in a row that Trump has addressed the NRA. Last year, he became the first sitting president to do so.
But this year’s appearance will be the first since Trump told lawmakers not to fear the NRA in the wake of the massacre at a high school in Parkland, Fla., on Feb. 14 and floated some responses that the organization opposes, including raising the legal age to buy certain firearms to 21.
Vice President Pence is scheduled to speak Friday at the convention. Trump’s expected appearance was first reported by CNN.
The NRA played a powerful role in Trump’s 2016 election, providing critical support in battleground states. It spent more on behalf of Trump than did any outside group, and began its advertising and other efforts earlier than in any other presidential cycle.
A comparison by The Washington Post of ad spending between 2012 and 2016 found that the gun rights organization spent more than three times as much to assist Trump as it spent backing GOP nominee Mitt Romney in 2012.
“You came through big for me, and I am going to come through for you,” Trump told thousands of members attending the NRA’s annual convention last year in Atlanta. “The eight-year assault on your Second Amendment freedoms has come to a crashing end.”
In remarks before Trump spoke, Chris W. Cox, the NRA’s chief lobbyist, recalled the group’s endorsement of Trump a year earlier and said that Trump was “the most proudly Second Amendment nominee in American history.”
Although Trump voiced support after the Parkland shootings for raising the age to buy rifles to 21, he backed off the proposal after meeting with NRA officials. Aides said Trump still supported the idea but recognized that there was limited backing in Congress to make such a change to federal law.