Eric Trump arrived inconspicuously at the shooting range. It was the third campaign stop of four he made in central North Carolina Thursday on behalf of his father, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.
Some of those waiting for him near a pavilion at Drake Landing, a 2,000-acre shooting range and preserve on the southern outskirts of Fuquay-Varina, were wondering if they’d get an autograph from Eric Trump when they found him already in their midst, navigating through the crowd on his way to the front.
Eric Trump, 32, is an avid hunter, which he acknowledged in remarks to a crowd of about 100 supporters gathered for an informal visit from the middle of three Trump sons.
“I shoot regularly,” Trump said to the crowd. “If I’m not working, it’s all I do.”
Eric Trump attended events in Raleigh and Benson Thursday before heading to Harnett County. Another visit is scheduled Friday in Southern Pines at the Moore County GOP headquarters.
Drake Landing employee Marsha Parrish, a Trump supporter, said Thursday’s choice of venue was the result of Trump campaign workers who frequent the range, the only one of its kind in comfortable driving distance from Raleigh.
Trump’s remarks lasted about 10 minutes. Second Amendment issues were at the forefront of the conversation, but he also spoke about veterans issues, attitudes toward police, and in general terms about his father’s plans for the country.
“We’re going to make sure we have good Supreme Court judges, ones that won’t take away the Second Amendment,” he said. “We’re going to take care of Obamacare and put something great in place. We’re going to fix the mess down at the southern border, because that’s a real problem as well. We’re going to make America great. It’s just that simple, and it won’t be all that hard to do.”
One audience member asked Trump if he could reassure the crowd that his father would perform better in the next two debates. Trump responded by asking if the man would rather his father go on the offensive.
“Attack, attack!” another audience member shouted back.
Ches McDowell of Lexington said he is more excited to vote for Trump than he was for previous Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney or John McCain. He said he trusts Trump will secure the Supreme Court and, by extension, the sanctity of the Second Amendment.
“Our generation doesn’t know where their food came from, and they don’t want to know where their food came from,” said McDowell, who is in his late 20s. “They tend to look at hunting in a bad light while they eat hamburgers at McDonald’s. Hunting and fishing is an incredibly important part of our country and its heritage.”
Harnett County Sheriff Wayne Coats was among those in the crowd Thursday. He said gun rights are important to him as well.
“Everyone needs a gun that is proficient with it and is not a convicted felon,” Coats said. “Everyone has a right to defend their self and their home. And he is pro law enforcement, and we’re not seeing that from the Clintons. We know where he stands on it; he’s made that clear.”
In an interview after the event, Trump said smaller events in rural settings are important for harnessing the enthusiasm of those likely to vote for his father.
“I say this with all due respect, but Hillary Clinton shows up somewhere, and no one shows up,” Trump said. “I show up, we announced this 20 hours ago, and you saw there were a couple hundred people here, and maybe 500 or 600 in Benson where I just was.”
Trump said he is especially familiar with North Carolina because his wife, Lara, is from Wrightsville Beach and is a 2005 graduate of NC State. Even so, Trump couldn’t help but appear surprised when, at one point during the interview, someone’s pet pig squealed loudly nearby.
“That’s a pig on a leash,” he said.
Gargan: 919-460-2604; @hgargan