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Trump defends the NRA as a group of 'patriots' who want to 'do the right thing'

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(CNN) -- President Donald Trump defended the National Rifle Association on Thursday, saying he believes the organization wants to "do the right thing" in wake of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people.

Trump, during a roundtable discussion on school shootings with state and local officials at the White House, said he had spoken to officials from the NRA, calling them "good people" and "patriots" who are "ready to do things."

"They're ready to do things," Trump said. "They love this country. The NRA is ready to do things. People like to blame them, and they do have power and all of that, but they want to do things. I told them, 'We're going to have to toughen up.' It doesn't make anyone look good. We can't allow that to happen."

A White House official told CNN that Trump spoke with NRA executive director Chris Cox.

Earlier Thursday, NRA executive vice president and CEO Wayne LaPierre delivered an unrepentant speech at a conservative gathering near Washington, saying, "What they want is more restrictions on the law-abiding."

"You should be anxious and you should be frightened" about the potential of another Democratic takeover of the House, Senate and White House," he said.

"If they seize power ... our American freedoms could be lost and our country will be changed forever," he said. "The first to go will be the Second Amendment," LaPierre said.

Though Trump has suggested raising the minimum age for purchasing a firearm, an idea that has been roundly rejected by the NRA, he said he doesn't expect to clash with the gun rights group.

"I don't think I'll be going up against them," Trump said. "They're going to do what's right. They're very close to me. I'm close to them. The NRA wants to do the right thing. I've spoken to them often in the last two days. It's not a battle -- I think the NRA wants to do the right thing."

Trump also echoed some of LaPierre's language when it came to "hardening" schools and upping their security.

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