Even as President Obama was holding a CNN town hall last night calling for gun reforms, Donald Trump — the man who hopes to succeed him in the White House — was promising a crowd at a Vermont rally that he would end gun free zones at schools.
Make no mistake, this is another very important Trumpian moment. It raises the bar once again for Trump’s GOP rivals for the nomination.
That’s because, if you take Trump’s words at face value, he is not simply proposing to repeal the federal law that created gun free zones at schools. His comments suggest he would also make it illegal for states to pass their own laws outlawing guns in school zones if they so choose.
“You know what a gun free zone is to sickos? That’s bait!” Trump said. He continued:
“I will get rid of gun-free zones on schools, and — you have to — and on military bases. My first day, it gets signed, okay? My first day. There’s no more gun-free zones.”
The key there is “no more gun free zones.” Current federal law makes it unlawful for anyone to knowingly possess a firearm in an area that he or she knows or has reasonable cause to believe is a school zone. There are some exemptions — the law, for instance, allows states to exempt people with state concealed carry permits, and some states have done this. Meanwhile, a number of states have passed their own laws containing various restrictions on guns in schools and colleges.
But taking Trump’s words at their plain meaning — “no more gun free zones” — he would not only repeal the federal law, but he also would apparently preclude states from setting their own policies when it comes to guns on school grounds, according to Arkadi Gerney, an expert on gun law at the Center for American Progress.
“He seems to say that he would override state and local laws that prevent people from carrying guns into schools, notwithstanding what states say,” Gerney tells me. “This would be a huge federal overreach. It’s saying the federal government can tell states they cannot prohibit guns in schools.”
Gerney notes that this would be similar to proposals for “national concealed carry reciprocity,” a longtime goal of gun rights groups, which would use federal power to require states to honor concealed carry permits issued to people in other states who bring their guns across state lines. Trump has already endorsed this idea, as have most Republicans (and some Democrats).
But this would apply to guns in schools. It will be interesting to see what his GOP rivals have to say about this — particularly the more “moderate” ones, such as Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush.
Now, it’s perfectly possible that Trump doesn’t intend to preclude states from passing their own gun bans for school zones. Trump has previously had to clarify proposals he spouted at rallies, such as when he proposed a temporary ban on all Muslims entering the U.S. then clarified he meant only non-citizens. And in the case of this new gun proposal, Jenna Johnson asked the Trump campaign for general clarification of his comments, but didn’t get an answer.
This one deserves more attention.
* PUBLIC BACKS OBAMA EXECUTIVE ACTIONS: CNN polls Obama’s new executive actions on guns, and finds broad support even across party lines:
67 percent say they favor the changes Obama announced, and 32 percent oppose them. Support for the executive actions, designed to expand background checks to cover more gun purchases made online or at gun shows and to make it easier for the FBI to complete background checks efficiently, comes across party lines, with majorities of Democrats (85), independents (65) and Republicans (51) in favor of them.
However, a majority doubts they will reduce gun violence. This probably means Americans want lawmakers to try to reduce gun violence, even if they aren’t sure such efforts will work.
* A GOOD JOBS REPORT! The December jobs numbers are in:
Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 292,000 in December, and the unemployment rate was unchanged at 5.0 percent…The change in total nonfarm payroll employment for October was revised from +298,000 to +307,000, and the change for November was revised from +211,000 to +252,000. With these revisions, employment gains in October and November combined were 50,000 higher than previously reported.
Surely these numbers will figure heavily in the GOP response to Obama’s State of the Union speech next week.
* PRESIDENTIAL RACES STILL IN FLUX IN IOWA: Politico surveys a range of Iowa insiders in both parties and finds that while they think Ted Cruz and Hillary Clinton are very likely to win there, surprise outcomes on both sides remain very possible. Still, this is the bottom line: Iowa insiders are “nearly unanimous” that Cruz and Clinton will prevail.
That means more on the Dem side than on the GOP side: A Clinton win here would offset a Bernie Sanders win in New Hampshire and probably all but seal her claim to the nomination.
* NRA STOKES FEARS OF OBAMA GUN CONFISCATION: The NRA refused to attend President Obama’s town hall on gun violence last night, but chief NRA lobbyist Chris Cox went to the friendly confines of Fox News to share the organization’s perspective:
When host Megyn Kelly asked whether Cox would take Obama up on his offer to meet with the NRA, Cox responded: “And talk about what, Megyn?…He doesn’t support the individual right to own a firearm.”
The other day, Obama said: “I believe in the Second Amendment…it guarantees a right to bear arms.” It’s almost as if the NRA doesn’t want gun owners to know about this.
* GOP WANTS TO KEEP POLITICAL GUNFIGHT GOING: Carl Hulse reports that GOP Senator Richard Shelby, the chairman of the subcommittee that funds the Justice Department, has summoned Attorney General Loretta Lynch to a hearing to defend the legality of Obama’s executive actions on guns. The rationale:
While the actual reach of the Obama proposals has been judged to be fairly modest, congressional Republicans are going to spend a lot of time talking about them since the issue has conservatives riled up on two fronts: gun rights and perceived executive overreach by the White House.
This is right: it’s all about riling up the conservative base. Meanwhile, the gun battle plays to Democrats’ favor among the coalition that they increasingly rely on in national elections.
* GOP WEIGHS WEAKENING FILIBUSTER: Burgess Everett reports that Senate Republicans will meet next week to consider whether to change the rules to eliminate the filibuster on spending bills. The idea, which appears born of frustration with Dem efforts to block such bills, would eliminate the filibuster on proceeding to debate, but not on ending it, so the minority could still stall the process.
Interestingly, some conservatives oppose this, because they think it will centralize power too much with the Senate leadership, i.e. Mitch McConnell.
“It helps to be tall…I don’t know, they’re big heels. They’re big heels. I mean, those heels were really up there.”
This guy is good.