The National Rifle Association on Friday endorsed presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, saying that gun owners and supporters must unite to block presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
"The damage that would be done by [Clinton's] policies and her Supreme Court picks would destroy individual freedoms, and therefore destroy the America we all love," said the group's top lobbyist, Chris Cox, executive director of the NRA's Institute for Legislative Affairs. "We cannot let that happen. We have to unite, and we have to unite right now."
The endorsement came after a fiery speech by NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre, the group's longtime leader. LaPierre railed against Clinton, promising that she would strip Americans of their Second Amendment rights. Trump took the stage after Cox.
The NRA's Trump endorsement came earlier than previous NRA presidential endorsements, which typically take place later in the election cycle. And it wasn't always a sure thing. Unlike most Republican candidates for national office, Trump endorsed a ban on assault weapons earlier in his career.
“I generally oppose gun control, but I support the ban on assault weapons and I also support a slightly longer waiting period to purchase a gun,” Trump wrote in his 2000 book, The America We Deserve.
But at the gun rights group's 2015 annual meeting, Trump offered a preview of his future platform, telling the crowd, “I love the NRA. I love the Second Amendment.”
Trump took the opportunity of Friday's endorsement to denounce gun-free zones, saying that they contributed to the carnage in the terrorist attacks in San Bernardino and Paris. But Trump himself has a mixed record on this policy too. The Huffington Post called up a few of Trump's properties to see if someone could carry a firearm there.
His private resort at Mar-a-Lago said it was a gun-free club. A receptionist at his hotel in Chicago said the same thing about that property. Officials at Trump's hotels in Miami and Las Vegas did, however, say that you could bring a licensed firearm to their locations under certain security specifications.
Sam Stein contributed reporting.