INDIANAPOLIS — Wayne LaPierre, the executive vice president and CEO of the National Rifle Association, on Friday applauded gun-rights activists for their advocacy over the years, saying they helped tip the balance in the 2016 presidential election.
“I thank each and every one of you,” Mr. LaPierre said. “Together, we’ve made possible in this country a historic restoration of our freedoms.”
The NRA spent big in 2016 to elect President Trump, who addressed the group on Friday for the third consecutive year as the sitting president.
“Without us, we wouldn’t have had President Trump. We wouldn’t have [had] George W. Bush,” Mr. LaPierre said.
He was speaking at the annual “leadership forum” hosted by the NRA’s legislative-lobbying arm.
“I mean, there’s not another organization in the country that is directly responsible — because of the influence we all have as American citizens that stand for the Second Amendment — of delivering those states like Pennsylvania and Wisconsin and Ohio and Michigan and all those states that made the difference,” he said.
Despite the longstanding political influence of the NRA, gun control advocates say they sense new vulnerabilities.
They point to consecutive years of deficits the NRA ran in 2016 and 2017, as well as a wave of newly emboldened, younger activists who have made a point to try to aggressively confront the NRA in the wake of the Parkland, Florida, school shooting in February 2018.
But Mr. LaPierre said the group is never going to back down.
“I promise you, we’re never going to stop fighting for your right and folks just like you all over America to have the right to defend themselves,” he said.