Conceding to NRA, Trump Abandons Brief Gun Control Promise

click to enlarge President Donald Trump walked back his gun promises on Monday. - TOM BRENNER/THE NEW YORK TIMES
Tom Brenner/The New York Times
President Donald Trump walked back his gun promises on Monday.

© 2018 New York Times News Service

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump has abandoned his live-on-television promise to work for gun control measures that are opposed by the National Rifle Association, instead bowing to the gun group and embracing its agenda of armed teachers and incremental improvements to the existing background check system.

After the Florida high school massacre last month, Trump explicitly called for raising the age limit to purchase rifles and backed 2013 legislation for near-universal background checks. He chided Sen. Patrick J. Toomey, R-Pa., who helped write that background check legislation, accusing him of rejecting the higher age limit “because you’re afraid of the NRA.”

But on Monday, it was the president who seemed to knuckle under, again dramatizing the sway that the NRA still maintains in Republican circles. Students around the country might be massing for a march on Washington on March 24. The victims and survivors of school shootings from Connecticut to Florida may be pushing their states to move on gun control.

But from Capitol Hill to the White House, the NRA still calls the shots.

“To no one’s surprise, the president’s words of support for stronger gun safety laws proved to be hollow,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said. “Responding to the murder of 17 students and educators by endorsing the gun lobby’s platform is a shameful abdication of the president’s responsibility to lead. Shame on you, Mr. President.”

Trump cited a lack of political support for raising the age limit to purchase rifles, which is not evident in public opinion polls but is very much evident in his party. He said that his administration was studying the issue and suggested thatstates should decide whether to prohibit people under 21 from buying the kind of assault weapon used by the gunman who rampaged through Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

Instead, Trump over the weekend released a modest plan that eschewed gun control measures in favor of more limited bills that would provide weapons training for teachers and create a commission to study other responses to school shootings.

The White House on Sunday proposed creating the Federal Commission on School Safety, which would study the question of raising the minimum age for purchasing rifles. That proposal came just a day after Trump himself mocked the idea of federal commissions as ineffective.


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