In a televised meeting from the White House on Feb. 28, President Donald Trump told lawmakers “I want you to come up with a strong bill — and really strong on background checks.”
“I’m a big fan of the NRA,” Trump said, “but that doesn’t mean we have to agree on everything. It doesn’t make sense that I have to wait til I’m 21 to get a handgun, but I can get this weapon [an AR-15] at 18. So I was just curious as to what you did in your bill.”
When Senator Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) answered “We didn’t address it,” Trump replied, “You know why? Because you’re afraid of the NRA,” despite the fact that Toomey worked on a 2013 bill to strengthen background checks, which cost him his NRA endorsement. “Some of you people are petrified of the NRA,” Trump said, addressing the room. “You can’t be petrified. They wanna do what’s right, and they’re gonna do what’s right. I really believe that.”
Trump suggested expanding background checks for gun buyers (specifically, to require background checks for all weapons sales, including “gun shows and online”) and raising the legal age to buy semi-automatic rifles from 18 to 21.
Afterward, he took to Twitter to make the following statement: “Many ideas, some good & some not so good, emerged from our bipartisan meeting on school safety yesterday at the White House. Background Checks a big part of conversation. Gun free zones are proven targets of killers. After many years, a Bill should emerge. Respect 2nd Amendment!”
Many ideas, some good & some not so good, emerged from our bipartisan meeting on school safety yesterday at the White House. Background Checks a big part of conversation. Gun free zones are proven targets of killers. After many years, a Bill should emerge. Respect 2nd Amendment!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 1, 2018
The subject of violence in video games and other forms of entertainment was brought up at the meeting as well. “I have a young, very young son, who, I look at some of the things he’s watching, and I say, how is that possible?,” Trump said. “I think you maybe have to take a look at it. …It’s hard to believe that at least for a percentage, maybe it’s a small percentage of children, this doesn’t have a negative impact on their thought process. I mean, these things are really violent.”
During the meeting, Trump stressed repeatedly that he supports armed security at schools, arming teachers and reducing the number of gun-free zones. He also brought up the subject of mental illness: “You have to do something about the mentally ill not being able to buy a gun!” But he also seemed to suggest that police should have the power to seize guns from anyone who could pose a threat, without a court order: “Take the guns first, go through due process second…We can’t wait and play games and nothing gets done.”
For a long time, Republicans have campaigned to include nationwide concealed carry in any new gun control bills, but Trump warned them against putting up a bill that included it: “If you add concealed carry to this, you’ll never get it passed.”
“It would be so beautiful to have one bill that everyone could support,” Trump said. “It’s time that a president stepped up.”
BBC reports that at the end of the meeting, “Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein, a fierce gun-control advocate, clapped in joy, while some gun-rights Republicans wondered whose side the president was on.”
“While today’s meeting made for great TV, the gun control policies discussed would make bad policy that wouldn’t keep our children safer,” said Jennifer Baker, a spokeswoman for the NRA’s lobbying arm. “We are going to continue to work to pass policies that might actually prevent another horrific tragedy.”
Opening photo by Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America (Donald Trump) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons