Donald Trump briefly spoke to reporters yesterday afternoon after the latest mass shootings, and the president gave every indication that the wheels of policymaking were in motion. "We're doing a lot of work," he said, pointing to nothing in particular. "A lot of people are working right now.... A lot of things are being done right now, as we speak."
The Republican added soon after, "A lot of things are in the works, and a lot of good things.... A lot of things are happening. A lot of things are happening right now."
Listening to the unscripted comments, one got the impression that the president would at least give the appearance of taking the issue seriously. He even referenced possible support for background checks in a morning tweet.
But then Trump delivered scripted comments from the White House. To be sure, the president condemned "racism, bigotry and white supremacy," adding that "sinister ideologies must be defeated." Of course, given his extensive record, the rhetoric was difficult to believe.
But Trump then explored his vision of possible remedies.
The president also voiced support for stronger death penalty legislation for those who commit mass shootings, putting additional resources and new tools toward helping identify early warning signs before shooters act, and reforming mental health laws."Mental illness and hatred pulls the trigger, not the gun," he said.
I'm not altogether sure what that line was supposed to mean -- guns don't pull their own triggers? -- but it suggested those waiting for meaningful reforms of gun laws are likely to be disappointed.
Trump also, naturally, spoke out against "gruesome and grisly video games," which, in reality, are not responsible for mass shootings.
Despite his tweet from this morning, however, the president did not endorse new background checks on gun purchases.
It left us in a familiar position: watching a Republican policymaker who's prepared to talk about social media, video games, and mental health, but who's unwilling to address gun policy.
Postscript: As a substantive matter, this wasn't at all important, but it was curious when Trump said, at the conclusion of his remarks, "May God bless the memory of those who perished in Toledo." The shooting was in Dayton, not Toledo. Since he was reading from his trusted teleprompter, I suppose it's possible an aide screwed this up.