President Donald Trump promised guns rights advocates gathered in Atlanta on Friday that he'd come through for them as they did for him during the 2016 campaign.
"The eight-year assault on your Second Amendment freedoms has come to a crashing end,” Trump told the members of the National Rifle Association, assuring them that they now "have a true friend and champion in the White House."
"I will never, ever infringe on the right of the people to keep and bear arms," Trump said. "Never ever."
He is the first sitting president since Ronald Reagan to speak to the NRA.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer called the speech to the NRA's leadership forum, which comes on the 99th day of Trump's presidency, a "good way to end an incredible week."
The influential lobbying group endorsed Trump early on during the Republican 2016 primaries — a backing he often reminded his crowds about during his long shot bid for office. He drew cheers from supporters amid frequent promises to "save" the Second Amendment, which he said was under siege from opponents, like Hillary Clinton.
During one August campaign rally in North Carolina, Trump raised eyebrows when he suggested that "Second Amendment people" could do something if Clinton were elected and got to pick anti-guns rights Supreme Court justices.
"By the way, and if she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don't know."
The campaign defended the comments then as a reference to the gun rights group's lobbying power.
The NRA, for their part, helped bring Trump's pro-gun message to the airwaves, spending three times as much for Trump as it did for Mitt Romney in 2012, a Washington Post analysis found.
Once in office, Trump quietly signed a bill in February rolling back an Obama-era regulation that made it harder for people with mental illnesses to purchase a gun. The now-rescinded rule added people receiving Social Security checks for mental illnesses and people deemed unfit to handle their own financial affairs to the national background check database.
The NRA, among other pro-gun groups, supported the move, with NRA-ILA executive director Chris Cox saying the executive order "marks a new era for law-abiding gun owners, as we now have a president who respects and supports our arms.".
Had the regulation fully taken effect, the Obama administration predicted it would have added about 75,000 names to the background check database.
Gun control advocates worry about Trump's relationship with the gun lobby.
Ahead of the president's remarks, Shannon Watts of Moms Demand Action said in a statement that “NRA leaders are hoping their investment in the election will help them pass dangerous legislation that would enrich gun manufacturers while endangering Americans. This includes dismantling the criminal background check system, making gun silencers more accessible, and — their ultimate goal — passing ‘Concealed Carry Reciprocity'."
Bonds from the campaign may have brought Trump to Atlanta to speak with members of the gun lobby, but the prospect of future elections loomed large over the event. Trump stumped for Karen Handel, running in Georgia's Sixth Congressional District against Democratic newcomer Jon Ossoff.
"She's totally for the NRA and second amendment, so get out and vote," Trump instructed the estimated crowd.
Trump also revived a derogatory campaign nickname for Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren, surmising that she may be among those to run for the Democratic nomination in 2020.
"I have a feeling that in the next election you're going to be swamped with candidates," he imagined, concluding these voters will be saying no sir — or ma'am — to these prospective Democrats. "It may be Pocahontas, remember that."
In shouting out fellow pro-gun attendees, Trump called out Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, summing up their tumultuous relationship as someone he really liked, then didn’t like, now likes again.
"Like, dislike, like," he simplified, just as he did with his branding of the Texas senator as "lyin' Ted" during the 2016 presidential campaign season.