Donald Trump picked up an endorsement from the NRA Friday, with the gun group announcing it is backing the real estate mogul for president while taking a shot at Hillary Clinton.
"Friends, think about this. If Hillary Clinton is elected in November and serves two terms, she'll be president until 2025," the NRA's Chris W. Cox told an audience of roughly 8,000 at the NRA-ILA Leadership Forum in Louisville, Ky.
"The damage that would be done by her policies and her Supreme Court picks will destroy individual freedom and therefore destroy the America we all love. We cannot let that happen. We have to unite and we have to unite right now. So on behalf of the thousands of patriots in this room and the 5 million NRA members across this country, and the tens of millions who support us, I'm officially announcing the NRA's endorsement of Donald Trump for president."
Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee in the race, then walked onto the stage and greeted Cox, the executive director of the NRA Institute for Legislative Action, and NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre.
"This is amazing. I did not know that," Trump said, referencing the endorsement. "I knew I was doing well, but I did not know that."
The endorsement is particularly noteworthy because the NRA generally waits until later in the campaign season to publicly back a candidate. In 2012, for example, the NRA didn't endorse Republican Mitt Romney until October. The NRA followed the same timeline with George W. Bush in 2004 and John McCain in 2008.
Trump then spoke to the crowd and addressed several topics, including terrorism, gun-free zones, and Democrat Hillary Clinton.
"We are getting rid of gun-free zones. OK? I can tell you," Trump said after talking about the Chattanooga shootings last year, during which a gunman shot and killed five members of the military who were unarmed because rules forbade them from carrying loaded weapons on base.
Trump echoed the NRA's call to keep Clinton out of the White House because of her anti-gun stances and her pledge to crack down on the rights of gun owners.
"Heartless, hypocrites like the Clintons want to take this and get rid of guns and yet they have bodyguards with guns," Trump said. "I think in addition to calling for them to name judges, we'll also call them and let their bodyguards immediately disarm. OK?"
Trump did say, however, that he's looking forward to running against Clinton, a former first lady, senator, and secretary of state.
"I do want to run against her. I have to be honest with you," Trump said, drawing laughter and applause from the crowd.
Trump energized the crowd throughout his speech, at one point even calling for a standing ovation for police and other members of law enforcement.
His opening remarks were admittedly off the cuff, but after a few minutes he began speaking from a prepared speech.
Late in the speech, Trump turned the gun-friendly tone into more of a general election one, addressing topics like trade, immigration and the economy.
"We're going to have great trade agreements. We're going to become a strong nation again," Trump said. "We're going to save our Social Security. We're going to save our Medicare. We're going to be so proud of this country. You're going to be proud of your president. But I don't care about that.
"You're going to be proud of your country again, and we're going to start winning again, because we don't win anymore. We never win."
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