Well, this was unexpected. As president, Donald Trump seriously considered promoting an assault weapons ban after multiple shootings in 2019.
In the summer of 2019, after back-to-back mass shootings in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso involving an AR-15-style pistol and an AKM-style rifle, Trump told aides that he wanted to ban AR-15s, according to people present for the statements.
“I don’t know why anyone needs an AR-15,” Trump told aides as he flew on Marine One to the White House in August 2019, according to a person who heard his comments.
As one former official put it in describing the real estate developer turned politician, “His reflexes were a New York liberal on guns. He doesn’t have knee-jerk conservative reflexes.”
But Trump was also petrified of the NRA and others taking him on, former advisers said, and heard from a number of advisers that it would be unpopular. Trump ultimately stopped entertaining the idea of working with Democrats on gun control later that year, when he was caught in a scandal over his now-infamous phone call with Ukraine’s president.
“F— it, I’m not going to work with them on anything. They’re f—ing impeaching me,” Trump said in one Oval Office meeting, according to a participant.
Trump was aware of the political hit among his base if he signed onto the Feinstein-led Senate plan to re-up the Assault Weapons Ban, but was considering the measure anyway until the impeachment effort began.
The news comes from a Washington Post story on the rifle itself rather than one focusing on Trump’s position. This is itself surprising, given how potentially damaging the news about the president’s opinions might hurt him in the upcoming primary battles.
Trump has always been an enigma on both gun control and abortion. On both issues, he has changed positions for political reasons, and from a practical standpoint, the reasons for his conversion were irrelevant during his first (and perhaps only) term as president. His reelection bid would depend upon sticking to his guns, so to speak, so most people assumed that any danger that he would reverse course again would be remote.
Not so much, apparently. The fact that he considered doing it even given the political damage it would cause him in his first term, one wonders if, freed from the constraints of reelection prospects, he might reverse course again in his second term.
On abortion that would be, mostly, a non-issue. His Supreme Court appointments have made their mark, and Democrats have undone decades of abortion restrictions at the federal level. Those aren’t coming back anytime soon.
But a presidential change of heart would be a big deal on guns. With anyone as mercurial as Trump he would be very unpredictable on this issue in a second term.
The prominence of the AR-15 in gun control arguments is an artifact not of its particular lethality–it is no more lethal than any other rifle–but its dominance in the market and its scary looks. People assume that anything that looks that scary must be an automatic weapon, when in fact its appeal has more to do with its customizability that makes it a hobby gun.
Still, AR-15s do play a role in high-profile shootings, which makes them an easy target. Most people don’t know how rare it is for a rifle to be used in any homicide, and only a tiny fraction of people know that “mass shootings” are almost always carried out using pistols by criminals on criminals.
That gang violence you heard about? It was likely a “mass shooting,” but the media gives it 5 seconds on the news, perhaps, and then it is memory-holed. Often prosecutors let the perpetrators go if there isn’t an actual homicide involved. Soros prosecutors don’t like to prosecute gun crimes these days due to the racial makeup of the perpetrators.
Most Trump supporters would be surprised to know that the former president personally supports extensive gun control, given his public rhetoric on the issue. But they shouldn’t be. Trump is a political chameleon, changing positions with the wind. Look at his support of Fauci and Birx back in 2020 compared to his current position today. He is currently attacking DeSantis for his initial and short-lived support of Trump’s pandemic policies while back in 2020 he criticized DeSantis and Kemp for dropping shutdowns and mandates.
Trump can only be relied on to support Trump. He will say what he needs to in order to keep the political enthusiasm for his candidacy high among his supporters. Should he get elected for a second term, expect policy reversals once he feels he can get away with it.