In the immediate aftermath of the shootings in El Paso and Dayton, President Trump unsettled some on the right by seeming to endorse so-called “universal background checks” for gun purchases.
President Trump traveled to hospitals in Texas and Ohio Wednesday to console victims recovering from mass shootings that left 31 dead, and he pledged to advance gun control legislation, declaring himself “all in favor” of expanded background checks.
Mr. Trump told reporters earlier in the day that he is working with congressional leaders in both parties on legislation focusing on more background checks for firearms purchases.
“There is a great appetite for background checks,” Mr. Trump said at the White House. “I’m looking to do background checks. I think background checks are important.”
This is pretty much what he said after the Parkland shooting (details on that are in Bonchie’s CNN’s S.E. Cupp Shows Us That Those Screaming the Loudest About Conservative “Principles” Rarely Have Any). And we all know what became of that. Be that as it may, there were calls of “betrayal” and vows to not vote for him in 2020.
By last, Trump had started to back away from the idea. The first hint was in the Wall Street Journal:
While the president is vacationing at his golf course in New Jersey, White House officials began meeting this week with congressional staff in a bid to find areas of compromise.
“It’s very simple: There’s nobody that is more pro-Second Amendment than Donald Trump, ” Mr. Trump told reporters Tuesday before departing for a speech in Pennsylvania. “But I don’t want guns in the hands of a lunatic or a maniac, and I think if we do proper background checks, we can prevent that.”
Donald Trump Jr., the president’s son who often speaks with his father about his views on gun laws, has raised concerns about both red-flag legislation and about tightening background checks, according to people familiar with the matter.
This was mocked in the failing group blog, Salon, but the one thing we know for certain about Trump’s decisionmaking process is that he trusts very, very few people and the few he does trust have an enormous influence.
By yesterday morning, the Washington Post was reporting that background checks didn’t seem all that likely, in fact, the article is sort of a monument to invective masquerading as reporting:
On Monday, Democratic leaders said they viewed Trump’s shifting posture as a sign that he was never serious about leading a push to tighten gun laws.
“We’ve seen this movie before: President Trump, feeling public pressure in the immediate aftermath of a horrible shooting, talks about doing something meaningful to address gun violence, but inevitably, he backtracks in response to pressure from the NRA and the hard-right,” Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a statement. “These retreats from President Trump are not only disappointing but also heartbreaking, particularly for the families of the victims of gun violence.”
And by last night, the Post headline read Trump tells NRA chief that universal background checks are off the table.
President Trump talked Tuesday with National Rifle Association chief executive Wayne LaPierre and assured him that universal background checks were off the table, according to several people familiar with the call.
Trump told LaPierre that the White House remained interested in proposals that would address weapons getting into the hands of the mentally ill, including the possibility of backing so-called “red flag” laws that would allow the police to temporarily confiscate guns from people who have been shown to be a danger to themselves or others.
Nonetheless, the president’s conversation with LaPierre, which was first reported by the Atlantic, further reduced hopes that major new gun-safety measures will be enacted after the latest round of mass shootings.
My prediction is that the Red Flag law that is being discussed either goes nowhere either because the more we learn about how they work the scarier they become.
There are a couple of big lessons here.
President Trump has an annoying and often counterproductive habit of thinking out loud. One should not mistake what he says in any non-teleprompter moment as an indication of what he will end up doing.
While Trump has manifest weaknesses, one he doesn’t have, and one which ran riot inside the Bush White House, is a willingness to sell out his supporters to try to curry favor with people who will always hate him. If, at any time, he here’s that siren song of bipartisan agreement on commonsense gun laws, Donald Trump, Jr., will be there to pull him back to reality.