Trump Backs Away From Age Restrictions On Gun Sales

Not surprisingly, the Trump Administration is backing away from gun regulations opposed by the N.R.A.

In the immediate wake of the school shooting last month in Parkland, Florida, President Trump appeared to get on board with the idea of raising the minimum age to buy hunting rifles, AR-15’s, and other long guns. Almost as soon as he took that position, though, he appeared to back off many of the ideas he had immediately backed after meeting with officials from the National Rifle Association. As a result, it was unclear exactly what the President would support when it came to gun legislation at the national level. Yesterday, the answer to that question became clearer when the White House laid out the outlines of its gun policy proposal:

The White House on Sunday vowed to help provide “rigorous firearms training” to some schoolteachers and formally endorsed a bill to tighten the federal background checks system, but it backed off President Trump’s earlier call to raise the minimum age to purchase some guns to 21 years old from 18 years old.

Responding directly to last month’s gun massacre at a Florida high school, the administration rolled out several policy proposals that focus largely on mental health and school safety initiatives. The idea of arming some teachers has been controversial and has drawn sharp opposition from the National Education Association, the country’s largest teachers lobby, among other groups. Many of the student survivors have urged Washington to toughen restrictions on gun purchases, but such measures are fiercely opposed by the National Rifle Association, and the Trump plan does not include substantial changes to gun laws.

Rather, the president is establishing a Federal Commission on School Safety, to be chaired by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, that will explore possible solutions, such as the age requirement for purchases, officials said.

DeVos characterized the administration’s efforts as “a pragmatic plan to dramatically increase school safety.”

“We are committed to working quickly because there’s no time to waste,” she said on a conference call with reporters on Sunday evening. Invoking past mass school shootings, she continued, “No student, no family, no teacher and no school should have to live the horror of Parkland or Sandy Hook or Columbine again.”

The administration’s proposals come after 17 people were shot and killed last month at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., a massacre that spurred officials in Washington to reevaluate gun laws.

Democratic lawmakers and gun-control advocates accused Trump of succumbing to pressure from the NRA and other special-
interest groups.

“The White House has taken tiny baby steps designed not to upset the NRA, when the gun violence epidemic in this country demands that giant steps be taken,” Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a statement. “Democrats in the Senate will push to go further including passing universal background checks, actual federal legislation on protection orders, and a debate on banning assault weapons.”

ris Brown, co-president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said in a statement that “President Trump has offered only drips of water in response to a five-alarm fire.”

Trump has said he was personally moved by the shooting — and by the persistent and impassioned calls for action from some of the teenage survivors as well as parents of the victims — and elevated the issue of school safety in his administration. He has called for raising the minimum age for purchasing an AR-15 or similar-style rifles from 18 to 21 years old.

“Now, this is not a popular thing to say, in terms of the NRA. But I’m saying it anyway,” Trump said in a Feb. 28 meeting with lawmakers. “You can buy a handgun — you can’t buy one; you have to wait until you’re 21. But you can buy the kind of weapon used in the school shooting at 18. I think it’s something you have to think about.”

But the White House plan released Sunday does not address the minimum age for gun purchases. Pressed by reporters about the apparent backtracking, a senior administration official said the age issue was “a state-based discussion right now” and would be explored by DeVos’s commission.

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The centerpiece of the administration’s plan is Trump’s vow to “harden our schools against attack.” Since almost immediately after the Parkland shooting, the president has advocated arming some teachers as a solution to stopping future massacres.

“A gun-free zone to a maniac — because they’re all cowards — a gun-free zone is, let’s go in and let’s attack, because bullets aren’t coming back at us,” Trump said during a Feb. 22 listening session at the White House with teachers, students and parents.

The administration will start working with states to provide “rigorous firearms training” to teachers and other school personnel who volunteer to be armed, said Andrew Bremberg, director of the White House Domestic Policy Council. The White House has not proposed offering states new funding for this training.

Lily Eskelsen García, president of the NEA, the teachers lobby, said last month that “bringing more guns into our schools does nothing to protect our students and educators from gun violence. Our students need more books, art and music programs, nurses and school counselors; they do not need more guns in their classrooms.”

The NRA supports the idea of allowing armed teachers in schools. Bremberg said the administration is backing two pieces of legislation: A bipartisan bill by Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) that is designed to improve the accuracy and effectiveness of the National Instant Criminal Background Check System; and the STOP School Violence Act, which would authorize state-based grants to implement violence prevention training for teachers and students.

The administration also is urging all states to pass risk-protection orders, as Florida recently did, allowing law enforcement officers to remove firearms from individuals who are considered a threat to themselves or others and to prevent them from purchasing new guns, Bremberg said.

