Yesterday I pointed out that a number of high profile Democrats (including some who may have a 2020 bid in mind) didn’t even wait for all the wounded in Las Vegas to finish triage before ginning up the calls for more gun control laws. If the past has taught us anything, that story won’t be winding down any time soon and the President won’t be able to avoid getting involved.
When Ed touched on the subject earlier today he noted that Steve Bannon pretty much foresaw the end of the world coming if the President “folded” on gun control. Ed didn’t seem too worried about it, though he allowed that Trump might “throw a few bones” to the Democrats and moderates in his own party. But we shouldn’t be so quick to write off “a few bones” as being no big deal, nor do we know precisely how the President will play his hand here.
Before President Trump could even make it to the helicopter to leave for Puerto Rico today the press was all over him. When asked about specific changes to gun laws in the wake of the Vegas shooting, he gave a somewhat disquieting response. “We’ll talk about gun laws later,” he said. (Washington Examiner)
President Trump signaled Tuesday he could be open to talking about federal gun policy in response to the recent mass shooting in Las Vegas at a later date.
“We’ll talk about that later,” Trump told reporters at the White House when asked about gun reform Tuesday morning.
“We have a tragedy. We’re going to do — and what happened in Las Vegas, it’s in many ways a miracle. The police department has done such an incredible job and we’ll be talking about gun laws as time goes by,” Trump said as he departed for Puerto Rico. “But I do have to say how quickly the police department was able to get in was really very much of a miracle. They’ve done an amazing job.”
To offer the benefit of the doubt, there are plausible reasons why the President might have given such an obscure answer rather than delivering a forceful red line in the sand on the Second Amendment then and there. He was heading off to deal with a humanitarian disaster in Puerto Rico while simultaneously having the Justice Department working on the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history. Wading into that political minefield in mid-stride while boarding Marine One probably wouldn’t have been optically optimal, so to speak.
Or could it be that he’s already pondering some sort of triangulation which isn’t ready for prime time yet? His history on the subject has been rock solid in terms of his language and the attitudes of the people he’s put in charge of law enforcement, but there’s never been a legislative test plopped down on his desk yet.
Trump made a strong case in defense of Heller during his debates with Hillary Clinton. Similar themes were regular fodder at his rallies all through the campaign. Chris W. Cox, executive director of the National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action, said back in April that Trump had delivered “100 Days of Second Amendment Victories” and went on to say that, “For America’s law-abiding gun owners, the Trump administration is proving to be among the best in history.”
Even for his pre-campaign history, citizen Donald Trump seemed to be consistently on the side of the Second Amendment… at least mostly. He’s frequently quoted has having claimed to carry a gun on a regular basis in New York. Honestly, he’s never seemed to waver on the subject.
But there’s going to be incredible pressure coming from the media, the Democrats and any squishy Republicans in his own caucus. Is President Trump going to consider taking a meeting with “Chuck and Nancy” on this subject? We know how he loves to make deals, and he’s sorely in need of some legislative victories this year. The truth is that there are enough Republicans with cold feet on the subject that some new gun restrictions could probably make it through both chambers and Trump could be the only thing standing in their way. If the Democrats offer to sweeten the deal on one of his other priorities, might he sign off on something like more burdensome background checks or magazine capacity limitations?
My gut instinct says no. I agree with Steve Bannon that this would be the massive straw which shatters the conservative camel’s back into a thousand pieces and I’m sure the President knows it. No matter how tough the pressure gets, he always seems to circle back to shoring up the base and this would be an absolute deal breaker.
But can we be 100% sure? I’m close, but I’m not quite there yet.