President Trump is scheduled to speak to the National Rifle Association for the fourth year in a row on Friday, after months of keeping his conservative base guessing as to whether he was capitulating to the demands of gun control activists.
The shooting that left 17 people dead at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., on Feb. 14 touched off a nationwide student-run movement for tighter gun control and stricter background checks. Though the students won sympathy from many Americans, Congress was mostly unmoved.
Trump, for his part, offered a number of extemporaneous and contradictory thoughts on gun control measures in the tragedy’s aftermath. But as the media’s gaze turned away from Parkland, Trump, who became the first sitting president to address the NRA’s annual convention last year, walked back his intention to “stand up” to the gun lobby.
So, what’s still on the table after Parkland? What did Trump claim he would support? And what didn’t happen? The place to start is the bipartisan, televised meeting with members of Congress on Feb. 28 — two weeks after the Parkland shooting.
In several uncharacteristic moments, Trump proposed measures to protect Americans from gun violence that more commonly have been raised by Democrats: raising the age limit for purchasing assault rifles to 21, giving law enforcement the authority to confiscate guns from suspicious citizens even if they have not broken any laws, preventing known domestic abusers from purchasing guns and rejecting reciprocity for gun owners with concealed-carry permits across state lines.
But Trump also offered a few suggestions that traditionally have been advanced by conservatives and gun rights groups, specifically outlawing gun-free zones and cracking down on the black market in weapons among criminal gangs. Gun control groups such as the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, say the notion of a large underground trade in illegal guns is a myth, and the real problem is weak gun laws.
Little has changed since that February meeting with Congress.
Trump appeared to start backing off his calls for stricter gun control the very next day after meeting with NRA lobbyist Chris Cox in the Oval Office. Both tweeted about the meeting.
I had a great meeting tonight with @realDonaldTrump & @VP. We all want safe schools, mental health reform and to keep guns away from dangerous people. POTUS & VPOTUS support the Second Amendment, support strong due process and don’t want gun control. #NRA #MAGA
— Chris Cox (@ChrisCoxNRA) March 2, 2018
Good (Great) meeting in the Oval Office tonight with the NRA!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 2, 2018
On March, 12, in a pair of tweets, Trump said he backed improving background checks, but he would not pursue his proposal to raise the minimum age for purchasing an assault rifle from 18 to 21 anytime soon.
Very strong improvement and strengthening of background checks will be fully backed by White House. Legislation moving forward. Bump Stocks will soon be out. Highly trained expert teachers will be allowed to conceal carry, subject to State Law. Armed guards OK, deterrent!…….
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 12, 2018
….On 18 to 21 Age Limits, watching court cases and rulings before acting. States are making this decision. Things are moving rapidly on this, but not much political support (to put it mildly).
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 12, 2018
Arming teachers was perhaps the most controversial proposal Trump offered. He said that teachers who “really have that aptitude” should have concealed carry permits for inside school buildings. Echoing NRA rhetoric, he said this would transform schools into “hardened targets.”
“And what I would recommend doing is the people that do carry, we give them a bonus. We give them a little bit of a bonus. Frankly, they’d feel more comfortable having a gun anyway. But you give them a little bit of a bonus,” Trump said on Feb. 22 in a meeting with local and state officials. “So practically for free, you have now made the school into a hardened target.”
He repeated similar claims on Twitter.
Armed Educators (and trusted people who work within a school) love our students and will protect them. Very smart people. Must be firearms adept & have annual training. Should get yearly bonus. Shootings will not happen again – a big & very inexpensive deterrent. Up to States.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 24, 2018
Not much has happened on that front nationally, except for a vigorous public debate and the Florida House Appropriations Committee approving a program to train and arm teachers. Laws regarding guns in schools vary from state to state. According to Giffords Law Center, eight states either allow concealed carry at K-12 schools or have no law prohibiting it.
But the president also vowed multiple times that he would ban “bump stocks,” accessories that let semiautomatic rifles fire faster. Twelve of the rifles that the Las Vegas shooter had in his hotel room were reportedly modified with these attachments.
The NRA has endorsed “additional regulations” on bump stocks, but its spokeswoman, Dana Loesch, has said the organization doesn’t endorse a ban.
Trump has made progress on this front. On Feb. 20, Trump announced that he had ordered Attorney General Jeff Sessions to draft regulations banning the attachments.
“We can do more to protect our children. We must do more to protect our children,” Trump said.
On March 23, Trump announced that the Justice Department would proceed with his plans to outlaw bump stocks, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions released a statement shortly after saying that he had filed the proposed changes.
The proposed bump stock ban’s public comment period extends to June 27. A Reuters analysis of 4,200 public comments of the 17,000 received by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives found that only 10 favored the bump stock ban, whereas nearly all the others criticized it as unconstitutional and excessive.
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