Two-time running mates former President Donald Trump and former Vice President Mike Pence, who may soon be opponents for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, spoke at the National Rifle Association’s annual meeting in Indianapolis on Friday.
The NRA convention is not just a gathering for gun enthusiasts; it also attracts Republican presidential hopefuls who want to showcase their support for Second Amendment rights. Theduring its 2016 annual convention.
Pence was booed briefly by the crowd as he took the stage in his home state of Indiana, where he was once the governor. Pence responded with, “I love you, too.” The former vice president acknowledged the recent mass shootings in Nashville and Louisville during his remarks, offering prayers for the families affected.
Pence said America doesn’t need gun control, instead “we need crime control.” The former vice president also called to “institutionalize the obviously mentally ill” as a way to help prevent gun violence.
Trump spoke a little later in the afternoon, claiming President Joe Biden is waging a “war” on gun owners. In a roundabout way, he also brought up.
“They want to weaponize and interfere with our elections through the use of the DOJ, the FBI and local attorney generals and district attorneys,” Trump said of his opponents. “That’s happening to me, but we’re doing very well, thank you.”
The former president said that if he returns to the White House, the reign of Democrats will be “over” and “America will be a free nation once again.”
“And I promise you this, with me at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, no one will lay a finger on your firearms, just as took place for four years when I was your president,” Trump said. He reminded the gun enthusiasts that the NRA had endorsed him in 2016 and 2020 and told the audience, “They better endorse me again or they’re going to have some explaining to do.”
Pence hasn’t yet announced whether he will seek the presidency, but he has been visiting early-voting primary states, while Trump, the first major candidate in the race, and his allies insist the voters are already lined up to support him. Former Arkansas Gov., who recently declared he’s running for president, spoke at the convention, and Florida Gov. did not appear in person at the convention, but addressed the crowd by video.
Trump has bashed his former vice president ever sincein the 2020 election on , and has even tried to shift the blame for the riot to Pence, saying last month, “in many ways, you can blame him,” meaning Pence, for what transpired that day.
On Friday, he joked about the reception the crowd at the convention had given his vice president. “I hope you gave Pence a good warm approval,” Trump said. “He is a nice man if you wanna really know the truth — he is, he is a good man, and I heard it was very rough. It is a big news story. You’ve made news today, I don’t know what you did but you made news today.”
Earlier this month, Pencerequiring him to testify before a grand jury as part of a special counsel investigation into the assault on the Capitol, but Trump’s legal team is still trying to keep Pence from testifying.
Last year, Trump mocked Republicans who decided not to attend the convention when it wasjust days after the Robb Elementary School shooting in Uvalde, Texas, that left 19 children and two adults dead. Trump said, “unlike some others, I didn’t disappoint you by not showing up today,” before reading the names of the children who died that day.
This year’s convention takes place after recent mass shootings at a private religious school in Nashville and a bank in Louisville, Kentucky.
Mus Bidar contributed to this report.