On Friday, Vice President Pence spoke to the gathered members of the National Rifle Association (NRA) at their annual leadership forum.
Well, hello NRA! (Applause.) Thank you, Chris, for that kind introduction. Chris knows me well enough to know the introduction I prefer is a little bit shorter. (Laughter.) I’m a Christian, a conservative, and a Republican, in that order. And I’m a card-carrying member of the NRA. (Applause.)
To Wayne LaPierre, to Governor Abbott, to the distinguished members of Congress, to all my fellow Americans who’ve come from near and far, it is great to be back at the 147th annual meeting of the National Rifle Association. Thank you all. (Applause.)
And I’m especially proud to be here with a good friend of mine — (laughter) — a great champion of our most cherished liberties, and a man, I can tell you, who can’t wait to get out here: The 45th President of the United States of America, President Donald Trump. (Applause.)
You know, last year, President Trump spoke to this very gathering; the first President to do so in 34 years. (Applause.) And he told you then, in his words, that, “You have a true friend in the White House.” And I’m here today, as his Vice President, to tell you that you have two friends in the White House. (Applause.)
President Donald Trump and I both stand without apology for the Second Amendment. And in this administration, the right of the people to keep and bear arms will not be infringed. (Applause.)
That right is truly one of our first and most important freedoms. Our founders won our independence with the power of their ideas and their muskets. Our pioneers won the west, and expanded the frontiers of freedom, with their daring, their courage, and their Springfields, Winchesters, and Colts. (Applause.)
From generation to generation, our forebears have fought our nation’s wars and defended our way of life with the skills they learned on the rifle range, or in a dove field, or in a deer stand, or at the knee of a father or grandfather back home.
And in our own day, there is no greater champion of America’s tradition of responsible gun ownership than you, the men and women of the National Rifle Association. (Applause.)
The National Rifle Association is an organization forged in freedom. For nearly 150 years, the NRA has valiantly defended the Constitution and all our God-given liberties.
In its early years, the NRA helped train our fellow citizens in gun safety and marksmanship — a tradition that continues even as this organization has gone on to become one of the principal defenders of our Second Amendment rights.
Today, more than 5 million Americans are proud members of the NRA. And the work you do is essential to preserving our freedoms at every level of the American government. So give yourselves a round of applause for all you do for the ideals we cherish. (Applause.)
And President Trump and I came here today, mostly, just to say, “thanks.” Thank you for all you do to defend liberty. And thank you for electing a President and a Congress that are making America great again. (Applause.)
Because of your support, on Election Day and every day since, you can only describe this administration one way: It’s been 15 months of promises made and promises kept. And we’re just getting started. (Applause.)
I mean, think about it. President Trump promised to rebuild our military and restore the arsenal of democracy. And just over one month ago, President Trump signed into law the largest investment in our national defense since the days of Ronald Reagan. (Applause.)
Our President promised to enforce our laws and secure our borders. We’ve taken on sanctuary cities. We’re fighting to end catch-and-release and close all the dangerous immigration loopholes in our laws. The President signed into law the biggest funding increase for border security in nearly a decade and even ordered the National Guard to the southern border. Under this President’s leadership, we’ve nearly doubled the arrests of vicious gang members in MS-13. (Applause.) And thanks to the leadership of President Trump, Congress approved funding for the first 100 miles of a border wall. (Applause.)
And I’ll make you a promise. When it comes to that big border wall, we’re going to build it all. (Applause.)
This President has also stood for all the God-given liberties enshrined in our Constitution. And I have tell you, I couldn’t be more proud to serve alongside a President who stands without apology for the sanctity of human life. (Applause.)
To protect all our unalienable rights, President Trump promised to appoint strong conservatives to the federal courts at every level. And we’ve been busy at it. We actually, in the last year, set a record for most court of appeals judges confirmed in a single year in American history, and that doesn’t even count Justice Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court of the United States. (Applause.)
And when it comes to security here at home, our President and I promised to stand with those who stand on the Thin Blue Line of law enforcement. And so we have. (Applause.)
As we all know, the men and women of law enforcement risk their lives every day to serve and protect our families, our neighbors, and our communities. And that’s why under President Donald Trump’s leadership, we’ve made new resources available to law enforcement at every level. And we will continue to give all the heroes of law enforcement the training, tools, and the respect that they deserve as they protect our families in communities across this nation. (Applause.)
You know, the American people will always remember the heroes of the Dallas Police Department who fell in the line of duty nearly two years ago in that attack that claimed the lives of five officers and left nine others injured.
