About a year ago, as a bipartisan infrastructure package started to take shape, Donald Trump made little effort to hide his outrage. The former president didn’t know what was in the bill, but he was sure he didn’t like it, and he expected Republicans to oppose it because he said so.
There was no great mystery as to his motivations: Trump wanted a bipartisan infrastructure package and failed to negotiate one. If he couldn’t have an infrastructure deal, President Biden shouldn’t get one either.
The current circumstances are nearly identical: As a bipartisan bill to address gun violence takes shape, Trump is outraged once again. He doesn’t know what’s in the bill, but he’s sure he doesn’t like it, and he expects Republicans to oppose it because he said so. Yahoo News highlighted the former president’s pitch:
“The deal on ‘Gun Control’ currently being structured and pushed in the Senate by the Radical Left Democrats, with the help of Mitch McConnell, RINO Senator John Cornyn of Texas, and others, will go down in history as the first step in the movement to TAKE YOUR GUNS AWAY. Republicans, be careful what you wish for!!!” Trump wrote on his social media platform....
As a factual matter, all of this was quite foolish. Twenty senators from both parties negotiated a compromise, and none of them could credibly be described as “radical left.” For that matter, Republican Sen. John Cornyn is obviously not a “RINO,” and the legislation he helped write is so incredibly modest, the idea that it would lead to widespread gun confiscations is plainly bonkers.
But for Trump, this isn’t about facts. This is about the fact that he tried to get a bill to address gun violence, too, and he failed. Just like with infrastructure, from the Republican’s perspective, if he couldn’t have success in this area, Biden shouldn’t either.
Indeed, we can say with great confidence that Trump doesn’t have a problem with the substance of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act because of his own record. As I noted in my book (see chapter 8), it was in February 2018, in the wake of a mass shooting in a school, when the then-Republican president held a televised, hourlong discussion with a group of lawmakers from both parties about gun violence. As part of the conversation, then-Vice President Mike Pence raised the prospect of empowering law enforcement to take weapons away from those who’ve been reported to be potentially dangerous, though he added that he expected to see “due process so no one’s rights are trampled.”
As regular readers know, Trump wasn’t satisfied — and he instead voiced support for extrajudicial gun confiscations.
“Take the firearms first and then go to court,” Trump said. At the same event, the then-president endorsed a law enforcement model in which police officers confiscated some Americans’ guns “whether they had the right or not.”
When Republicans derailed those negotiations and nothing passed, there was another mass shooting a year later, at which point Trump again wanted a gun bill, including restrictions on assault rifles — one of his long-sought goals.
In other words, while in office, Trump sought ambitious gun reforms that went much further than the bipartisan compromise currently pending in the Senate. If the former president believes addressing the “boyfriend loophole” is “the first step in the movement to TAKE YOUR GUNS AWAY,” how would he describe his own idea about confiscating guns without due process?
The truth is as obvious as it is pitiful: Trump can’t stand the idea of Biden succeeding where he failed.
Last year, plenty of GOP lawmakers ignored the former president and helped pass a worthwhile infrastructure bill. The odds are good the same thing will happen this year on addressing gun violence.