President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence both addressed the National Rifle Association Annual Meetings and Exhibits on Friday, the first time a president and vice president have appeared jointly.
“We love Texas!” Trump said after chants of USA! USA! died down. Trump ticked off a long list of local politicians including Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and his one-time opponent, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz.
“Boy, that was very rousing,” Trump said after sustained applause for Cruz.
USA! USA! cranked up again after Trump’s comments on patriotism.
“We have pride in our history and respect for our heritage,” he said. “We put our hands on our hearts for the pledge of Allegiance and we all proudly stand for the National Anthem.”
Pence addressed the convention crowd ahead of Trump.
“President Trump and I came here today mostly to say thanks,” Pence said. “Thanks for electing a president and a Congress that are making America great again. It’s been 15 months of promises made and promises kept and we’re just getting started.”
Credit: Justin Sullivan
Credit: Justin Sullivan
He also touted the Trump administration’s stance on immigration, border security and sanctuary cities. “When it comes to that big border wall, we’re going to build it all.”
>> Related: Parkland shooting survivor calls out NRA over gun ban during Pence speech
Pence drew loud and sustained applause and brought the the crowd to its feet with comments disparaging the media.
"Firearms in the hands of law abiding citizens make our communities more safe, not less safe," he said. "Today I want to call on the national media: start telling the whole story."
The crowd also heard from Stephen Willeford, hailed as the hero who stopped the shooter last year in the massacre at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs in Sutherland Springs, Texas.
“He had an AR-15, but so did I,” Willeford said.
After an invocation led by Col. Oliver North, the NRA's chief lobbyist, Chris Cox, started his address with words of support for the families mourning the victims of the Feb. 14 mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Fla. Gun control, he said, is not the answer to combating such crimes.
"Let's start by taking the no guns allowed stickers off the windows of our schools," he said. "That's not a school security plan. It's an invitation to tragedy."
Echoing the reel of ads that preceded the speeches, Cox criticized the media, violent movies and other societal ills he said leads to violence.
"The NRA is the only organization in America that gets blamed for problems our members don't commit," he said. "The NRA members are the best of the best. We don't just believe in individual freedom and responsibility we live it every single day," he said.
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