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Trump once defied the NRA to ban bump stocks. He now says he 'did nothing' to restrict guns

The Associated Press

Less than six years ago, then-President Donald Trump took on the influential gun lobby after the deadliest massacre in modern U.S. history. He announced that he had told the National Rifle Association that “bump stocks are gone,” arguing they “turn legal weapons into illegal machine guns.”

On Friday, Trump’s campaign to return to the White House defended a Supreme Court decision to strike down his own ban on those devices. Trump has been endorsed by the NRA and claimed this year in a speech that he “did nothing” to restrict guns.

The Supreme Court's ruling called new attention to Trump's complicated record on the Second Amendment, one that he has downplayed this year given his conservative base's aversion to gun control — even as Americans broadly support stricter restrictions on firearms, according to public polling.

As president, Trump grappled with the high school massacre in Parkland, Florida and other mass shootings, and at times pledged to strengthen gun laws, only to back away from those vows.

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At a meeting with survivors and family members of the Parkland shooting in 2018, for instance, Trump promised to be “very strong on background checks” and later scolded a Republican senator for being “afraid of the NRA.” He claimed he would stand up to the gun lobby and finally get results on quelling gun violence.

But he later retreated after a meeting with the group, expressing support for modest changes to the federal background check system and for arming teachers, while saying in a post on X, formerly Twitter, that there was “not much political support (to put it mildly).”

Now, he casts himself as ”the best friend gun owners have ever had in the White House."

Karoline Leavitt, a spokesperson for his campaign, issued a statement Friday saying the court's decision “should be respected.”

“President Trump has been and always will be a fierce defender of Americans’ Second Amendment rights and he is proud to be endorsed by the NRA,” Leavitt said.

President Joe Biden called the Trump-era ban “an important gun safety regulation,” while the Democratic incumbent's campaign criticized Trump for nominating three of the Supreme Court justices who voted to strike down the ban.

“Weapons of war have no place on the streets of America, but Trump’s Supreme Court justices have decided the gun lobby is more important than the safety of our kids and our communities,” said Michael Tyler, a Biden campaign spokesman.

The Supreme Court ruled the Trump administration overstepped when in 2018 it banned bump stocks after a mass shooting in Las Vegas where hundreds were wounded and dozens were killed. The devices allow a rate of fire comparable to machine guns.

The decision did not elicit an outpouring of response from most Republican members of Congress. That reflects the precarious situation it puts many in the GOP in as the ruling is seen as a victory for the pro-gun community despite overturning a Trump-era ban.

U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie is a Kentucky Republican who has antagonized Trump and who supported Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ failed bid for the White House. On Friday, he posted on X that “Congress makes the laws, not the administrative branch” and then wrote the top court had invalidated “Trump’s bump-stock ban.” Other Republican federal lawmakers simply called it an “unconstitutional” ban but did not mention Trump.

The decision on Friday may gain more attention in the key Western battleground state of Nevada, where in 2017 a high-stakes gambler killed 60 people before killing himself, leaving his exact motive a mystery.

A Nevada state lawmaker who was among the 22,000 concertgoers who fled the barrage of bullets in Las Vegas in October 2017 said that “No community has felt the devastating impact of bump stocks more than Nevadans.”

“Now more than ever, it is important to elect Democrats up and down the ballot to ensure we keep our communities safe from the epidemic of gun violence and prevent soulless, morally corrupt, and bankrupt MAGA Republicans beholden to the gun lobby from being in charge of the public safety of our communities,” said assemblywoman Sandra Jauregui, a Democrat. _____

Associated Press writers Jill Colvin, Farnoush Amiri and Scott Sonner contributed to this report.

Adriana Gomez Licon, The Associated Press