Trump's public gun control statements alarm conservative Republicans

Trump told lawmakers at the White House that he supports a number of gun control measures opposed by the NRA

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published March 1, 2018 8:07AM (EST)


President Donald Trump caused consternation among some of his staunchest conservative supporters during a rambling White House meeting with lawmakers in which he expressed support for potentially unconstitutional gun control measures staunchly opposed by the NRA.

After repeating his earlier support for allowing teachers to carry guns, addressing mental health issues and ensuring that law enforcement authorities respond quickly when warned about potential shooters, Trump pivoted to endorsing strengthened background checks — even claiming that NRA executives had personally told him that "it's time." He eventually called for the passage of the Manchin-Toomey bill that was supported by President Barack Obama after the Newtown, Connecticut school shooting (although Trump seemed to think Obama had not supported it).

In one of his more controversial moments, the president also threw out the possibility of taking guns away from people without due process — a position that most conservatives would say violates the Constitution.

"I like taking the guns early, like in this crazy man's case that just took place in Florida," Trump told lawmakers. "He had a lot of firearms. They saw everything. To go to court would have taken a long time. So you could do exactly what you're saying, but take the guns first, go through due process second."

Republicans by and large expressed dismay with the president's sudden flip-flopping on the issue.

"We’re not ditching any constitutional protections simply because the last person the president talked to today doesn’t like them," Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., said in a statement, according to The New York Times.

Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., echoed Sasse's sentiments.

"I don't think that he was saying that there's a place where you suspend the Constitution and suspend due process. I just don't believe that. I know you heard the words. I just don't believe in my heart of hearts that's exactly what he meant," Tillis said, according to The Weekly Standard.

The NRA also took issue with the president's sentiments — seemingly contradicting Trump's claim that NRA leaders agreed it was "time" to act — arguing that, while it supported fixing America's mental health system and improving reporting requirements, the NRA felt Trump's stronger gun control proposals "would make for bad policy that would not keep our children safe," according to NBC News.

By contrast, Democratic lawmakers seemed encouraged by Trump's comments and expressed hope that he would translate them into action.

"The White House can now launch a lobbying campaign to get universal background checks passed, as the president promised in this meeting, or they can sit and do nothing," Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., said after the meeting.

If the past serves as precedent, it is unlikely that Trump will stand by his new stronger stand on gun control. Earlier this week, Trump backed away from his stance on raising the minimum age for gun purchases after he met with NRA leaders who opposed that policy.

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer at Salon. He received a Master's Degree in History from Rutgers-Newark in 2012 and was awarded a science journalism fellowship from the Metcalf Institute in 2022.

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