A friend who works for a prominent, hardline conservative think tank writes: ‘So, can we all admit that Trump is basically a Democrat now on guns?’
On Wednesday, I wrote that American gun reform is close to happening. In the intervening hours, that view has been buttressed by a series of comments from the president of the United States.
It seems a perverse fate that Donald Trump, the bogeyman of progressive America, should turn out to be the means a delivering a measure of gun reform.
Trump in Washington Wednesday promised ‘beautiful’ and ‘comprehensive’ (read: if the immigration debate phrasing is any indication—liberal) reform.
On Wednesday, I mentioned Pennsylvania as a flashpoint political state for Republicans considering reform. Later in the day, Trump openly mocked that state’s Senator, Pat Toomey, long one of the most moderate Republicans on guns, for being afraid of the National Rifle Association.
And, strikingly, for the head of the executive branch of the American constitutional government, the president said: ‘Take the guns first, go through due process second.’
He appeared open to an assault weapons ban. He also undercut the need for a core conservative reform measure on guns – concealed carry reciprocity — ‘I think that maybe that bill will one day pass.’ But: ‘If you’re going to put concealed carry between states into this bill, we’re talking about a whole new ball game. … Let it be a separate bill.’
Self-styled ‘conservative’ NeverTrumpers quickly seized on the moment, pointing to this as proof positive of why the Right should never have embraced Trump.
David French of National Review, who once briefly in the summer of 2016 considered a preposterous independent bid against Trump, could only comment: ‘Wow.
French said: ‘Has any conservative [organisation] been more aggressively supportive of Trump than the NRA?’
Others were quick to note, however, that this could just be Donald being Donald—all negotiating brinksmanship, similar to seemingly liberal comments he’s made on immigration before returning to the hard line—or being forced to, as I’ve reported.
And liberals aren’t exactly getting their hopes up, with Democrats whispering that this is more proof the president is simply capricious and incompetent.
An aide to a senior Democratic senator texts: ‘He doesn’t understand… laws. When he is alone speaks off the cuff he seems to say whatever pleases his audience.’
The aide also notes the immigration parallel: ‘Remember during the immigration debate one of these ideas he agreed to was a clean DACA bill and that he’d ‘take the heat’ for it? And then later he backed off.’
But guns could be different than immigration.
Any Republican president would have been a bellicose gun rights supporter, but it’s immigration that made Donald Trump president.
The NRA only endorsed him after he secured the primary vote.
Capitulate on immigration, and he risks squandering the energy that imbues his White House.
On guns though, he might get away with it.
Others agree. Referring to the Valentine’s Day massacre murderer whose rampage set off this renewed debate, Scott McConnell, founding editor of The American Conservative with Pat Buchanan, writes: ‘Much, much better if Trump achieves a ‘grand bargain’ with Dems over gun control than immigration. It is of course insane that someone like Cruz could buy easily an assault weapons.’