James Hohmann at the Washington Post framed it perfectly:
Following his now well-established pattern after mass shootings, Trump continues to back away from his initial support for “strong background checks.” When the bodies are still being buried – whether after Las Vegas, Parkland, Fla., or El Paso – the president proclaims that he will take meaningful action to address the epidemic of gun violence. But as public attention wanes, and he faces pushback from the National Rifle Association, Trump returns to saying the problem that needs to be addressed is actually mental health.
Jennifer Rubin at The Post laments Trump’s predictable cave on gun safety has arrived:
To the surprise of no one who has watched President Trump cater to the National Rifle Association’s whims and repeatedly pull back from meaningful gun safety legislation, the president is already sounding timorous on new legislation he briefly seemed interested in following the mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton, Ohio.
On Sunday, he told reporters, “I’m saying Congress is going to be reporting back to me with ideas.” He then qualified immediately that suggestions will “come in from Democrats and Republicans. And I’ll look at it very strongly.” And then the NRA-approved line: “But just remember, we already have a lot of background checks. Okay?”
This is precisely what gun-lobby propagandists have been saying for years. Just enforce the laws on the books. Don’t close the gun-show loophole. Don’t change laws so that abusive partners would be barred from getting guns.And if Trump has now reverted to NRA talking points, you can bet Republican support for assault weapons bans and magazine limits is once again out of the question.
Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) was having none of it. In a written statement on Monday, he declared, “We’ve seen this movie before: President Trump, feeling public pressure in the immediate aftermath of a horrible shooting, talks about doing something meaningful to address gun violence, but inevitably, he backtracks in response to pressure from the NRA and the hard right.” He added, “These retreats from President Trump are not only disappointing but also heartbreaking, particularly for the families of the victims of gun violence. The way forward is for Senator McConnell to put the bipartisan House-passed universal background checks bill on the Senate floor for a vote immediately.”
Practically speaking, the real way forward might be for Democrats to run on gun safety in 2020 and call out Trump and his Republican allies as cowards. That would be smart politics given that the NRA’s approval is underwater and new gun laws are exceptionally popular with the same groups of voters already fleeing the GOP (e.g., women, college-educated voters, suburbanites). The Republican Main Street Partnership, a moderate group that backs “red flag” laws, recently released the results of a survey of 1,000 registered voters across five suburban House districts: Colorado’s Sixth, Kansas’s Third, North Carolina’s Ninth, Pennsylvania’s First and Virginia’s 10th. The result should scare the GOP. Among women in these districts:
· 72 percent said they think gun laws should be stricter, compared to four percent who said they should be less strict and 23 percent who said they should be kept as they are now.
· 55 percent said they think stricter gun laws would help prevent gun violence.
· 90 percent support requiring universal background checks for gun purchases at gun shows or other private sales, which would require all gun owners to file with a national firearms registry.
· 88 percent said they would support requiring a 48-hour waiting period between the purchase of a firearm and when the buyer can take possession of that gun.
· 84 percent back a national red flag law that would permit law enforcement to temporarily retain firearms from a person who may present a danger to others or themselves.
· 76 percent said they would ban the purchase and use of semi-automatic assault-style weapons like the AK-47 and the AR-15.
· And 72 percent would support banning the sale and possession of high-capacity or extended ammunition magazines, which allow guns to shoot more than 10 bullets before needing to be reloaded.
Trump and congressional Republicans’ obsequiousness to the NRA will be another reason for these voters to abandon the GOP, in addition to the president’s racism, bullying, climate-change denial, attacks on health care and abject cruelty toward migrant children. Then the rest of the country can pass rational gun laws. With Trump and the GOP out of power, real progress is possible.
“He’s started to move on,” a White House official conceded, adding that they haven’t heard the president discussing the topic in recent days with the same urgency or frequency that punctuated the immediate aftermath of the high-profile shootings. “If it were up to the president, he’d do background checks today. But that’s not how it works, and he loses patience [quickly].”
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That Trump’s attention span drifted elsewhere before Congress could even reconvene to debate gun control reform was hardly a surprise. The president has promised to tackle background checks before, only to drop the idea once the mass shooting that precipitated his apparent interest faded from the news cycle. Two sources close to the president each said they had spoken to Trump in the past week, and neither recalled him saying anything about seriously pushing expanding background checks.
But for officials on the Hill, Trump’s latest backtrack still serves as a notable illustration of just how quickly he can paralyze the legislative process—even on issues with wide public support.
“There is nothing happening,” one Senate Democratic aide, who asked to be referred to as a “severely depressed staffer who has been through too many of these,” said of the current state of negotiations. “This is all Trump. It is all in his hands. No one is talking to Republicans or their offices. If the president says, ‘Yes I wanna do it,’ it gets 85 votes. If he doesn’t, it doesn’t.”
So far, the president has not said he wants to “do it.” There have been no conversations with Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.V.)—the chief Democratic co-sponsor on the most bipartisan piece of background check legislation—since the two talked early last week. White House staff have not had substantive follow up conversations with Senate staff since they convened to discuss the Manchin-Pat Toomey legislation, aides say. And a senior Democratic House aide confirmed that there was not “much movement” on their end of the Capitol either.
