Washington (AFP) – US President Donald Trump will address the National Rifle Association (NRA) on Friday, the gun lobby announced, less than three months after a mass shooting at a high school in Florida sparked a grassroots campaign for gun control.
The NRA, on its Twitter feed, said Trump would join Vice President Mike Pence at the group’s annual “Leadership Forum” in Dallas, Texas.
“We are honored to celebrate American freedom with @realDonaldTrump,” Chris Cox, a senior NRA executive, said on Twitter.
The four-day gathering in Dallas is the first annual NRA meeting since the February 14 shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida left 14 students and three adult staff members dead.
Parkland students have organized school walkouts and a March 24 protest that saw hundreds of thousands of people demonstrate for tougher gun laws in cities across the United States.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked at a briefing whether this was an “insensitive” time for the president to address the NRA.
“As we have indicated on many occasions, safety is a big priority, security is a big priority for the administration,” Sanders said.
“But we also support the Second Amendment and strongly support it, and don’t see there to be a problem with speaking at the National Rifle Association’s meeting.”
Trump’s participation at the NRA gathering was only confirmed on Tuesday, but Vice President Mike Pence’s attendance had been previously announced.
On its website offering tickets for the Dallas event, the NRA said firearms would not be permitted in the arena where the meeting is taking place when the vice president was present.
“Due to the attendance of the vice president of the United States, the US Secret Service will be responsible for event security,” it said.
“As a result, firearms and firearm accessories, knives or weapons of any kind will be prohibited in the forum prior to and during his attendance.”
The Secret Service ban on firearms at an NRA event drew mockery from some quarters.
“On so many levels, this is enlightening,” tweeted Fred Guttenberg, whose 14-year-old daughter Jaime was among the students slain at Parkland.
“According to the NRA, we should want everyone to have weapons when we are in public,” Guttenberg said.
“But when they put on a convention, the weapons are a concern? I thought giving everyone a gun was to enhance safety. Am I missing something?”
Trump has spoken to the NRA for the past four years. The gun lobby was a major supporter of his presidential campaign.