Declared and expected 2024 GOP presidential candidates spoke at the National Rifle Association convention in Indianapolis on Friday. Former President Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis gave dueling speeches, marking the first time the two Republican frontrunners were featured at the same event.

Unsurprisingly, all of the Republican candidates said they supported the Second Amendment and many of them called for fewer gun restrictions.

DeSantis spoke from Florida in a recorded video. He said the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment right for individuals to bear arms is the “last backstop of freedom and the foundation upon which all our other rights rest.”

The Sunshine State governor criticized activists who called for the “defunding of law enforcement” and said it is curious they tend to be the same people who express hostility “to individual gun rights.” He said the “capacity” of people to defend themselves is the “basis of their ability to rule themselves.

As Florida governor, he said he called on his state legislature to pass a constitutional carry bill, which he signed into law. Additionally, he said Florida will restrict “ESG (environmental, social and governance issues) and woke capital” from threatening the financing of America’s Second Amendment rights.

Although DeSantis has yet to announce a 2024 presidential campaign, he is expected to declare in the coming months. Polls consistently show Trump and DeSantis as the leading candidates for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks to a crowd at Adventure Outdoors gun store in this Thursday, March 30, 2023 file photo, in Smyrna, Ga. DeSantis addressed the National Rifle Association convention in Indianapolis in a prerecorded video on Friday. | John Bazemore, Associated Press

Trump was the keynote speaker at the convention. He spoke to a roaring crowd.

His nearly hourlong speech covered domestic and foreign policy issues, and he made comments on recent criminal charges filed against him.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg indicted Trump earlier this week and grand juries in Georgia and Washington, D.C., could press charges as well in the months ahead. He called the criminal charges and investigations against him “election interference on a historic scale.”

Trump said if reelected he would pass legislation that would levy “federal penalties for prosecutorial abuse.”

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He also said he would ask Congress to establish national reciprocity for concealed carry. “Just like your driver’s license or your marriage license, your Second Amendment must apply across state lines,” Trump said.

Trump criticized “Democrat run cities” for a rise in crime and promised to “end the weaponization of our government including the ATF, the FBI and the DOJ.” He blamed Democratic mayors and federal agencies for not prosecuting crime.

Trump said school shootings across the country are not a “gun problem, but a mental health problem, a cultural problem and a spiritual problem.”

He said he wants to set up a program to train school teachers to carry firearms. “If we can send billions to Ukraine then we can afford to spend one-tenth of that amount to protect American children and American schools,” Trump said.

Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson speaks at the National Rifle Association Convention.
Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson speaks at the National Rifle Association Convention, Friday, April 14, 2023, in Indianapolis. | Darron Cummings, Associated Press

Additional highlights from other speakers

Other 2024 GOP candidates and hopefuls also addressed the NRA convention, including declared candidates Nikki Haley, the former United Nations ambassador and South Carolina governor, as well as former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson and businessman Vivek Ramaswamy.

Haley’s short recorded video featured her support for the “castle doctrine” and constitutional carry as well as license reciprocity with like-minded states.

Hutchinson also discussed his support of the Second Amendment and brought up the 2024 GOP nomination. He said that “(President) Biden is praying right now to have a repeat of 2020,” a presumed criticism of Trump.

Hutchinson recently launched his campaign for president and called for Trump to drop out of the race due to the criminal charges filed against him related to hush money payments to an adult film actress.

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, who launched a presidential exploratory committee earlier this year, also attacked Trump for saying in 2018 that law enforcement should “‘take the firearms first and then go to court.’”

Sununu ended his speech by saying NRA and GOP members need to recognize that they need independent Americans’ votes to win the White House again. He concluded by posing a question: “Are we going to go home and whine about losing in 2024, or are we going to get it done?”

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Ramaswamy gave a speech outlining his campaign promises if elected president. He said he would “dismantle the FBI” and the ATF because he said they “weaponized their agencies against their political opponents.”

Former Vice President Mike Pence kicked off the day’s political speeches with a call for an expedited federal death penalty for mass shooters.

“I believe the time has come to institute a federal death penalty statute with accelerated appeal to ensure that those who engage in mass shootings face execution in months, not years,” Pence said.

He also said there needs to be more legislation addressing mental health needs, and said calls for gun control in the wake of mass shootings are misplaced.

“President Biden and the Democrats have returned to the same tired arguments about gun control and gun confiscation. But we don’t need gun control, we need crime control,” he said.

Former Vice President Mike Pence waves after speaking during at the National Rifle Association Convention, Friday, April 14, 2023, in Indianapolis.
Former Vice President Mike Pence waves after speaking during at the National Rifle Association Convention, Friday, April 14, 2023, in Indianapolis. | Darron Cummings, Associated Press