By: By: José Niño
The recent spate of shootings in Ohio and Texas has had many gun owners anxious about what’s going to happen next at the federal level. Some of President Trump’s initial comments following the El Paso and Dayton shootings were cause for concern.
Following the two shootings, Trump stated on Twitter that, “Republicans and Democrats must come together and get strong background checks, perhaps marrying this legislation with desperately needed immigration reform.”
He followed up by noting that Congress has been working on some kind of “solution” that addresses background checks:
"So, Congress is working on that. They have bipartisan committees working on background checks and various other things. And we'll see. I don't want people to forget that this is a mental health problem. I don't want them to forget that, because it is. It's a mental health problem. And as I say -- and I said the other night in New Hampshire; we had an incredible evening -- I said: It's the people that pull the trigger. It's not the gun that pulls the trigger."
These comments seem a bit troubling from a president who has been marketed as the most pro-gun president ever. One would expect a categorical rejection of gun control proposals right off the bat from an executive who has so much pro-gun hype behind him. It should be noted that America is not a dictatorship, and gun control polices can’t just be passed on an executive whim. Gun control will obviously require passage in both houses of Congress first.
What was most telling in the aftermath of the latest mass shootings was the group of Republicans, including Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey to Congresswoman Dan Crenshaw, who were already quick to jump on the gun control bandwagon. These elected officials suggested the introduction of enhanced background checks and red flag gun confiscation orders as “solutions” to these shootings. For a brief moment, it seemed that gun control was about to come down the pipeline at the federal level. When both parties are almost sounding the same on these issues, gun owners have every reason to be worried.
In an interesting twist of events, Trump made an apparent reversal on gun control according to a Politico report on August 20, 2019. He told reporters that passing gun control could be a slippery slope to more draconian gun control measures. He specifically stated, "A lot of the people that put me where I am are strong believers in the Second Amendment, and I am also. And we have to be very careful about that. You know, they call it the slippery slope. All of a sudden everything gets taken away.”
To Trump’s credit, he has firmly rejected the generic ban proposals typical of Democrats, which include universal background checks and bans on so-called “assault weapons.” Nonetheless, his initial flirtation with gun control should leave gun owners worried – as is the mercurial nature of the Trump presidency, which has been a rollercoaster of political drama from one issue to the other.
The week of September 16, 2019 saw the president again take a more anti-gun turn. The Daily Caller reported that Trump and the Department of Justice are passing around an “enhanced” background check proposal — in the mold of the notorious Toomey-Manchin bill of 2013 — to Republican leadership in Congress. Details remain scant, but gun owners have reason to be worried when Republicans try to pull backdoor negotiations on gun policy.
Tensions are already high as Democrats nationwide are screaming for gun control. Some, like former Congressman Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke, are even calling for the direct confiscation of AR-15s. But the Republican side of the aisle has not been much better. In the supposedly “pro-gun” state of Texas, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick is now on record in support of universal background checks on private sales. After receiving backlash from the National Rifle Association, Patrick said “not expanding the background check to eliminate the stranger to stranger sale makes no sense to me and … most folks.” A surprising statement from an elected official in the Lone Star State.
All in all, it’s an uncertain environment for gun owners. The Trump administration is even indicating that it’s approaching the issue of gun control slowly, but this does not mean that gun owners are in the clear yet. If anything, this is when gun owners could get caught flat-footed by the political establishment.
The best we can say about Trump is that he hasn’t taken impulsive action on the issue like some Democrats would have done in the past; however, this does not mean gun owners should remain complacent. Now is the time to continue putting the pressure on Congress, above all the Senate, to stay on course and resist the temptation of passing gun control.
This is one battle gun owners cannot afford to lose.
José Niño is a Venezuelan-American political activist writing from Texas. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.