Lastly, the administration wants to better integrate mental health, primary care and family services programs, and the president has ordered a full audit and review of the FBI tip line, he said. The FBI has said it ignored a warning that 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz might attack a school just weeks before he allegedly carried out the rampage in Parkland.

“The president is determined to get to the root of the various societal issues that lead to violence in our country,” Bremberg said. “No stone will be unturned.”

To be sure, there is at least some merit in some of the ideas that the White House is putting forward here. School security does need to be re-examined and, in some cases, the idea of “hardening” security is an idea that ought to be explored. It shouldn’t be easy, for example, for someone who isn’t a student, teacher, or staff member to get into a school building during the day. This can be accomplished via a number of potential means, including limiting outside access to school facilities to an entrance where someone would be required to identify themselves and, potentially, proceed through a metal detector before being allowed into the building. Additionally, it may be worthwhile to discuss the idea of either increasing the number of armed security or law enforcement personnel on campus or allowing non-classroom personnel to carry concealed weapons provided that they are able to pass both a background check and a training program on the safe use of firearms during mass shooting incidents.

Rather than directly backing any of these ideas, though, the White House is proposing to pass them off to a commission that would be headed by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who finds herself under fire this morning after a 60 Minutes interview in which she came across as exceedingly weak and clueless. This is somewhat ironic given the fact that, just a day before during a campaign speech, Trump mocked the idea of commissions to study issues such as the opioid overdose epidemic:

At a political rally Saturday night in Pennsylvania, Trump mocked the idea of commissions to solve the nation’s drug epidemic. “Do you think the drug dealers who kill thousands of people during their lifetime, do you think they care who’s on a blue-ribbon committee?” Trump said. “The only way to solve the drug problem is through toughness.”

Administration officials demurred Sunday night when asked why Trump found commissions an inadequate response to the drug epidemic but an appropriate way to respond to gun massacres.

“There are not going to be one-size-fits-all approaches and solutions, and I think that that is a very cogent argument for having a commission,” said a senior administration official, who would answer questions from reporters only on the condition of anonymity.

The bigger issue, of course, is the extent to which the President has abandoned ideas such as age restrictions on gun sales and expanded background checks. However, it’s a change that should be entirely unsurprising.

Earlier this month, in the wake of a bipartisan meeting at the White House in which the President appeared to take positions on gun control decidedly to the left of the Republican Party and most especially out of line with the National Rifle Association. This included appearing to be open to ideas such as universal background check legislation that would require most private sales to be accompanied by a background check conducted by a licensed Federal Firearms Dealer, changing the law to make it easier to keep guns away from mentally ill people, closing the loophole in Federal law that allows people under age 21 to purchase nearly any weapon other than a handgun, and even appearing to agree that there should at least be a discussion on banning some so-called “assault weapons.”  As I noted at the time, though, it was apparent even at the time of that meeting that there was no reason to put any faith in the idea that this President would back the kind of restrictions that were being talked about in that meeting.

In his initial response to the Parkland shooting, for example, Trump said that he was willing to consider looking at some gun control measures that the N.R.A. does not support, including raising the minimum wage to purchase a rifle.the President said he was willing to look at some measures that the NRA does not support such as raising the minimum age to purchase a rifle from 18 to 21, His statements in the days that followed, though, called that into doubt. The extent to which Trump could not be trusted became apparent just a day later after the Congressional meeting when the White House quite clearly began to back away from many of the ideas that Trump had appeared to endorse just a day earlier. Most likely not coincidentally, this happened after Trump had met with officials from the N.R.A. over dinner in the White House during which those officials reportedly heavily lobbied Trump regarding the issues he had appeared to back during the meeting with Republican and Democratic legislators. The outline that the White House laid out yesterday seems to make clear that, in the end, the N.R.A. won the day given that something as seemingly non-controversial as raising the age to purchase weapons is being abandoned in favor of the very ideas that the N.R.A. has been backing in the wake of both the Parkland shooting and other similar events.

None of this should be surprising, of course, because it fits a pattern we have seen from this President before. In January, the President seemed to give his support to a broad solution to the imminent problem of what to do about the beneficiaries of President Obama’s Deferred Act For Childhood Arrivals. In that case, there was also a bipartisan meeting at the White House during which the President appeared to tell those in attendance that he would support whatever solution they came up with. Two days later, though, he blasted a bipartisan plan developed by Senators Graham and Durbin during a meeting in which he derided immigrants from what he referred to as “shithole” countries. Days after that, Trump met in the Oval Office with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer as part of a last-minute effort to avoid a government shutdown and appeared to endorse a proposal that would have solved the DACA problem with a bill that included funding for Trump’s border wall only to walk back that agreement hours later, an action that led Schumer to remark that negotiating with Donald Trump was like negotiating with Jello.

