As Republican leaders scrambled to address the apparent disconnect between themselves and President Donald Trump on gun control legislation at a bipartisan meeting of lawmakers on Wednesday, Democrats pressured the president to keep his word.
“We’re not ditching any Constitutional protections simply because the last person the President talked to today doesn’t like them,” GOP Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska said in a statement Wednesday.
Trump raised eyebrows — and apparently Republicans’ blood pressure — at the meeting when he signaled he wanted law enforcement to confiscate guns from the mentally unstable before they received due process in court.
“I don’t want mentally ill people to be having guns,” Trump said. “You have to do something very decisive. Number one, you can take the guns away immediately from people that you can judge easily are mentally ill, like [the Parkland shooter]. You know, the police saw that he was a problem. They didn’t take any guns away. Now, that could have been policing. I think they should have taken them away anyway, whether they had the right or not. But I’ll tell you this, you have to have very strong provisions for the mentally ill.”
Trump to Lawmakers: “I’ll Love You” If Action is Taken on Gun Legislation
Some GOP lawmakers defended the president as a newcomer to the national debate on gun control and claiming Trump didn’t mean what he said.
“He’s not a legal scholar,” North Carolina GOP Sen. Thom Tillis said. “I know you heard the words. I just don’t believe in my heart of hearts that’s exactly what he meant.”
“I don’t ever believe there’s a time in this country where due process can be dismissed, period,” Tillis added.
To some, like Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn of Texas, the meeting, broadcast live on television, encapsulated the feeling of being on one of the reality star-turned-president’s TV shows. Cornyn is sponsoring legislation intended to make the criminal background check system work better.
“I thought it was fascinating television,” Cornyn told the New York Times. “It was surreal to actually be there.”
As Trump repeatedly bucked Republican leaders on gun measures, Democrats seemed to want to reinforce his statements.
“You saw the president clearly saying not once, not twice, not three times, but like 10 times, that he wanted to see a strong universal background check bill,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota told the Times. “He didn’t mince words about it. So I do not understand how then he could back away from that.”
Democratic Sen. Christopher S. Murphy of Connecticut, a leading gun control advocate on Capitol Hill, urged the administration to follow through on the president’s words Wednesday.
“The White House can now launch a lobbying campaign to get universal background checks passed, as the president promised in this meeting, or they can sit and do nothing,” Murphy said.
In a series of tweets Thursday morning, the president did not address the criticism Republicans levied against him after the meeting, instead saying it was “an honor” to host the bipartisan group of lawmakers.
“Many ideas, some good and some not so good, emerged from our bipartisan meeting on school safety yesterday at the White House,” Trump tweeted. “Background Checks a big part of conversation. Gun free zones are proven targets of killers. After many years, a bill should emerge. Respect 2nd Amendment!”
Many ideas, some good & some not so good, emerged from our bipartisan meeting on school safety yesterday at the White House. Background Checks a big part of conversation. Gun free zones are proven targets of killers. After many years, a Bill should emerge. Respect 2nd Amendment!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 1, 2018