On Twitter this morning, Donald Trump appeared to lay out his agenda on stemming the tide of gun violence in one handy summary.
“I will be strongly pushing Comprehensive Background Checks with an emphasis on Mental Health. Raise age to 21 and end sale of Bump Stocks! Congress is in a mood to finally do something on this issue - I hope!”
The political context, of course, matters a great deal. The president has a great many flaws, but he’s generally aware of the prevailing political winds, and despite his fealty to the NRA – which, incidentally, he praised again this morning – Trump is reluctant to appear indifferent to public demands on public safety.
This is, after all, a president who declared in his inaugural address, “This American carnage stops right here and stops right now.” Of the top 10 deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history, three have happened since that speech.So, the White House’s vision is coming into focus. Let’s take these one at a time:
1. “I will be strongly pushing Comprehensive Background Checks.” That sounds like a worthwhile reform, though it would be a rather dramatic reversal for Trump, who, as Rachel noted on last night’s show, has weakened the background check system.
Indeed, the L.A. Times reported this week, Trump administration officials “have quietly chipped away at the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, the federal system that stores consult to make sure buyers are eligible to purchase guns.” The piece added, “In his recently released budget for the coming fiscal year, Trump proposed slashing millions of dollars from the budget for the background check system.”
2. “…with an emphasis on Mental Health.” Again, Trump is the one who, shortly after taking office, took steps to make it easier for the mentally impaired to buy guns. What’s more, as the Washington Post’s Catherine Rampell explained last week, Trump’s proposed budget calls for significant cuts that, if implemented, would limit access to mental-health services for many Americans.
3. “Raise age to 21.” There seems to be a growing number of Republicans who can’t answer questions about why a young adult can buy an assault rifle, but not a beer. The NRA, however, has not yet signed off on the change.
4. “…end sale of Bump Stocks.” If Trump is serious about this, he could endorse the pending legislation banning bump-stock modifications. So far, he hasn’t.
I realize the White House wants flattering headlines, and by publicly calling for popular changes, such as strengthening the background-check system, the president will get some of what he wants from the media.
But it’s worth pausing from time to time to note the gaps between what Trump says and what Trump does.