Trump pressured to drop background checks by "gun expert" Don Jr. despite Fox News poll

Trump claimed he wanted "strong background checks" after El Paso and Dayton — but Don Jr. is whispering otherwise

By Igor Derysh
Published August 15, 2019 6:30PM (EDT)
Donald Trump Jr. (AP/Matt York)
Donald Trump Jr. (AP/Matt York)

President Trump’s advisers are urging him to back off his support for expanded background checks out of fear that it would alienate gun groups like the NRA, even as a new Fox News poll showed the group with a net negative rating for the first time ever.

Trump called for Congress to pass “strong background checks” after the mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton, just as he did last year after the Parkland school shooting before backing down to pressure from the NRA and backing a proposal to arm teachers with guns instead.

Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., told the New York Times earlier this week that Trump appeared to be “serious about pressuring Republicans to act” and Politico reported that aides for Murphy, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., have met with White House legislative affairs director Eric Ueland about potential legislation. Toomey and Manchin are the co-sponsors of a compromise bill that would expand background checks to most but not all gun purchases. The bill has floundered in the Senate since it was introduced in response to the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012.

But Trump is getting a lot of pushback from his “gun expert.” 

“Don Jr. is my gun expert,” Trump declared at a fundraiser in the Hamptons on Friday, according to the Wall Street Journal. “He knows more about guns than anyone I know.”

The Journal reported that Donald Trump Jr. had warned his father against supporting expanded background checks and “red flag” laws, which allow courts to order guns removed from dangerous people, because he is worried it would be seen as infringing gun owners’ rights and would be unpopular among conservatives.

Trump’s support for background checks has caused “consternation among conservatives and some of his advisers, who have privately raised concerns about the political and policy fallout of the approach,” according to the report. Some advisers have urged Trump not to back any of the gun control measures in Congress, including a red flag law introduced by Trump ally Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.

Trump’s advisers “expressed concern,” the Journal reported, over fears such new laws could “alienate conservative voters.”

The Washington Post reported last week that NRA chief Wayne LaPierre had also lobbied Trump against supporting gun control legislation. Trump responded by assuring the group on Twitter that the NRA’s “very strong views” would be “fully represented and respected.”

But the NRA’s “very strong views” appear to be wearing thin on the American public, according to a Fox News poll published on Wednesday.

The poll showed the gun group with a net negative rating for the first time ever, the network reported. Just 42 percent of registered voters said they had a favorable opinion of the NRA, down from 49 percent last year, while 47 percent said they had an unfavorable view. Even among the gun owners that "gun expert" Don Jr. is so eager to defend, favorable views of the NRA fell from 67 percent last year to 56 percent following the recent mass shootings.

The Fox poll showed that voters are very supportive of nearly all the gun control proposals on the table and increasingly frustrated with Congress’ lack of action.

The poll showed that 67 percent of voters support a ban on assault weapons, including 53 percent of gun owners. Eighty-one percent said they support red flag laws. An incredible 90 percent said they support expanded background checks, which is actually lower than the near-universal support seen in other polls.

The American public has seen this dance before, however. After Sandy Hook. After Parkland. After any one of the deadliest mass shootings in American history, 20 of which took place over the last decade.

More than 70 percent of voters said that Congress has the ability to reduce gun violence but just 18 percent said it was very likely that it would act this year. Forty-two percent of voters, Fox News reported, said “there’s no chance at all” that lawmakers will pass meaningful gun control.


Igor Derysh

Igor Derysh is a staff writer at Salon. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald and Baltimore Sun.

Tips/Email: Twitter: @IgorDerysh

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