When Donald Trump addressed the National Rifle Association’s presidential forum late last week, the Republican focused on both the recent past and the near future. Both mattered, though for different reasons.
Let’s start with the former. The Daily Beast reported:
Former President Donald Trump boasted to a gathering of National Rifle Association members Friday in Pennsylvania that his administration “did nothing” about guns. After stoking fears that the current president wants to “confiscate your guns and annihilate your God-given right to self-defense,” Trump recapped how he handled calls for stricter gun legislation.
“During my four years, nothing happened,” the former president boasted. “And there was great pressure on me having to do with guns. We did nothing. We didn’t yield.”
Part of the problem with this, of course, is that there were a great many mass shootings during Trump’s term, and bragging about how little he did in response to the deadly violence isn’t the political winner the Republican seems to think it is. Indeed, it’s easy to imagine comments like these appearing in Democratic ads in the fall.
The other part of the problem is that he was brazenly lying. As I noted in my first book (see chapter 8), it was in February 2018, in the wake of a mass school shooting, when the then-Republican president held a televised, hourlong discussion with a group of lawmakers from both parties about gun violence. As part of the conversation, then-Vice President Mike Pence raised the prospect of empowering law enforcement to take weapons away from those who’ve been reported to be potentially dangerous, though he added that he expected to see “due process so no one’s rights are trampled.”
“Take the firearms first and then go to court,” Trump interjected. At the same event, the then-president endorsed a law enforcement model in which police officers confiscated some Americans’ guns “whether they had the right or not.”
When Republicans derailed those negotiations and nothing passed, there was another mass shooting a year later, at which point Trump again wanted a gun bill, including restrictions on assault rifles — which by all accounts was one of his long-sought goals.
In other words, while in office, Trump sought ambitious gun reforms — up to and including extrajudicial gun confiscations.
More than four years later, the Republican is marveling about the “great pressure” he faced but ignored. “We didn’t yield,” he bragged on Friday. In reality, Trump publicly endorsed major firearm restrictions, which he failed to get through Congress when (a) his own party ignored him; and (b) the NRA told Trump what his positions would be, and the then-president allowed himself to be pushed around by lobbyists.
But Friday’s speech wasn’t entirely retrospective. As Politico noted, the likely GOP nominee looked ahead, too.
Donald Trump told National Rifle Association members on Friday that “no one will lay a finger on your firearms” if he wins the presidency, vowing to roll back Biden-era gun restrictions. “Every single Biden attack on gun owners and manufacturers will be terminated on my very first week back in office, perhaps my first day,” Trump said at the NRA’s Presidential Forum in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
In other words, despite public-opinion polling showing support for new policies to address gun violence, Trump not only opposes new reforms, he intends to eliminate safeguards that currently exist.
I have a hunch the electorate hasn’t heard the last of this campaign promise.