With the National Rifle Association's convention set for Friday night in Dallas, Texas, one particular quote from Donald Trump on gun violence is a disturbing reminder of what he thinks about this pressing issue. Trump, who will attend the event alongside Vice President Mike Pence, once boasted about his fans' loyalty in 2016: "I could stand in the middle of [New York's] Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters, OK?"
Trump said those words while speaking at a campaign rally during the election, and it stunned many people. But he neither clarified nor apologized for invoking such violent imagery; instead, Trump doubled down on those remarks. While appearing on CBS' Face the Nation in 2016 later, the then-Republican front-runner said, "Well, I have a very great group of people. ... I have people that are so loyal and it's been so reported and even in your poll, but in a lot of the polls they do that, the loyalty factor."
Trump never clarified his remarks; he kept it about his fans' loyalty and dedication. But some pointed out that Trump's Fifth Avenue statement from 2016 revealed a lot about what Trump thought of gun violence. Instead of treating human life as sacred, Trump demonstrated cavalier indifference about another person's safety in order to shamelessly brag about his fans.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 96 people are shot on an average day in the United States, and 13,000 people are killed in gun-related homicides annually. The fact that the GOP presidential front-runner boasted about shooting people on the street and not losing any votes continues to be deeply disturbing to many people.
For some critics, Trump's remarks showed that he viewed gun violence as a trivial and inconsequential matter, and that his public perception and popularity took priority over the well-being of another human being ― even if it meant violently hurting someone.
Here's the disturbing 2016 clip from CNN.
The NRA convention arrives four months after a horrific school shooting claimed the lives of 17 people at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Valentine's Day. Another instance critics singled out as lacking empathy was when he met with the survivors of different mass shootings at the White House, including Sandy Hook from 2012 and the Columbine high school shooting from 1999. There, Trump was pictured holding a note with a reminder for him to tell survivors, "I hear you."
Almost instantly, observers on social media commented on Trump's eyebrow-raising memo, including Twitter user and the editor-in-chief of the news network Cheddar, Jim Roberts. "Trump’s empathy deficit in one image," Roberts tweeted. "He need [sic] to be told to tell grieving students, 'I hear you.'"
With 80,000 NRA members expected to show up at the Friday night convention, people might be wondering what Trump will have to say on the subject of American gun ownership. The president and Pence are expected to speak to the audience.
The convention is taking place as protests against gun violence have spread throughout the United States, especially led by young students in different states. In fact, pro-NRA attendees of the event can expect to see gun control activists in Dallas on the same night.
So far, it isn't known what anti-gun violence protesters intend on saying to the NRA members or even the president apart from highlighting gun violence. But it's unlikely that minds will change overnight if people are reminded of Trump's shocking comments from 2016 — and that goes back to a poll from last year. According to a 2017 summer poll by Public Policy Polling, 45 percent of polled Republicans told the survey company that they would not disapprove of Trump even if he did shoot someone in the middle of New York's Fifth Avenue. Only 29 percent said that they would drop him if he did so, while 26 percent said that they were uncertain.
For people invested in curbing American gun violence, such a sentiment — from the president of the United States of America — is extremely worrying, to say the least.