Strong words on guns give way to re­al­ity

The News Herald (Willoughby, OH) - - Front Page - By Cather­ine Lucey and Jonathan Lemire

WASHINGTON » Not two weeks ago, President Don­ald Trump wagged his fin­ger at a Repub­li­can sen­a­tor and scolded him for be­ing “afraid of the NRA,” declar­ing that he would stand up to the pow­er­ful gun lobby and fi­nally get re­sults on quelling gun vi­o­lence fol­low­ing last month’s Florida school shoot­ing.

On Mon­day, Trump struck a very dif­fer­ent tone as he backpedaled from his ear­lier de­mands for sweep­ing re­forms and bowed to Washington re­al­ity. The president, who re­cently ad­vo­cated in­creas­ing the min­i­mum age to pur­chase an as­sault weapon to 21, tweeted that he’s “watch­ing court cases and rul­ings” on the is­sue, adding that there is “not much po­lit­i­cal sup­port (to put it mildly).”

Over the week­end, the White House re­leased a lim­ited plan to com­bat school shoot­ings that leaves the ques­tion of arm­ing teach­ers to states and lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties and sends the age is­sue to a com­mis­sion for review. Just two days ear­lier, Trump had mocked com­mis­sions as some­thing of a dead end while talk­ing about the opi­oid epi­demic. “We can’t just keep set­ting up blue-rib­bon com­mit­tees,” he said, adding that all they do is “talk, talk, talk.”

Seven­teen peo­ple were killed in last month’s shoot­ing at Mar­jory Stone­man Dou­glas High School in Park­land, Florida, prompt­ing a na­tional con­ver­sa­tion about gun laws, fierce ad­vo­cacy for stronger gun con­trol from sur­viv­ing stu­dents and, ini­tially, a move from Trump to buck his al­lies at the Na­tional Ri­fle As­so­ci­a­tion.

In a tele­vised meet­ing with law­mak­ers on Feb. 28, Trump praised mem­bers of the gun lobby as “great patriots” but de­clared “that doesn’t mean we have to agree on every­thing. It doesn’t make sense that I have to wait un­til I’m 21 to get a hand­gun, but I can get this weapon at 18.”

He then turned to­ward Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Penn­syl­va­nia, and ques­tioned why pre­vi­ous gun con­trol leg­is­la­tion did not in­clude that pro­vi­sion.

“You know why?” said Trump, an­swer­ing his own ques­tion. “Be­cause you’re afraid of the NRA, right? Ha ha.”

Toomey had a ready re­sponse af­ter the president’s tweet Mon­day: “It’s quite ob­vi­ous that I’m the guy that stood up to the NRA,” he said. Asked if Trump was afraid of the NRA, Toomey said, “I don’t know what’s driv­ing his de­ci­sion.”

His words rat­tled some Repub­li­cans in Congress and sparked hope among some gun con­trol ad­vo­cates that, un­like af­ter so many pre­vi­ous mass shoot­ings, mean­ing­ful reg­u­la­tions would be en­acted. But Trump ap­peared to fore­shadow his change of heart with a tweet the very next night.

“Good (Great) meet­ing in the Oval Of­fice tonight with the NRA!” the president wrote.

White House aides said Mon­day the president was fo­cus­ing on achiev­able op­tions, af­ter fac­ing sig­nif­i­cant op­po­si­tion from law­mak­ers on a more com­pre­hen­sive ap­proach. Trump will back two mod­est pieces of leg­is­la­tion, and the ad­min­is­tra­tion pledged to help states pay for firearms train­ing for teach­ers.

Seem­ingly on the de­fen­sive af­ter his about-face, Trump tweeted Mon­day of the age limit that “States are mak­ing this de­ci­sion. Things are mov­ing rapidly on this, but not much po­lit­i­cal sup­port (to put it mildly).”

The White House in­sisted that Trump re­mained com­mit­ted to more sig­nif­i­cant changes even if they are de­layed.

“We can’t just write things down and make them law. We ac­tu­ally have to fol­low a process,” said press sec­re­tary Sarah Huck­abee Sanders.

“Right now the president’s pri­mary fo­cus is push­ing through things we know that have broad bi­par­ti­san sup­port.”


President Don­ald Trump speaks at a cam­paign rally at At­lantic Avi­a­tion in Moon Town­ship, Pa. Weeks af­ter prod­ding law­mak­ers to stand up to the Na­tional Ri­fle As­so­ci­a­tion, Trump is back­ing off his call for in­creas­ing the min­i­mum age to buy an as­sault weapon — an idea strongly op­posed by the NRA.

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