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Former President Donald Trump addresses the National Rifle Association’s Presidential Forum in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Feb. 9, 2024. (Screen capture from NRA/YouTube)

At a Feb. 9 National Rifle Association presidential forum in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, former President Donald Trump bragged that his administration had taken absolutely no action to regulate guns. Gun violence spiked on his watch.

“During my four years, nothing happened!” Trump told the group, according to the Daily Beast. “And there was great pressure on me having to do with guns. We did nothing. We didn’t yield. And once you yield a little bit, that’s just the beginning. That’s [when] the avalanche begins.”

Trump ran in 2016 with the NRA’s endorsement and more than $30 million in financial support from the pro-gun group.

At the time he took office, the gun-related murder rate in the United States had been generally dropping since the early 1990s, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. From the time Trump took office in 2017 to the time he left in 2021, that rate spiked to the highest levels since the 1970s, notably after the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Gun suicides also spiked to their highest levels in decades.

The numbers of gun deaths among kids and teens under age 18 also increased on Trump’s watch, including a 50% increase between 2019 and 2021.

In Michigan, the number of firearm deaths in 2017 was 1,138, according to the CDC. In 2020, it was 1,454. By 2021, it was 1,544. 

According to a U.S. News & World Report estimate, 42 school shootings in the state between 2018 and 2023 left 32 people wounded or killed.

During Trump’s tenure, he rolled back gun regulations and made it easier to obtain deadly weapons. According to a report by the progressive group Democracy Forward, the measures Trump took narrowed the definition of who was barred from purchasing guns as a “fugitive from justice,” purged hundreds of thousands of records from the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, and canceled a proposed Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives rule that would have required that safety and storage devices be available at firearm shops. 

Though Trump ran for the White House as an opponent of gun restrictions such as universal background checks of purchasers, he did promise to end violent crime. “The crime rate is through the roof. People can’t walk down the street without getting shot. I’ll stop that,” he vowed in September 2016. 

The national homicide rate went up from 5.3 per 100,000 people in 2017 to 6.5 in 2020, according to the FBI.

After the deadly 2018 mass shootings at a high school in Parkland, Florida, Trump initially promised, “We’re going to be doing very strong background checks.” In the face of NRA opposition, Trump abandoned the claim and threatened to veto universal background check legislation in February 2019.

Following more mass shootings later that year in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas, Trump again called for background checks to curb gun violence, tweeting on Aug. 5: “We cannot let those killed in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, die in vain. Likewise for those so seriously wounded. We can never forget them, and those many who came before them. Republicans and Democrats must come together and get strong background checks, perhaps marrying this legislation with desperately needed immigration reform. We must have something good, if not GREAT, come out of these two tragic events!” 

On Sept. 27, 2019, the New York Times reported, then-NRA chief executive Wayne LaPierre met with Trump at the White House and told him, according to sources, to “stop the games” and abandon his calls for gun control. Trump again dropped the matter and by January 2020 was calling background checks an attack on the Second Amendment.

Trump said after a fatal Jan. 4, 2024, school shooting near Des Moines, Iowa: “It’s just horrible – so surprising to see it here. But we have to get over it. We have to move forward.”

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