Not a surprise, but it’s interesting that POTUS dawdled on this for weeks after the El Paso and Dayton massacres — until Beto O’Rourke went “Leeroy Jenkins” on gun confiscation at last week’s debate. Was that a coincidence or did Beto’s stunt spook Trump into taking the Democrats’ biggest gun-control “ask” off the table?
President Donald Trump will not consider the House-passed universal background checks bill as part of his proposed gun package, according to a source familiar with the conversation on guns…
“The things that they are proposing just aren’t realistic and they know that and so it’s designed more to talk to their political base and it’s a lot more about that than I think an actual solution,” [John] Thune said…
While Trump will not support the House-passed universal background checks bill, he could still back a more limited form of background check legislation as well as so-called red flag laws. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), who is working on a red flag bill with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said that background checks and red flag bills should go hand in hand.
The likely reality is that Trump intended all along to take UBCs off the table and was waiting for an opportune moment, which O’Rourke, bless his heart, kindly provided. Pat Toomey sighs a weary sigh:
Republicans say the political momentum within their party to expand background checks suffered a blow last week when Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke declared, “hell yes, we’re going to take your AR-15s, your AK-47s” at Thursday’s primary debate…
“This rhetoric undermines and hurts bipartisan efforts to actually make progress on commonsense gun safety efforts, like expanding background checks,” Toomey, who has been at the center of Senate negotiations, warned Friday.
There are three “tiers” of background-check reforms kicking around in Congress. One is the Democrats’ UBC bill, the proverbial full enchilada that would require background checks for online sales, gun-show sales, *and private sales*. That’s now been ruled out by the White House if you believe Politico. The next tier is the Toomey/Manchin bill from 2013, which has been momentarily revived. That would require checks for online and gun-show sales but would leave the exemption for private sales in place. The odds of Trump endorsing that don’t seem so hot either. The lowest tier is legislation that would tighten enforcement of existing background checks, with the White House reportedly considering a smartphone app that would allow private sellers to access the federal background check database remotely before a sale to see if the seller has been flagged. Manchin calls the idea “crazy,” and it seems to me self-defeating if the White House is intent on maintaining the exemption for private sales. If and when an app is in place that makes it convenient for private sellers to run checks themselves, it’ll be that much easier for Democrats to agitate to make those checks mandatory by law.
Whatever happens, there’s a lot of mental energy being expended right now on token legislation which no one believes will meaningfully reduce the rate of mass shootings!
Red-flag laws remain the most interesting possibility still on the table, and Trump might be susceptible to having his arm twisted on that since his buddy Lindsey Graham is co-writing the main bill in the Senate. If nothing ends up passing now though, it surely means that no new gun control will pass before the election. It’d be insane for Trump to hold off on signing anything a year out from Election Day and then panic six months from now, after another massacre somewhere. Righties would be much more demoralized to see him cave with the election so close than they’d be if he caved now. The best time to pass something if he’s inclined that way is ASAP and then use the next year to hammer gun-rights supporters with arguments against protesting by staying home on Election Day — “socialism must be stopped,” “gun control under a Democratic administration will be 10 times more draconian,” and so on. If Trump says no to reform this fall, he’s essentially gambling that nothing catastrophic will happen over the next year that ends up galvanizing an electoral push on gun control. That’s a reasonably safe gamble — public backlashes to gun rights after major violence are famously fleeting — but not completely riskless. To put all of that another way, if Trump’s willing to do anything on background checks *at any point*, the time to do it is now.
Here’s McConnell today reiterating his view of this subject, that Senate Republicans aren’t sticking their necks out a centimeter on gun control until they know what the president does and doesn’t support. There’s no way he’s going to force vulnerable incumbents like Cory Gardner and Susan Collins out onto a limb by asking them to take a position on a controversial bill and then have Trump saw that limb off by declaring, “Nah, I’m not signing anything.”
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