May 4 (UPI) — President Donald Trump urged Republican voters not to be complacent in in the midterm elections and promised to protect the Second Amendment while speaking Friday at the National Rifle Association’s annual convention in Dallas.
The president, speaking at his fourth consecutive NRA convention, predicted Republicans will do well in the 2018 election, but urged his supporters to get out and vote.
“Don’t be complacent. Don’t be complacent,” Trump he told the crowd at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center. “History says that when you win the presidency, you get complacent. You know the feeling? … Like 90 percent of the time you win the presidency and for whatever reason you lose the midterm. We can’t let that happen. And the word is complacent.”
Trump and Vice President Mike Pence both spoke at the convention, which drew tens of thousands NRA members.
The president promised to protect the Second Amendment.
“Your Second Amendment rights are under siege, but they will never, ever be under siege as long as I’m your president,” he said.
To some, his remarks Friday may seem at odds with comments he made in the wake of the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. At the time, Trump hosted televised meetings with survivors of the shooting, victims’ families, police officials and members of Congress.
At one point, he called out lawmakers for not going far enough in a proposed gun safety bill.
“You know why?” Trump said to lawmakers after the shooting. “Because you’re afraid of the National Rifle Association. Some of you people are petrified of the NRA. You can’t be petrified. You can’t be petrified.”
The NRA, which spent more than $30 million to help elect him in 2016, endorsed Trump to conservatives.
“People see the NRA for what it stands for,” NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam said. “We are the premier group that champions freedom in this country. More people are joining the NRA than ever before. People realize that we’re the good guys.”
But demonstrators attended rallies and a “die-in” outside the Dallas convention center — with relatives and classmates of the students killed in Parkland, Fla., this year among the protesters.
David Hogg, a student activist from MSD, criticized Pence on Twitter Friday, saying the vice president’s “heart and wallet” were at the NRA convention.
Also at the convention Friday is ammunition distributor TulAmmo USA, which has ties to a sanctioned Russian oligarch.
The company is headquartered in Texas, but TulAmmo USA’s small-arms ammunition is manufactured by Tula Cartridge Works in Russia — about 120 miles from Moscow. The factory has ties to Igor Rotenberg — an oligarch who, along with several allies of Russian President Vladimir Putin, was targeted recently by U.S. sanctions.
“There is something deeply troubling about a Russian arms maker … profiting by selling ammunition in the U.S.,” Peter Harrell, a former senior State Department sanctions official, told ABC News.
“The fact that a portion of those profits flow to some of Putin’s closest cronies makes the situation even more problematic.”