On Sunday, he told reporters, “I’m saying Congress is going to be reporting back to me with ideas.” He then qualified immediately that suggestions will “come in from Democrats and Republicans. And I’ll look at it very strongly.” And then the NRA-approved line: “But just remember, we already have a lot of background checks. Okay?”
This is precisely what gun-lobby propagandists have been saying for years. Just enforce the laws on the books. Don’t close the gun-show loophole. Don’t change laws so that abusive partners would be barred from getting guns. And if Trump has now reverted to NRA talking points, you can bet Republican support for assault weapons bans and magazine limits is once again out of the question.
Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) was having none of it. In a written statement on Monday, he declared, “We’ve seen this movie before: President Trump, feeling public pressure in the immediate aftermath of a horrible shooting, talks about doing something meaningful to address gun violence, but inevitably, he backtracks in response to pressure from the NRA and the hard right.” He added, “These retreats from President Trump are not only disappointing but also heartbreaking, particularly for the families of the victims of gun violence. The way forward is for Senator McConnell to put the bipartisan House-passed universal background checks bill on the Senate floor for a vote immediately.”
Practically speaking, the real way forward might be for Democrats to run on gun safety in 2020 and call out Trump and his Republican allies as cowards. That would be smart politics given that the NRA’s approval is underwater and new gun laws are exceptionally popular with the same groups of voters already fleeing the GOP (e.g., women, college-educated voters, suburbanites). The Republican Main Street Partnership, a moderate group that backs “red flag” laws, recently released the results of a survey of 1,000 registered voters across five suburban House districts: Colorado’s Sixth, Kansas’s Third, North Carolina’s Ninth, Pennsylvania’s First and Virginia’s 10th. The result should scare the GOP. Among women in these districts:
· 72 percent said they think gun laws should be stricter, compared to four percent who said they should be less strict and 23 percent who said they should be kept as they are now.· 55 percent said they think stricter gun laws would help prevent gun violence.· 90 percent support requiring universal background checks for gun purchases at gun shows or other private sales, which would require all gun owners to file with a national firearms registry.· 88 percent said they would support requiring a 48-hour waiting period between the purchase of a firearm and when the buyer can take possession of that gun.· 84 percent back a national red flag law that would permit law enforcement to temporarily retain firearms from a person who may present a danger to others or themselves.· 76 percent said they would ban the purchase and use of semi-automatic assault-style weapons like the AK-47 and the AR-15.· And 72 percent would support banning the sale and possession of high-capacity or extended ammunition magazines, which allow guns to shoot more than 10 bullets before needing to be reloaded.
Trump and congressional Republicans’ obsequiousness to the NRA will be another reason for these voters to abandon the GOP, in addition to the president’s racism, bullying, climate-change denial, attacks on health care and abject cruelty toward migrant children. Then the rest of the country can pass rational gun laws. With Trump and the GOP out of power, real progress is possible.