Sadly, just last week, another brutal act of violence struck this city, leaving one Dallas Police officer dead and injuring another officer and a security guard. I know I speak for everyone here when I say that we are praying for the family of Officer Rogelio Santander, and for the swift recovery of Scott Painter and Officer Crystal Almeida. They are heroes, and they are on our hearts and in our prayers. (Applause.)
We live in challenging times, for as we all know, it hasn’t just been our law enforcement community that’s faced mindless violence of late. We live in a time where mass shootings have claimed hundreds of lives in places of work, and worship, and public settings, shocking the conscience of the nation. An ISIS-inspired attack on the Pulse Night Club, in Orlando. An attack on a country music concert, last year, in Las Vegas — the worst mass shooting in modern history. And the recent attack on Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
These, and too many other acts of violence, shattered families and left our nation searching for answers. We mourn with those who mourn, and grieve with those who grieve. But we also resolve to confront this menace with all our strength. And we are doing just that under the leadership of this President. (Applause.) And I promise you, under President Trump’s leadership, we will not rest and we will not relent until we end this evil in our time.
You know, in recent days, after these tragedies, America has seen President Trump’s leadership on full display. He hosted a listening session at the White House with students, and teachers, and parents still grieving from the shooting in Parkland, Florida. We listened to their stories. We heard all sides of the debate. I’ll never forget it.
As the President has said, in his words, “It’s not enough to simply take actions that make us feel like we’re making a difference. We must actually make that difference.” And so we have. (Applause.)
Just over one month ago, President Trump signed the STOP School Violence Act, with the strong support of the parents of Sandy Hook Promise and the NRA. (Applause.)
We’re now providing more than $2 billion to help local governments ensure the security of their schools and the safety of our students. It represents the single largest investment in school safety in American history. (Applause.)
President Trump also signed critical legislation to fix the National Instant Background Check System to keep deadly weapons way from those who should never have them in the first place. And we’re pursuing new resources to ensure that those struggling with serious mental illness have access to the treatment that they need. (Applause.)
With the President’s leadership, we’ve joined the NRA to call on states to give families and law enforcement the tools they need to stop mass shootings before they happen, because we know we can protect public safety and due process at the same time. (Applause.)
And President Trump has urged leaders all across America to follow the example of states like Indiana, and allow qualified school personnel on a voluntary basis to carry concealed weapons, because the quickest way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun! (Applause.)
This is real leadership, men and women. And these are real results that will give law enforcement, families, and our schools new resources and tools to protect our students and ensure public safety.
And I promise you we will continue to bring American solutions to bear on this crisis. We will end this evil and protect our liberties at the same time. That’s the American way. (Applause.)
The American people deserve to know about what we’ve done and what we’re doing, because quite frankly, most in the media won’t talk about it, and we all know why.
AUDIENCE: Booo —
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Most of the national media is working an agenda very different than most of us in this room. I mean, not only does the media too often ignore what our President is accomplishing, but they also won’t tell the whole story about firearms in America.
I mean, think about it: They focus on the tragedies and the heartbreak. And well they should. But too often, many in the national media all but ignore what happens when well-trained, law-abiding gun owners save lives. It’s the truth. (Applause.)
And the reality is, throughout American history — it’s been proven time and time again — firearms in the hands of law-abiding citizens makes our communities more safe, not less. (Applause.)
Let me tell you a few stories that you don’t hear much about in the national media, but they prove the point.
Like the off-duty Marine in Atlanta, in 2009, who was attending a party that was overtaken by two would-be murderers. After the attackers separated the men and women, Sean Barner was able to get to the concealed firearm in his backpack. He killed one and ran off the other, preventing a terrible tragedy. (Applause.)
Or how about the passerby outside a Philadelphia barbershop in 2015. He heard gunfire inside, he rushed in, he shot the attacker in the chest. And the Philadelphia Police Captain said, “He saved a lot of people in there.” And he did. (Applause.)
Or how about the Uber driver in Chicago, the same year, who saw a man open fire on a crowd of people on a Friday night. He pulled out his concealed weapon, he engaged the shooter, he hit the attacker multiple times, and saved the lives of people on that street that he’s never even met. (Applause.)
Or the story from just down the road, in Arlington, Texas, where exactly one year ago yesterday, a crazed man entered a bar, killed the manager, was prepared to kill countless others, when he was stopped cold by another patron, a fella who took his wife to dinner that night and had a firearm at his side. (Applause.)
I mean, the truth is that these are the stories we don’t hear much about, yet they’re the stories that America most needs to hear.
And so today, I want to call on the national media. Start telling the whole story to the American people about firearms in this country. (Applause.) I mean, it’s time the national media gave our many heroes as much attention as they give to our few villains, because we should be a nation that recognizes the people who save lives much more than the people who take them. (Applause.)
