- The Washington Times - Friday, April 28, 2017

ATLANTA — Chris W. Cox, executive director of the National Rifle Association’s legislative-lobbying arm, on Friday thanked gun-rights activists for their advocacy in the 2016 election, saying they “saved the soul of America” and “altered the course of history” in helping propel President Trump into the White House.

“You should be proud, because this organization made the difference and saved the soul of America,” Mr. Cox said. “We didn’t just swing an election. We altered the course of history.”

Mr. Cox recounted how the NRA was, at times, the only outside group really supporting Mr. Trump last year. The NRA gave Mr. Trump its earliest-ever presidential endorsement at its convention in Louisville last year and spent some $30 million supporting him and opposing Hillary Clinton.

“You kept your focus where it mattered: protecting and defending the Constitution of the United States,” Mr. Cox said.

He was helping kick off the 2017 NRA Institute for Legislative Action’s “Leadership Forum” on Friday at the gun-rights group’s annual meetings, held in Atlanta this year. Mr. Trump is the first sitting president since Ronald Reagan to speak at the NRA’s annual convention.

“He wasn’t the establishment’s candidate, and he sure wasn’t the media’s candidate,” Mr. Cox said. “He was our candidate: the most proudly pro-Second Amendment nominee in American history.”

Mr. Cox said he spoke to Mr. Trump shortly after the inauguration, and said that “he wanted me to thank all of you.”

Mr. Cox said that amid the dust-up over the size of Mr. Trump’s inaugural crowd he told the president that “the only number that mattered was the number of people who watched Hillary Clinton’s inauguration —- zero.”

Mr. Cox also said, though, that “the fight is far from over,” saying that “we can and we will” make Congress pass national concealed carry reciprocity legislation, a longstanding goal of gun-rights groups.

“Let us vow on this day that November was more than a temporary moment,” he said.

“It was a permanent political red line for every would-be holder of power: if you run against the Second Amendment freedom of everyday American citizens, you put your future in direct opposition to the most powerful grassroots force in history,” he said.

Some 80,000 NRA members were expected to attend the convention this year.

Other scheduled speakers at Friday’s event include Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, Sen. David Perdue of Georgia, and Milwaukee County, Wisc. Sheriff David Clarke.

GOP Sens. Rob Portman of Ohio and Roy Blunt of Missouri also addressed the crowd via videotaped messages.

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