What’s clear from all of this is that Donald Trump is a man who obviously has no core principles and whose policy pronouncements and commitments he appears to make to legislators are guided most prominently by whatever he saw on “Fox And Friends” or elsewhere on Fox News Channel or who he last spoke to on a given issue. When he’s before the camera, Trump obviously enjoys creating the impression that he’s being the open-minded “deal maker,” an image which he was cultivating long before he entered the race for President in 2015. Rather than being a deal maker who cannot be trusted to keep his word and who is easily manipulated by staff members and Cabinet officials such as Stephen Miller, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and his close aide Peter Navarro and, of course, the lobbyists for the National Rifle Association. Instead of being a leader, it’s quite apparent that Donald Trump is, as I’ve said before, an easily manipulated empty suit.

FILED UNDER: Donald Trump, Guns and Gun Control, Politicians, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    After calling out GOP legislators for being afraid of the NRA…President Donny Dennison caves to the NRA.
    Bunge should be around any minute to explain to us how this is really 10-D Chess, and the rest of us are simply incapable of following the genius intellect behind it.




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  2. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    Um…why did my comment go into moderation?




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  3. Mark Ivey says:

    “Take the guns first, go through due process second.”

    Then Trump make flippy-floppy..




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  4. @Daryl’s other brother Darryl:

    The spam filter is one of the things we’re still working on behind the scenes. While the situation does appear to have become somewhat less severe since we did the recent site update, I’m still seeing some regular commenters getting stuck in moderation when there doesn’t seem to be a reason for their comment to be there. This is an item that’s on the list to be addressed, so I’ll just as for patience for the time being.

    In any case, I approved your comment.




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  5. Mu says:

    Everything he says is a trial balloon, and he waits for the Fox feedback to go on or backtrack. The secret service should put a detail on Hannity, not the President.




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  6. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Obligatory: I am shocked, shocked I tell you!

    @Doug Mataconis: While I have been sent to moderation for having 3 links a couple times, I am no longer getting caught in the spam filter, so thanx to whomever!




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  7. James Pearce says:

    “The White House has taken tiny baby steps designed not to upset the NRA, when the gun violence epidemic in this country demands that giant steps be taken,” Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a statement. “Democrats in the Senate will push to go further including passing universal background checks, actual federal legislation on protection orders, and a debate on banning assault weapons.”

    He says “giant steps” and then ticks off a bunch of minor tweaks and half-measures. A debate on banning assault weapons? Give me a break…

    No wonder Trump is “backing away” from age restrictions. His party doesn’t support them, and the opposition isn’t even asking for them.




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  8. CSK says:

    @Daryl’s other brother Darryl:

    If a Trumpkin can’t explain away one of Trump’s flop-flops as another example of Trump’s mastery of 10-D chess, he or she will simply refuse to acknowledge that it happened.




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  9. al-Ameda says:

    So it turns out that Trump is afraid of the NRA? No way.

    … and of course Secretary DeVos is going to be selling guns to schools too …
    From marketwatch.com:

    DeVos said in the interview that there is a “sense of urgency,” saying she will head up a task force to look at what states are doing. She added that it should be an “option for states and communities to consider,” whether teachers should have guns in the classrooms.




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  10. Mikey says:

    @James Pearce:

    No wonder Trump is “backing away” from age restrictions. His party doesn’t support them, and the opposition isn’t even asking for them.

    I think the point is that after all Trump’s bloviating about standing up to the NRA, he folded, as he always does, and his position is now indistinguishable from the NRA’s.

    To which I say: this is my surprised face. ¯_(ツ)_/¯




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  11. KM says:

    @James Pearce:

    No wonder Trump is “backing away” from age restrictions. His party doesn’t support them, and the opposition isn’t even asking for them.

    That’s because both sides realize it’s a nice bit of feel-good fluff that doesn’t actually meet anyone’s goals. It shifts the blame to “age” instead of “mental illness” and thus restricts a great number of potential buyers for the gun manufacturers. The NRA and pro-gun Republicans also have trapped themselves with their “no infringement” rhetoric and thus can’t be seen limiting a constitutional right in any sort of way.

