When President Trump addressed members of the National Rifle Association (NRA) at the organization's annual leadership conference in Dallas, Texas, on Friday, he was met with enthusiastic cheers from the crowd as he vowed not to pursue any of the gun laws he'd proposed in the wake of a deadly school shooting back in February. But while the president had crowds inside the convention center applauding, Parkland students were more critical. Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student Cameron Kasky ripped into Trump's NRA speech during an interview with CNN on Saturday, calling the president a "professional liar" who'd say anything to get a crowd to cheer.
"He's a professional liar who will say anything to appease whatever crowd he's at," Kasky told CNN New Day co-host Christi Paul. "If he's in front of families he might say something in support of common-sense gun reform, but then when he's at the NRA he'll say something to get a big cheer."
Trump had said he was willing to get "tough" with the NRA in the weeks following a deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. "We're going to have to fight them," Trump said of the NRA in a speech to governors at the White House in late February. Days later he criticized Republican legislators for being "afraid" of the NRA while expressing his support for raising the purchasing age for rifles to 21.
However, in his address to the NRA on Friday, the president appeared to have completely walked back his stance on gun laws. "Your Second Amendment rights are under siege, but they will never, ever be under siege as long as I'm your president," Trump told the crowd. "In America, we trust the people to be wise and good... that is why in America, we've always trusted the people to keep and bear arms."
The president's pivot on policy wasn't lost on Kasky. "This is all spectacle," Kasky said Saturday on CNN. "This is all Trump just trying to appeal to a crowd of people who really, really, really like weapons that shoot bullets fast."
"The NRA convention is like Comic-Con, you really only get the die hard fans," Kasky said. "The average Americans who are NRA members, the ones who perhaps got their membership free with the purchase of a handgun, they're not showing up there and they're not holding Trump accountable for what he needs to actually talk about." Kasky went on to call the NRA's annual convention a "dog and pony show."
"It's a celebration really and I hope they're having fun this year, but the average members of the NRA, they don't agree with Trump's stance on guns," he said.
This year was the fourth time Trump has spoken at the NRA's annual convention, a sign of just how close his relationship with the gun lobby group is. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the NRA spent more than $30 million in support of Trump's candidacy during the 2016 presidential election. "You came through for me, and I'm going to come through for you," he told NRA members at the 2017 convention, which was held a few months after he'd won the presidential election.
Kasky also criticized the NRA's decision to follow Secret Service protocol banning firearms from the convention during Trump and Vice President Mike Pence's speeches. "You'd think that if someone supported the NRA, they'd want as many 'good guys with guns' in the room as possible, right?" Kasky said, referencing a popular NRA argument that even President Trump has used to refute the need for extreme vetting when purchasing firearms. "The hypocrisy is so blatant here and they’re just embracing it at this point."