To pass any significant gun control legislation through the United States Congress, President Trump would have had to exert the full power of his office. Trump would have had to twist the arms of his Republican colleagues and burn through significant political capital with his conservative base. So it’s not exactly surprising that over the weekend he backed away from pushing the more ambitious gun reforms that have circulated in Congress since the school shooting in Parkland, Florida. Without Trump on board, universal background checks and a host of other policies appear to have missed their moment for the millionth time.
“I think we could all see it coming,” Connecticut Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy, a leading Senate Democratic voice on guns, told reporters Monday. “I’ve been skeptical since the beginning that the president and his party were really willing to break with the NRA.” Murphy said that “it will likely take an election where they pay a price for their fealty to the gun lobby” for meaningful action to take place. Don’t hold your breath.
The only real glimmer of hope came in late February, when the president seemed keen on a few pro–gun control policies during a televised meeting with members of Congress from both parties. He supported lifting the age of purchase for all firearms from 18 to 21, and he backed expanding background checks to cover gun show and online sales. He didn’t outright reject a resurrected assault weapons ban, either. Senate Democrats took some of the ideas Trump said he supported and quickly translated them into a legislative proposal, in the hopes of capitalizing on the president’s comments before he could change his mind.