On Friday, the National Rifle Association (NRA) became the first large conservative nonprofit group to rally behind presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump.
“The stakes in this year’s presidential election could not be higher for gun owners,” the NRA endorsement on Facebook declared. “If Hillary Clinton gets the opportunity to replace Antonin Scalia with an anti-gun Supreme Court justice, we will lose the individual right to keep a gun in the home for self-defense.”
The NRA framed its endorsement for Trump in purely anti-Clinton terms. “Mrs. Clinton has said that the Supreme Court got it wrong on the Second Amendment. So the choice for gun owners in this election is clear. And that choice is Donald Trump. That’s why the National Rifle Association of America is announcing our endorsement of Donald J. Trump for President of the United States.”
The stakes in this year's presidential election could not be higher for gun owners. If Hillary Clinton gets the…
While some other gun rights organizations like the National Association for Gun Rights (NAGR) might attack the NRA as insufficiently conservative, it has become a kind of gold standard among nonprofit conservative groups. Its endorsement may pave the way for other groups, such as the Heritage Foundation, to reconsider backing The Donald.
In most cases, conservative nonprofits are not likely to budge between now and the Republican National Convention in July in Cleveland, Ohio. Many donors have sworn off Donald Trump at least for now, especially the notorious Charles Koch, whose network is connected to such organizations as Americans for Prosperity and Freedom Partners. The allegation that Koch‘s brother David pledged money to Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson has been repeatedly denied, but that does not mean Charles or David Koch are likely to turn around to back Trump instead.
Ironically, Trump wasn’t always a strong supporter of gun ownership. In 2000, he attacked Republicans who “walk the NRA line” and “refuse even limited restrictions” on firearms laws. He supported the ban on assault weapons and a longer waiting period to purchase a gun. Even then, however, he declared, “I generally oppose gun control.”
The NRA endorsement is nevertheless a huge coup for Trump, as he attempts to unite the Republican Party behind him.