- The Washington Times - Friday, May 20, 2016

LOUISVILLE — In a surprise move, the National Rifle Association on Friday endorsed likely GOP nominee Donald J. Trump for president — a development Mr. Trump called a “fantastic honor” even as he appeared somewhat shocked by the announcement.

Chris Cox, who heads up the NRA’s legislative-lobbying arm, made the announcement in his introduction of Mr. Trump at the NRA-ILA’s “Leadership Forum,” which is part of the gun-rights group’s annual meetings in Louisville.

“We have to unite, and we have to unite right now,” Mr. Cox said. “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.”

Mr. Cox then introduced Mr. Trump as “the next president of the United States,” which was greeted with resounding applause and cheering from the crowd at the Kentucky Exposition Center.

Mr. Trump appeared somewhat surprised himself at the development.

“Thank you very much, this is amazing,” he said. “I did not know that. I knew I was doing well, but I did not know that.”

“I’ve been a member for a long time, and my boys are members and they’re much better shooters than I am,” he said.

“To get the endorsement, believe me, is a fantastic honor,” he said.

While Mr. Trump has at times strayed from conservative orthodoxy on hot-button issues such as abortion and federal entitlements during his White House run, gun-rights advocates have said he’s been solid on issues tied to the Second Amendment since announcing his run for president last June.

Mr. Trump also has not been shy about slamming likely Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton on the issue, re-upping his contention Friday that Mrs. Clinton wants to “abolish” the Second Amendment.

Some high-profile Republicans, notably House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, have indicated in recent weeks that they’re not quite ready to embrace Mr. Trump as the GOP nominee.

But the NRA’s blessing is a another signal that many conservatives are steadily unifying behind Mr. Trump, and the resources and energy at the gun-rights group’s disposal will be a significant boost as he looks ahead to the general election contest.

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