"It was eight years of being frustrated and sad that the guy who is supposed to represent us embarrassed me," Van Durme said, describing Barack Obama as disrespectful of members of law enforcement and the military and too deferential to foreign leaders. "The guy we just saw here? Like the song says, 'He's proud to be an American.'"
During the campaign, the NRA poured more than $30 million into Trump's effort. Trump himself has said he has a concealed-carry permit and owns guns and son Donald Trump Jr. is a well-known hunter and key supporter of efforts to ease restrictions on the sales of suppressors. During the campaign, Trump promised to do away with Obama's efforts to strengthen background checks and to eliminate gun-free zones at schools and military bases.
Trump's address was reminiscent of his election rallies. He told NRA members he would not back away from defending the right to bear arms.
"You have a true friend and champion in the White House," he said.
Leading up to his taking the stage, the NRA played a video with snippets of various celebrities and political pundits poo-pooing the chances of Trump being elected president interspersed with Election Night newscasts as state after state came in for Trump. The underdog emerging victorious proved popular to those in the crowd who view Trump as their champion — most especially when it comes to gun rights.
Still, his appearance in Atlanta sparked protests from people advocating for stricter gun control measures.
Lorraine Bascombe, who works in the health care industry and lives in suburban Atlanta, said she expected any Republican president to favor fewer regulations on gun purchases. But she worries Trump won't listen to people who want "sensible, safe" gun control.
Bascombe said Republicans "stalled and prevented" Obama from increasing restrictions on gun sales, a stalemate she found frustrating.
"The NRA has so much lobbying power and I don't see that changing anytime soon," she said. "That's my angst."
Protesters were particularly worried about efforts to push for federal legislation to make any state's concealed-carry permits valid nationwide, which they fear will effectively turn the weakest gun standards in the nation into the law of the land. The GOP-led Congress already passed a resolution to block a rule that would have kept guns out of the hands of certain people with mental disorders, and Trump quickly signed it.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer said on the plane trip from Washington that NRA members supported Trump during the election based on his strong commitment to gun rights. He also cited Trump's appointment of Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.
"I know the NRA is glad to have a justice in that seat who is such a staunch defender of the Constitution," he said.
For Ty Smith, who as a college student in north Georgia helped organize students to vote for Trump, having the president in the same room gave him chills. "I would do anything for this man," he said.