LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Donald Trump called Hillary Clinton "the most anti-gun" candidate ever to run for office and pledged to defend the Second Amendment during an address at the National Rifle Association's national convention here on Friday.
"The Second Amendment is under threat like never before," Trump told the crowd. "Crooked Hillary Clinton is the most anti-gun, anti-Second Amendment candidate ever to run for office."
The NRA endorsed Trump shortly before he came on stage, but the show of support was just as much a show of opposition to likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. Before the endorsement, NRA-ILA Executive Director Chris Cox told the crowd that "we have to unite and we have to unite right now."
Indeed, Clinton was more a focus of Trump and NRA leaders at the convention than the gun rights they came to celebrate.
"If she could, Hillary would ban every gun, destroy every magazine, run an entire national security industry right into the ground and put gun-owners' names on a government registration list," said NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre.
And Cox set the stakes for NRA members.
"Hillary Clinton has a legitimate chance to be the next president as long as people like us stay home," he said.
Clinton has advocated changes in the nation's gun laws, but has never called for abolishing the Second Amendment.
"Along with the vast majority of Americans, Hillary Clinton believes there are common sense steps we can take at the federal level to keep guns out of the hands of criminals while respecting the 2nd Amendment," Clinton campaign senior policy adviser Maya Harris responded in a statement.
Trump's appearance here was aimed at soothing the fears of gun advocates skeptical of his Second Amendment record. The presumptive GOP nominee shifted from backing an assault weapons ban in 2000 to voicing outspoken opposition to any weapons bans and support for an expansion of gun rights since launching his presidential bid.
"The Second Amendment is on the ballot in November," Trump said. "The only way to save our Second Amendment is to vote for a person that you all know named Donald Trump."
Throughout his campaign, Trump has called gun bans "a total failure," opposed an expansion of background checks and called for concealed carry permits to be valid across all 50 states.
The conversion seemed to be enough for the pro-gun crowd in Louisville on Friday, who gave Trump a standing ovation when he came onstage and cheered at many of his big applause lines — despite his at times awkward delivery, as he read part of his remarks from prepared text.
Trump again reiterated his support for eliminating gun-free zones in schools and on military bases and his support of the Second Amendment, but used most of his speech to target Clinton, warning she would "release violent criminals from jail and put innocent Americans at risk" and could appoint up to five Supreme Court nominees who would likely be anti-gun-rights.
After releasing a list of his picks for the Supreme Court this week, Trump called on Clinton to release her own, warning "it won't be good for people in this room."
Trump also unveiled a new nickname for the presumptive Democratic nominee, calling her "Heartless Hillary" because, he said, Clinton wants to "disarm vulnerable Americans in high-crime areas…to take away any chance they have of survival."