Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are courting voters on opposite sides of the gun debate in events that will highlight the United States’ deep divide on the topic.
Trump and other top Republicans spoke at the National Rifle Association convention last night in Louisville, where organisers are trying to unite gun-rights voters by painting Clinton as a foe of their causes who must be stopped.
Clinton will appear today in Florida with the mother of Trayvon Martin and other parents who have lost children to gun violence.
She’s become a forceful advocate for restrictions meant to reduce the nation’s 33,000 annual gun deaths.
The dual appearances highlight the opposing positions the candidates have staked out on gun rights and safety, the prominent role the issue might play in the campaign and the national policy implications for the next president.
“If you cherish Second Amendment rights, the stakes have never been higher than they are in this election,” NRA spokeswoman Jennifer Baker said.
The NRA — which Clinton listed as an enemy in a debate last year — is warning its 5m members that Clinton would appoint anti-Second Amendment justices and “implement a radical gun-control agenda,” Baker said.
Clinton has said she supports the Second Amendment but that common sense safety measures are needed to keep firearms out of the wrong hands.
She has called for expanding background checks to sales at gun shows and online purchases, and for reinstating a ban on assault weapons.
She has often campaigned with families of gun violence victims and will rejoin many today as the keynote speaker at an event sponsored by the Trayvon Martin Foundation.
The fatal shooting of the unarmed black teenager in 2012 continues to be a flashpoint in the debate.
Trump, who often notes that he has a concealed-carry permit, has called for making it easier for law-abiding citizens to carry guns for self-protection, saying they could help prevent terrorist attacks and mass shootings.
He argues the existing background check system should be fixed, not expanded, and that assault-weapons bans do not work.
The latter view marks a change from 2000, when Trump wrote in a book that he supported the ban on assault weapons as well as a slightly longer waiting period for gun purchases.
Supporters of gun control have been energised by Clinton’s campaign and fear a Trump presidency would maintain a national policy that favours easy gun access.
Gun sales have boomed during Barack Obama’s presidency despite, and perhaps in part because of, several mass shootings and persistent gun violence in cities.
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