A spokesman for McConnell told The Daily Beast that the GOP leader and Trump talk frequently but would not say if they had spoken about prospective bills in recent days.
A source familiar with the discussions said that Democrats remain willing to work with Trump to reach a legislative compromise on guns. But they are skeptical that it might happen, aware of his tendency to backtrack after past mass shootings. The hope among Senate offices involved in the discussions is that the White House will ultimately make clear what proposals Trump can and cannot support with respect to gun legislation and that that, in turn, will set the table for possible next steps, according to the source familiar with talks.
But, so far, the president has signalled mainly that he is retreating from the idea that he can push an expanded background-checks bill through Congress. On Sunday, he told reporters that, “People don’t realize we have very strong background checks right now,” before arguing that the issue with gun violence was a “big mental [health] problem.”
In case there was any confusion, Trump added: “Look, I’ve had a great relationship with the [National Rifle Association], and I will always have a great relationship. I’ve been very good for the NRA.”
Though the gun rights lobby finds itself in a state of internal turmoil, its influence has not waned on the Hill or within the West Wing. The group staunchly opposes ongoing efforts to expand background checks, and quickly jumped on the phone with Trump to restate that position in the wake of the two recent mass murders. Since then, more conservative voices, including figures closely aligned with Trump, have signalled their disapproval with far-reaching legislation favored by Democratic lawmakers.
UPDATE: Trump tells NRA chief that universal background checks are off the table: President Trump talked Tuesday with National Rifle Association chief executive Wayne LaPierre and assured him that universal background checks were off the table, according to several people familiar with the call.
Democratic Hill aides expect that Republicans will, ultimately, not move on legislation this time around unless it has the NRA’s endorsement. And for that reason, there is growing resignation to the idea that Senate GOP leaders will end up pushing reforms to the background checks system that nibble around the edges rather than directly expanding its scope.
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[One] possibility is a so-called “red flag law” proposal — which would aim to keep guns out of the hands of the most dangerous people — that represents probably the maximum level of gun control that the GOP can get behind.
But Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has already said that Democrats won’t “settle” for gun action that is limited to red flag laws. On Monday, he called Trump’s “backtracks” on guns “heartbreaking” and called on McConnell to put universal background checks to a vote on the Senate floor immediately. There was no response from McConnell or Trump.
“Every reporter called me up and said this time feels different,” the Senate Democratic aide said. “I was like, am I missing something?”
As Jennifer Rubin says, only “with Trump and the GOP out of power is real progress possible.” This reiterates what former Republican congressman David Jolly said in an interview on MSNBC.
“Deadline: White House” anchor Nicolle Wallace interviewed former Rep. David Jolly (R-FL) following a weekend of bloodshed.
“What do we do?” Wallace asked. “What do you think?”
“We focus on Donald Trump, his contribution to the national narrative, but Nicolle, I think that gives a pass to the broader Republican Party. We have to talk about that as well in this moment because it is their silence that normalized this escalation of this narrative across the country that Trump continues to reinforce,” Jolly said.
“I find myself today offering the same insight I did at the night of the Parkland shooting a few hours from our home in Florida, which is this: Republicans will never do anything on gun control, nothing, ever,” he said. “They won’t.”
“Think about Las Vegas. They did nothing when 500 people were injured. The Pulse nightclub, 50 killed. The question for the nation was, do we allow suspected terrorists — suspected terrorists — to buy firearms? Republicans did nothing. Parkland, they did nothing. Emanuel AME in South Carolina, nothing. Go to Sandy Hook in Connecticut, nothing. Jewish temple in Pittsburgh, nothing. The Jewish temple in San Diego, nothing. Southerland Springs, Evangelical church in Texas, nothing. Now we have Texas, now we have Ohio in the same weekend and all we get is silence,” he explained.
“I say that because if this is the issue that informs your ideology as a voter, the strength to draw in this moment is to beat Republicans, beat them. Beat every single one of them,” Jolly urged. “Even the safe ones in the House, beat them. Beat them in the Senate. Take back the Senate.”
“You take me away with your bluntness. But you’re not wrong. No Republican has ever been moved by any of those tragedies,” Wallace replied.
“They have not,” Jolly agreed. “They have not.”
“The last thing I will say, Nicolle, to my former Republican colleagues and Republican voters, if you actually think the Second Amendment was envisioned to protect gun rights of this moment of national tragedy to allow carnage with weapons of war, if you actually think that’s what the Second Amendment protected, you’re fundamentally, constitutionally ignorant,” he argued. “And if you know that’s not what it protects and you continue to do nothing, you’re worse than constitutionally ignorant, you’re a scoundrel.”
“All I can ever think of in this moment when I see Republicans do absolutely nothing, your time is coming. My mom likes to say the wheels of justice grind slowly but they grind increasingly and exceedingly fine. That’s what has happened to a lot of Republican public careers in moments like this,” Jolly added.
“Beat them. Beat every single one of them.” Stop the insanity. Stop the carnage.