DALLAS – President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence both addressed the National Rifle Association Annual Meetings and Exhibits today, the first time a president and vice president have appeared jointly.
“We love Texas!” Trump said after chants of USA! USA! died down. Trump ticked off a long list of local politicians to thank and endorse including Gov. Greg Abbott and his one-time opponent, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, both up for reelection.
“Boy, that was very rousing,” Trump said after sustained applause for Cruz.
USA! USA! cranked up again after Trump’s comments about patriotism.
“We have pride in our history and respect for our heritage,” he said. “We put our hands on our hearts for the pledge of Allegiance and we all proudly stand for the National Anthem.”
He wasted little time in blasting “fake news CNN” and NBC, which he said might be “even more distorted,” before pivoting to a mention of a CNN report titled “Judge in Manafort case says Mueller’s aim is to hurt Trump.”
Moving into a condemnation of the ongoing Robert Mueller investigation, he mused, “You know folks, we all fight battles, but I love fighting these battles.”
He did have had kind words for Kanye West, saying his poll numbers among African Americans have recently doubled thanks to his support.
“Thank you, Kanye!”
As he did last year’s convention, which was held in Atlanta, Trump stressed his support of the right to bear arms.
“If we’re going to outlaw guns, like so many people want to do – Democrats – then we are going to have to outlaw immediately all vans and all trucks, which are now the new form of death for the maniac terrorists.”
Pence spoke ahead of Trump.
“President Trump and I came here today mostly to say thanks,” Pence said. “Thanks for electing a president and a Congress that are making America great again. It’s been 15 months of promises made and promises kept and we’re just getting started.”
He also touted the Trump administration’s stance on immigration, border security and sanctuary cities. “When it comes to that big border wall, we’re going to build it all.”
Pence drew loud and sustained applause and brought the the crowd to its feet with comments disparaging the media.
“Firearms in the hands of law abiding citizens make our communities more safe, not less safe,” he said. “Today I want to call on the national media: start telling the whole story.”
The crowd also heard from Stephen Willeford, hailed as the hero who stopped the shooter in a Baptist Church Sutherland Springs, Tex.
“He had an AR-15, but so did I,” Willeford said.
After an invocation led by Col. Oliver North, the NRA’s chief lobbyist, Chris Cox, started with words of support for families mourning the victims of the Feb. 14 mass shooting in Parkland, Fla. Gun control, he said, is not the answer to combatting such crimes.
“Let’s start by taking the no guns allowed stickers off the windows of our schools,” he said. “That’s not a school security plan. It’s an invitation to tragedy.”
Echoing the reel of ads that preceded the speeches, Cox criticized the media, violent movies and other societal ills he says leads to violence.
“The NRA is the only organization in America that gets blamed for problems our members don’t commit,” he said. “The NRA members are the best of the best. We don’t just believe in individual freedom and responsibility we live it every single day.”