    On the other hand, many Democrats – while pleased with any reasonable restriction – understand that this would have done jack sh^t in stopping most if not any of the recent mass shootings. Emphasizing age again shifts the topic from mass shootings to school shootings but doesn’t address the concerns of either. Remember, not all school shooters in the last few decades were under-21’s and schoolchildren have been victims outside their classrooms. Potential shooters may not be able to own said weaponry but they might have sympathetic family members who’ll own it for them or let them borrow.

    It’s quick and cheap attempt at a fix, throwing the young under the bus because hey, that’s what politicians tend to do. I like that we’re finally talking about this and starting to see legislation but pinning the violence on post-millennials doesn’t touch the fact that most mass shootings are by men in their late 20’s and up. We’re looking at the wrong group.




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  12. MarkedMan says:

    @Mu:

    Everything he says is a trial balloon,

    I think it is substantially worse than that. He has shown no understanding or even awareness that there is something called reality and it is important. He says whatever comes into his head and to him those words are worth something because they are his words. If they change later, well they are still his words so they are still important.

    I realized long ago that for a certain type of person, someone like Trump (or Jim and Tammy Faye Baker, or Jimmy Swaggert, or Alex Jones, Laura Ingram, or Rush Limbaugh) is much more preferable than someone who holds the same positions but who has some kind of integrity or consistency. They themselves don’t actually hold any positions, but rather just want someone to tell them they are smart and good and superior and all those other people are stupid and bad and inferior. So someone who tries to bring consistency or intellectual honesty to what they say will just muddy the message. A blatant liar is therefor preferred: they never get confused and if they change their story for some reason or another they will simply deny they did.




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  13. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    @Doug Mataconis:
    FYI…this is new, it’s never been like this…so something must have changed since Friday. Maybe that will help narrow down the issue.




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  14. James Pearce says:

    @Mikey:

    after all Trump’s bloviating about standing up to the NRA, he folded, as he always does, and his position is now indistinguishable from the NRA’s.

    Ah, but did he fold? Or was his “openness” to more gun restrictions disingenuous from the beginning?

    I’ve known a few pathological liars in my life and I’ve learned the best way to deal with them is to be skeptical of everything they say. That way you’re surprised when they tell the truth, not when they don’t.

    @KM:

    On the other hand, many Democrats – while pleased with any reasonable restriction – understand that this would have done jack sh^t in stopping most if not any of the recent mass shootings.

    I wish I could be so generous to the Dems. Age restricting guns isn’t just about mass shootings. The reason the Dems aren’t pushing for more gun control measures is that the leadership has been in Congress for decades and they’re “once bitten, twice shy.”

    Chuck Schumer knows that they can give lip service about “giant steps” which are not, you know, giant and he’ll be defended for tribal reasons.

    Me, I’m at that place where I’m like, “If you can’t do it, we’ll find someone who will.”




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  15. Mikey says:

    @James Pearce:

    Ah, but did he fold? Or was his “openness” to more gun restrictions disingenuous from the beginning?

    A very good question. With Trump it’s hard to tell. Is he flip-flopping, or was he just telling people what he thought they wanted to hear? Or, as has often been said, does he simply adhere to the position posed by the person he spoke with most recently?

    It’s a shame we can even ask these questions about a sitting President.




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  16. wr says:

    @James Pearce: “Me, I’m at that place where I’m like, “If you can’t do it, we’ll find someone who will.”

    You’ve been saying this for years. So how’s that search for someone who will coming? Found any good candidates? Persuaded anyone to run? Done any work towards getting better Democrats in congress? I support your aims and will happily join your cause when you explain what you’re actually doing to further your goals besides complaining on website that has about as much influence over the political world as you or me…




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  17. James Pearce says:

    @Mikey:

    Or, as has often been said, does he simply adhere to the position posed by the person he spoke with most recently?

    Honestly, this phenomenon, I think, can be explained by the fact that he was basically lying to “the last person he spoke to.” Like, he’s bullshitting everybody, even himself.

    Have you ever seen The Informant! with Matt Damon? That’s what Trump reminds me of, just a more successful version.

    @wr:

    I support your aims and will happily join your cause when you explain what you’re actually doing to further your goals besides complaining on website that has about as much influence over the political world as you or me

    It’s not about me. It’s never about me. I can die tomorrow and most of the world wouldn’t even know I existed in the first place. Compared to other people, I’m a nobody with 9 Twitter followers, no TV show, no podcast, no “platform” from which I can dispense my views to the masses.

    And yet….I am not nobody. I am a real flesh and blood person, with a brain and a point of view, and talking (or typing) to people on an individual level is about as much “influence over the political world” as I want or need.

    And really, it should be enough.




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