The NRA endorsed presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump on Friday with one top official calling the decision one of the "easiest" the group has ever made.
"To me, we make a lot of difficult decisions, this is one of the easiest decisions we've ever had to make," Chris Cox, head of the NRA's lobbying arm, told the Washington Free Beacon during the group's annual meeting on Saturday. "With Justice Scalia's passing it's become the ultimate high stakes. We no longer have a majority on the Supreme Court and the next president's first decision is going to be who to nominate to the Supreme Court."
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"In Donald Trump we have a candidate, I would argue, that's the most forceful Republican nominee for president in the last 100 years when it comes to not only gun ownership but the lawful use of guns for self-defense. He's been unapologetic. He's pointed out a very different path forward on guns than Hillary Clinton."
He pointed to Hillary Clinton's comments at a private fundraiser last October, first reported by the Free Beacon, where she criticized the landmark Heller decision. "I was proud when my husband took [the NRA] on, and we were able to ban assault weapons, but he had to put a sunset on so 10 years later. Of course [President George W.] Bush wouldn’t agree to reinstate them," Clinton said. "We’ve got to go after this. And here again, the Supreme Court is wrong on the Second Amendment."
Cox said those comments made the choice between the two candidates clear. "We have a very clear path," he said. "Hillary Clinton has said that the Supreme Court got it wrong on the Second Amendment. It's important for Americans to know exactly what that means because all the Supreme Court said was you have a basic right to keep a gun in your home to defend yourself if some murderer comes in."
"They didn't talk about carrying outside of your home. They didn't talk about carrying in restaurants or bars or pet stores or wherever else our opponents feel uncomfortable. Just in your home. And Hillary Clinton said they got it wrong."
Trump hasn't always been a strong defender of gun rights or friendly towards the NRA. In his 2000 book The America We Deserve Trump supported an assault weapons ban and a 72-hour waiting period for all gun purchases. "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. "With today’s Internet technology we should be able to tell within seventy-two hours if a potential gun owner has a record."
Trump also accused Republicans of walking "the NRA line" and refusing "even limited restrictions" on guns in the same book.
When asked if the NRA was concerned about comments in favor of new gun control Trump had made in the years before his presidential run, Cox pointed to Trump's current positions and said the candidate no longer supports an assault weapons ban.
"His first position paper that he put out on the campaign was on immigration," he said. "The second position paper was on the Second Amendment. I encourage people to go to his website and read his Second Amendment paper that outlines his opposition to gun bans, his opposition to magazine bans."
"He was asked about a past comment he had made 20 some odd years ago about supporting a semi-auto ban and he said he no longer supports that position. So, you look at the campaign he's running and the positions he's articulating versus the one hundred percent certainty that we know with Hillary Clinton and that decision becomes crystal clear."
He acknowledged a lot of gun owners may have supported other candidates in the Republican primaries but called for people to unite behind Trump.
"It's time to move on," Cox said. "It's time to unite. So we made a decision that there's too much at stake to wait a day longer. We're moving forward with our endorsement and the men and women across this country who support this freedom are gonna work and fight like hell to make sure we save this freedom and save this country."
"We're gonna do it by electing Donald Trump president."