Lotta irritation about this among conservative anti-Trumpers this morning but I don’t know that he’s saying anything meaningfully different from the standard GOP/NRA position. Democrats want to prohibit people on watch lists from buying guns automatically, once the Justice Department adds them to a list. Republicans, per John Cornyn’s plan, are willing to go along with the prohibition but not with the part that would leave it to the DOJ to decide. There has to be due process. If the feds have good reason to think someone on a watch list really is inclined towards terrorism, they should be forced to prove that in court before that person loses his Second Amendment rights. Even the NRA is willing to accept a gun ban for those on watch lists with those protections in place.
Is Trump? He’s aware of the due-process issue, as you’ll see, but he’s cagey about how committed he is to it. Would he veto a Democratic bill that let the Justice Department summarily strip watch-listers of their gun rights or would he sign it while mumbling half-heartedly that he would have preferred legislation with some right to appeal built in? As usual when he’s outside his build-the-wall/bar-the-Muslims comfort zone, he won’t say clearly what he intends to do.
“We have to make sure that people that are terrorists or have even an inclination toward terrorism cannot buy weapons, guns,” Trump told ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl in an interview to air Sunday on “This Week.”
Asked by Karl if his position is that those on the no-fly or terror watch list should not be able to purchase a gun, Trump responded, “I’d like to see that, and I’d like to say it. And it’s simpler. It’s just simpler.”…
“Now, but what they say, and I understand that also, is the Second Amendment, they’re depriving them of those rights. And that it could be that people are on there that shouldn’t be on, you know, etc. etc.,” Trump said.
“I’ll talk to them,” Trump added. “I understand exactly what they’re saying. You know, a lot of people are on the list that that really maybe shouldn’t be on the list and you know their rights are being taken away so I understand that.”
He understands the due-process objection but so do a lot of Democrats, I’m sure, who’d nonetheless prefer to give the DOJ the final say here. I think he’s destined to adopt the GOP/NRA position for the simple reason that he can’t afford any more turmoil on the right at this point. Remember, the Cornyn plan is actually a compromise with Democrats on an issue, guns, on which the GOP is usually famously loath to compromise. The strong-form libertarian response to the left would be that everyone on a watch list should be fully entitled to buy a weapon up to the moment they’re formally indicted on terror charges. (The super-strong form would be that they’re legally entitled up to the moment they’re convicted.) No indictment, no ban. Cornyn’s willing to let the feds strip people of their gun rights without an indictment, on mere suspicion of terrorist design so long as that suspicion is grounded in something more than, say, “The suspect once made a joke about 9/11 on Facebook” or whatever. If Trump were to buck Cornyn and side with Democrats on guns, when the GOP’s already making concessions, it’d be taken as proof by skeptics that he really does plan to govern from the left if elected president and should be dumped at the convention. He has no choice but to side with the NRA. In fact, watch the second clip below and you’ll find NRA lobbyist Chris Cox insisting that Trump’s position is no different from his organization’s. I’m not so sure that’s true yet — Trump’s impulse is towards authoritarianism, and any authoritarian would see the value in being able to deprive suspected terrorists of guns by government decree — but I think it’ll end up being true. He just can’t screw the GOP base on an issue this hot-button.
One other interesting note from his interviews this morning. He told CBS that we have to start thinking about profiling people, but when they tried to pin him down on that about Muslims, he was cagey again:
Earlier in the interview, Trump avoided directly answering a question about whether a Muslim buying ammunitions and weapons should get extra scrutiny.
“I don’t know about that,” he said.
“I think right now we have some pretty big problems and they’re problems coming out of radical Islamic groups. You know radical Islamic groups. You have a very, very strong group of people that is radical Islamic and that seems to be a problem.”
If he’s hesitant to profile law-abiding Muslim gun owners because not all of them are part of radical Islamic groups — a noteworthy distinction coming from Trump — then logically he must feel the same way about stripping law-abiding watch-listers of their rights without due process. Right? Why be squeamish about the former if you’re not squeamish about the latter?
NRA's Chris Cox: "There is not a difference" between Trump, NRA positions on terror watch list access to guns. https://t.co/XkCUi2jPlm
— This Week (@ThisWeekABC) June 19, 2016