Well, this should make for fun conversation when Donald Trump pays a visit to CPAC this week. As political pressure from Democrats and the media ramp up, the president apparently decided to do some market research on his long weekend, the Washington Post reported late yesterday. Should he press forward with new gun-control policies in response to the demands from victims of the Parkland shooting?
After visiting victims of the Parkland shooting and first responders at an area hospital on Friday evening, Trump did not leave Mar-a-Lago until Sunday evening, skipping his usual rounds of golf at his nearby course in what aides described as a decision to show respect for the 17 people killed in the school massacre.
Instead, Trump spent his time watching television, talking with friends and tweeting, aides said, breaking up that routine Sunday for a meeting with House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.). On Saturday night, Trump dined with talk-show host Geraldo Rivera and the president’s two adult sons, Donald Jr. and Eric. First lady Melania Trump, also in Florida for the weekend, did not join her husband in the dining room, according to two attendees. …
Trump sent the messages from his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla., where he was ensconced for two days. He spent much of the time watching cable news, venting to friends about the Russia investigation and complaining that it has been driving so much press coverage, according to people who have spoken to him. The president also surveyed Mar-a-Lago Club members about whether he ought to champion gun control measures in the wake of last week’s school massacre in nearby Parkland, telling them that he was closely monitoring the media appearances by some of the surviving students, according to people who spoke with him there.
In fairness, Trump might not be the only Republican polling on the subject. John Kasich demanded “common-sense gun laws,” calling Congress “totally dysfunctional” on the issue. Kasich also told CNN’s Dana Bash that preventing people from buying AR-15s wouldn’t infringe on people’s “God-darned” Second Amendment rights, and urged Trump to take action. “You don’t have to boil the ocean, but take some steps now.”
But what are those steps? Even Kasich seemed to be mainly limited to proposals that Republicans have backed in the past, apart from the large hint on a new ban on so-called “assault rifles”:
Kasich said he thought it was possible to push for some measures at the state and local level, like background checks and increased attention to mental illness, while Washington would not move from the status quo.
“I’m not calling for some outright ban,” Kasich said. “I’m talking about small steps that can be taken that can be effective, and the Congress ought to do it. I just don’t — I don’t have any confidence in them. I don’t think most Americans do.”
Kasich said there were honest disagreements on the issue from people who “feel strongly” and stressed he supports the Second Amendment. Still, he tried to make the case that even ardent supporters of the Second Amendment should be open to some kind of change in policy.
“If you’re a strong Second Amendment person, you need to slow down and take a look at reasonable things that can be done to answer these young people,” Kasich said.
That’s hardly new. Other Republicans have also called for more action on mental-health issues and improving the background check process, from Mitt Romney to Ted Cruz. Marco Rubio reminded people over the weekend that the GOP has tried to pass legislation before on these issues, only to be blocked by Democrats who wanted outright gun-control legislation instead.
Of course, that was easier to do when Barack Obama was in the White House and Harry Reid controlled the Senate. Now that Republicans have control of both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, they should be able to shape whatever emerges. If Democrats block legislation on background check improvements and better reporting on serious mental health issues, they’ll have to explain that to the public, not Republicans.
And in all likelihood, that’s the extent of “gun control” policy Trump’s attempting to calculate. Trump and the NRA are locked in a tight embrace, one that neither side can afford to end. That gives Trump some flexibility, but only to a point, and that point will not include another useless ban on “assault rifles,” which are ambiguously defined as semi-automatic scary-looking weapons but differ in no real significant way from other semi-automatic weapons. He’s not going to dump the NRA just because a few weekend guests at Mar-A-Lago told him they don’t like guns, and the NRA will back Trump on anything short of a gun ban because they’ve gone all-in on Trump.
Whatever he may have been asking over the weekend, this is the square on which Trump landed by today:
Update, statement from the White House this morning: President Trump is open to improving the background check system for gun purchases.
— NPR (@NPR) February 19, 2018
Again, nothing really new here. The Washington Post may call this “gun control” now, but don’t expect them to be satisfied with it if Trump and the GOP take action to implement it. Nevertheless, given Trump’s proclivity toward changing his mind, bet on the NRA to ask for some face time at the White House this week. They won’t want to get blindsided at CPAC on whatever Trump’s final calculation turns out to be.