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Trump Lies About Guns


Most voters don’t know where he stands.


It wasn’t long ago that Wayne LaPierre and the NRA were funneling millions (whatever LaPierre could spare from his travel and wardrobe budget) into the 2016 Trump campaign.

The NRA spent over $30 million to elect Trump that year, and so far they’ve gotten their money’s worth. The president’s pro-gun lobby rhetoric even after national tragedies like the mass shootings at El Paso and Dayton just over a year ago makes sense when you consider who’s backing his campaign.

It’s also easy to draw a line from his inflammatory, racist rhetoric to the armed protests and vigilantes we’ve seen drastically increase in number during his administration, from the white supremacists who marched in Charlottesville in 2017 to the unmasked, armed protestors who stormed into an Idaho legislative session last month.  

Even relatively tuned-in voters may have missed the fact that Trump’s record on guns is a seesaw ending in cowardly inaction. This could be a real weakness for Trump in this year’s election, because the simple fact is that guns are a defining issue for many undecided voters. 

We recently completed a comprehensive four-phase research project with Global Strategy Group focused on “swayable” voters: the quarter of the likely electorate who are neither very favorable nor very unfavorable toward Trump and whom Trump must win to stay in the White House.

While 93% of this group says they support universal background checks, only 15% knew that Trump himself does not.

Global STrategy Group Polling

What does Trump actually believe?

One reason it’s difficult for the average person to keep track of Trump’s position on gun safety is that he himself changes his tune at the drop of a hat. Muddled messaging aside, the results remain the same: the gun lobby’s profits always take priority over our safety. 

Here’s what we do know: 

In May of 2016, the NRA became an early endorser of Donald Trump when he was already ahead in most national polls but still a long way from being embraced by other establishment Republicans. The NRA would go on to spend over $30 million to elect Trump, making them the single biggest outside spender in the election cycle. 

A year later, on April 28, 2017, Trump was the first sitting president since Reagan to speak at the national NRA Convention. Among remarks declaring his allegiance to the gun industry, Trump declared, “you came through for me, and I am going to come through for you.”

Parkland shooting 

  • In the weeks following the tragic shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, Trump met with survivors and family members, promising to work on “strongly pushing comprehensive background checks.” In bipartisan meetings with members of Congress he admonished Republicans for being “petrified of the NRA” and bragged, “they have less power over me.” 
  • Two weeks after the Parkland shooting, the NRA’s chief lobbyist tweeted that he “had a great meeting” with Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, and that all three “don’t want gun control.” 
  • By May 2018, no new gun safety legislation progressed through Congress and Trump had backed off his support. He was back at the NRA convention, fear mongering that Democrats were coming for the Second Amendment. During his speech, stock prices of major gun manufacturers increased. 

El Paso & Dayton shootings 

  • In August 2019, 30 people were killed and over 40 injured in two separate incidents in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, and the country was rightfully devastated. The shooter in El Paso issued a hate-filled manifesto echoing far-right extremist beliefs that have been promoted by Trump and embraced by his supporters. 
  • Demand for stronger gun safety laws again reached a fever pitch in the weeks after the shootings, and Trump once again pledged his support, including stating quite plainly “We have to have very meaningful background checks.” 
  • Soon after, following a single phone call from his benefactors at the NRA, he changed his tune and threatened to veto any background check legislation that might reach his desk. 

Informing Voters

Our research clearly shows that we can move voters if we boil down those key moments to an emotionally resonant message delivered by the right people. Swayable voters respond the strongest when they feel disappointed in Trump and realize that he is not the strong leader he once seemed to be. 

Over the past several months, we have shared the story of Trump’s hypocritical inaction after the El Paso and Dayton shootings with several groups of undecided voters in focus groups, surveys, and message tests. Trump’s flip on background checks and seeming deference to the NRA makes swayable voters feel the disappointment that is needed to actually move their vote. 

When we share the story of Trump’s background check flip-flop with swayable voters, they move six points away from him. Blind loyalty to the NRA is not unique to Trump, and many voters have a lot to learn about where their candidates and current elected leaders stand on this issue. In the coming weeks, we’ll continue to highlight candidates whose unhealthy devotion to the gun lobby will endanger our families and communities. 

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ELECTIONS

GUN SAFETY PRESIDENT

Joe Biden has made gun safety a priority for decades—and has proven he isn’t afraid to take on the NRA. We need a president who will lead on this issue, not one bought and paid for by the gun lobby. Joe Biden is our pick for Gun Safety President this November. 

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