Donald Trump Jr. talks gun rights at Smyrna gun store

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Sep. 23—SMYRNA — Hours before a rally with Georgia Lt. Gov. candidate Burt Jones at Marietta's Strand Theatre, Donald Trump Jr. met with a smaller audience at Adventure Outdoors, a massive gun store and range that once housed a grocery store.

Without notes, the former president's son spoke to the 50-some attendees about a variety of topics, but mainly focused on gun rights.

Trump Jr. explained that despite his "People's Republic of New York City" roots, he developed a love of hunting, fishing and the like from his "blue-collar" Czechoslovakian grandfather (the father of Ivana Trump, Trump Jr.'s mother and Donald Trump's first wife).

"As I see the attacks, you realize it's not going to stop," Trump Jr. said. "As I see the other parts of the agenda that are being pushed on us, you realize and understand why the Second Amendment is so important."

Trump Jr. detailed his gun-rights activism in the first year of the Biden administration, having advocated against Biden's move to nominate gun control advocate David Chipman to run the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Biden pulled Chipman from consideration in the face of Republican opposition and uncertainty over how moderate Democrats would vote.

"When you find the most radical of the radicals out there, something had to be done," he said, before saying he wrote opinion pieces, appeared in videos and did other things to lobby against Chipman.

Trump Jr. said Republicans should be strategic on gun rights issues. Women who are worried about crime should be enlisted in the fight, he said. People who believe some moderate restrictions are fine should be told that eventually all guns will be banned. Less ardent gun-owning Americans should talk to their friends about the issues, he said, because they may be able to convince people better than passionate Second Amendment activists.

"We need focus," he said. "We need targeted approaches on these issues so that we can actually do whatever it takes to preserve our right to keep and bear arms."

Trump Jr. said his friends have called him "the Fifth Avenue redneck." The avid hunter has sometimes drawn the ire of animal rights activists — photos of him posing with such trophies as a slain leopard, a dead crocodile and an elephant tail have perennially gone viral. He also caused a stir in 2019 after a Propublica report detailed his shooting of an endangered sheep in Mongolia.

Asked about defending gun rights in the wake of mass shootings, Trump Jr. said that gang violence and movements to rein in police cause many more deaths.

"In terms of, as a percentage of crime, it's like nothing, right? ... It's statistically very insignificant. That's not saying that we want to allow those things to happen. Obviously, that's not the case. But they're (the left) able to manipulate the data," he said.

Other topicsThe president's son made some detours from gun rights while speaking — criticizing Biden's withdrawal from Afghanistan, the eviction moratorium, "woke" military leaders and the treatment of Capitol rioters who are in jail. He mostly steered clear of voter fraud conspiracy theories that dominated the last months of his father's administration. Asked about election integrity by an audience member, he said that "we need people in the state legislatures, people in those positions of power in government, that have the guts to actually stand up."

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger declined when the former president asked him to "find" the nearly 12,000 votes he would need to overcome Joe Biden's lead in Georgia, and Trump has since endorsed one of Raffensperger's primary opponents, Congressman Jody Hice, for the 2022 election.

Trump Jr. said he had personally underestimated Biden, saying the president had "destroyed" America in just eight months.

"America may have to hit rock bottom to realize that maybe (Trump's) tweets weren't so bad," Trump Jr. said, prompting a round of laughter. "I don't know. And trust me ... I was the guy that had to go on TV, at least 50% of the time, to defend it."

After the talk, Trump Jr. reflected on his family's long relationship with football great Herschel Walker, now a Trump-endorsed Senate candidate in Georgia.

"He's just a great American, a great patriot, a believer in freedom ... he could do whatever he wants, and he wants to fight for his country," Trump Jr. told the MDJ. "And I think that's absolutely awesome. I think we need a lot more of that in politics."

Former President Trump lashed out against Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp after Georgia flipped blue in 2020, but hasn't endorsed his most prominent challenger in the Republican primary, Vernon Jones. On the topic of who he supported in the gubernatorial GOP primary, Trump Jr. said, "We'll see what happens."

The speech and meet-and-greet took place over chicken nugget trays and shrimp platters at the store's "Wallace Hall," a wood-paneled, taxidermy mount-adorned banquet hall. The gun store often hosts Republican notables for events. Among the attendees were state Rep. Martin Momtahan, R-Dallas; state Rep. Joseph Gullett, R-Dallas; Smyrna Mayor Derek Norton; Smyrna Police Chief Keith Zgonc; and country music singer Travis Tritt.

Jay Wallace, owner of Adventure Outdoors, said he thought Trump Jr.'s speech was "very enlightening."

"It's good to hear from the Trump family again, since Donald Trump is not president, and that there's an ongoing fire in their heart," Wallace said.

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