Last Friday, in accepting the endorsement of the National Rifle Association ("NRA") at the NRA-ILA Leadership Forum in Louisville, Kentucky, Trump touted his sons' gun rights credentials. He said "My sons have been members of the NRA for many, many years and they are incredible. They have so many rifles and so many guns sometimes even I get a little bit concerned. I say 'That's a lot.'"
Why do Donald Trump, Jr. and Eric Trump need such vast arsenals? Like many Americans, they are hunters. While they do hunt conventional game, they also hunt exotic wild animals in an activity sometimes labeled "trophy hunting." Photos have gone viral of the Trump brothers happily posing with the many wild animals they have killed. One shows them using a water buffalo that they killed as a prop for their guns and hat. Another shows them smiling holding a dead leopard that they slaughtered. There is also a photo of a grinning Donald Trump, Jr. holding a tail that he cut off an elephant after he shot and killed it.
I am reminded of the recent story of Walter Palmer, a dentist from Minnesota, who also fancied himself a big game hunter. He killed a lion in Zimbabwe, which turned out to be a 13-year old lion named Cecil, beloved in that area. The outrage was swift and massive. Jane Goodall said this:
I simply cannot put myself into the mind of a person who pays thousands of dollars to go and kill beautiful animals simply to boast, to show off their skill or their courage. Especially as it often involves no skill or courage whatsoever, when the prey is shot with a high-powered rifle from a safe distance. How can anyone with an ounce of compassion be proud of killing these magnificent creatures? Lions, leopards, sable antelopes, giraffes and all the other sport or trophy animals are beautiful - but only in life. In death they represent the sad victims of a sadistic desire to attract praise from their friends at the expense of innocent creatures. And when they claim they respect their victims and experience emotions of happiness at the time of the killing, then surely this must be the joy of a diseased mind?
Trump's sons, having grown up with extraordinary wealth and privilege, have the education and resources to make an enormous positive impact in the world. So what are their interests? Apparently, collecting large quantities of weapons and trophy hunting of exotic wild animals are among their passions. Is it fair to attribute his sons' actions to Donald Trump? Are they fair game in this election when they are not running for office? Trump appears to have no qualms about using his sons' weapons stockpiles and hunting activities to pander to the NRA. Further, since he considers his sons qualified to be EVPs in the Trump Organization and his worthy surrogates on the campaign trail, will he will think them worthy of significant positions or influence in his administration?
But maybe we don't even need to consider whether Donald Trump's son's actions are fairly attributable to him. His own words are enough. Speaking at the same forum, Donald Trump said, "I think [the right to bear arms] is the most basic human right of all." That's right. In his view, "gun ownership" is the most fundamental human right. Not life or liberty, not food or water, not medical care. Guns. It is clear that the apples do not fall very far from the tree.
But the question remains, is it fair to associate his sons' bloodlust for killing exotic, wild animals with Donald Trump? In my view, his sons' actions are fair game, but the animals that they kill most definitely are not.