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Gun owners embrace Trump's message in Dallas

President Donald Trump's mess...

Posted: May 5, 2018 6:08 PM
Updated: May 5, 2018 6:08 PM

President Donald Trump's message Friday at the National Rifle Association convention was clear and welcomed.

Trump came equipped with reassurances and a commitment to protecting gun owners' Second Amendment rights.

"Thanks to your activism and dedication, you have an administration fighting to protect your Second Amendment and we will protect your Second Amendment," he said to a pumped-up crowd in a Dallas arena. "Your Second Amendment rights are under siege, but they will never ever be under siege as long as I am your President."

And at a time when gun control legislation is at the forefront of the national conversation, gun owners at the annual meeting said they are relieved to have Trump in the White House.

"Our gun rights are in danger, but I do think that Trump is on our side," Jan Ehmann, a Fort Worth, Texas, resident clad in an NRA hat, said as she waited in line for the speech with her husband, Pat.

Following the Parkland, Florida, school shooting in February that killed 17 people, the White House heard the calls for change. Trump held an emotional listening session with those affected by gun violence, many of whom implored him to act. And in a separate meeting with lawmakers, Trump outlined some specifics: potentially expanding background checks, taking guns away from the mentally ill and raising the minimum age for purchase. He eventually backed off some of those policies, offering proposals for school safety funding and improvements in reporting to the background check system, measures supported by the NRA.

If Trump's initial reaction to Parkland was cause for concern for any of the members, they weren't surprised -- that's just part of his process.

"I think some of that is reacting to the pressure of the moment. He gets a lot of input from the people around him. And that's one of the things I like about him -- he listens to a lot of ideas. And I think that came into play and things are settling down," said Pat Ehmann, one of the many attendees sporting a signature red Make America Great Again hat.

Tonya Duerr, who traveled to the convention with her family from Knoxville, Tennessee, was "concerned, but hopeful" about Trump's rhetoric following the shooting.

"He's willing to listen to other people, but ultimately, he tends to go back to, 'This is where I stand.' It was good for him to have a meeting with lots of different people and listen to their points," she said.

Duerr, an intensive care unit nurse, thinks Trump can play an important role because, she says, the organization has been unfairly vilified in the wake of mass shootings.

"I'm excited for his support of the Second Amendment, and his staunch support of the NRA, even through all this craziness that's been going on and the vilification of the NRA that's been going on," she said.

"Suddenly, we (NRA members) are the problem with America. ... The Parkland shooting was a horrible tragedy -- they were all horrible tragedies. How is the NRA responsible for a tragedy? The NRA has never sold one firearm. The only thing they promote is safety in gun handling, responsible gun ownership," Duerr said.

For Robbie Malone, a Dallas-based attorney, Trump's presidency signals a new era of respect for gun owners.

"I think he's doing a better job of making us feel secure in our Second Amendment rights," she said as volunteers handed out pocket copies of the Constitution, pins and stickers in the convention hall.

Malone continued, "With President Obama, it was constantly that we were doing something wrong and that somehow being law-abiding citizens meant that we should be punished for the actions of other bad people. And that wasn't OK with me. ... Don't blame us in Texas, as valid Second Amendment rights folks, for the problems of some lunatic over in Florida who shouldn't have had a gun in the first place."

In the arena, the crowd, drenched in the glow of red lighting, applauded the President throughout his remarks even as he called attention to the modest measures he had signed into law: legislation to improve compliance and reporting on background checks and a measure that allocated more money for school safety.

Trump said that in conversations with his "political people," they had advised that going to this year's convention would be controversial and "may not be popular."

"You know what I said? Bye, bye, gotta get on the plane," he said.

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