It’s the greatest honor of my life to serve as your Vice President. (Applause.) Truly is. And I thank you all. You know, the last two years have been filled with sights and sounds this small-town boy could’ve never imagined that I’d live to see.
But for Karen and me, our most inspiring moment came in the wake of one of our nation’s darkest days, when we spent time with some extraordinary Americans not far from here, in a place called Sutherland Springs, Texas. (Applause.)
We all know the story — you just heard it again — of a Sunday morning in November when a deranged man entered the sanctuary of the First Baptist Church and murdered 26 believers, including 9 children, and injured 20 more.
A few days after the attack, the President sent us to that small town to pray and to comfort and to stand with those families. And it was our great honor. (Applause.)
We grieve with those who grieve, and we prayed. But as the Good Book says, we did not grieve like those who have no hope –because the faith of those families, and the heroes minted that day, gave us hope. (Applause.)
Walking through the library at the nearby high school, we spent time with each of the grieving families just before a memorial service. They were still shattered by the evil of that Sunday morning. We saw the pain of unspeakable loss in their eyes. But as I told Pastor Pomeroy, I just yesterday at the White House, Karen and I were so inspired by the faith in Christ that radiated out of every one of those families. (Applause.)
But it wasn’t just the faith of the families of the fallen. That day, we also met, for the first time, the heroes of Sutherland Springs on a street corner just outside the church. As America would learn on that fateful morning, when one man heard the gunshots, he ran toward the danger, his firearm in hand. He shot the attacker twice. And with another man’s help, they pursued that murderer in a high-speed chase.
While the losses that day were indescribable, what was clear later is that it actually could have been worse. The murderer had ammunition and arms that would have claimed even more lives, but for the courage of an NRA instructor and the newest recipient of the “Defender of Freedom” award, Stephen Willeford. (Applause.) Stephen, it is an honor to share this stage with you today.
The Second Amendment is a shield for the rights of every American, and it’s a shield for the most vulnerable. It’s the “great equalizer” that gives every American the power to defend themselves and their families against any evil in our midst.
And for the sake of our freedom, for the safety of our people, and for the security of our nation, President Donald Trump and I will always stand for the right to keep and bear arms. (Applause.)
As I close, let me simply encourage you — encourage you to remember that our freedom always needs defending. As my second favorite President, Ronald Reagan — (laughter and applause) — once said, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.”
And make no mistake about it, men and women: This is a pivotal year in the life of our nation. And in this year, I want to challenge all of you — all the men and women of the National Rifle Association, here and across the country — stay in the fight; exercise all of your fundamental rights; live out the citizenship in a way that’s long made the NRA one of the most potent forces for good in the United States of America. And do it this year. (Applause.)
Carry freedom forward. Support men and women in public office who support our liberties. And talk to your coworkers, and neighbors, and friends, and family at worship and at work. Talk to them about the progress that we’ve made together, and all that we can do in the days ahead.
Tell our story. Tell what President Trump has meant to this nation in restoring our strength at home and abroad. Remind them that we cut their taxes so they can keep more of what they earn. (Applause.) Remind them that we’re restoring American strength at home and abroad to protect their families and our freedom. Remind them that we’re standing with law enforcement and all the God-given liberties enshrined in the Constitution. Just go out there and tell them. (Applause.) Tell them we got the government working for them, not the other way around. Go tell them that the forgotten men and women of America are forgotten no more! You just go tell them, and tell them this year. (Applause.)
And if you’re of a mind, there’s one thing more I might urge you to do. In this time of too much division in these United States, too much anger and even violence, I want to encourage you, if you’re so inclined, to bow the head and bend the knee in the days ahead, and pray for America. (Applause.)
And when you pray, pray with confidence, because I’ll always believe that those words recorded millennia ago that Americans have clung to throughout our history are every bit as true today as they’ve ever been in these divided times, that if His people, who are called by His name, will humble themselves and pray, He’ll do like He’s always done through the long and storied history of this land: He’ll hear from heaven, and He’ll heal this land — (applause) — this one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty, and justice for all. (Applause.)
Well, I need to get out of your way because your next speaker is about ready to come out. (Applause.) But I want to thank you for the honor of addressing you. I leave here with renewed confidence, with the support of all the freedom-loving Americans gathered here and looking on across the country, with continued conservative leadership in the Congress of the United States, with President Donald Trump in the White House — (applause) — and with God’s help, we will make America prosperous again. We will make America safe again. And as he loves to say, we will make America great again.
Thank you very much. God bless you. And God bless the United States of America. (Applause.)