Donald Trump, the man who needs a cue-card to feign basic human empathy, is serious about gun control?
Yeah, right. This is still the same president whose promises far outperform his actual ability to carry them out.
Remember when Trump promised a spectacular replacement for Obamacare? That hasn’t happened. In fact, he made it worse.
Trump promised a massive infrastructure program. What we got relies on a paltry $200 billion investment from the federal government to magically conjure $1.5 trillion from private interests and cash-strapped state and local governments.
He loved the Dreamers until he squeezed them so he could get more money for his preposterous border wall. And immigration reform, of any kind, remains at a standstill.
And now we’re supposed to believe that he’ll successfully push for comprehensive background checks, raise the age of gun-purchasers to 21 and move to ban bump-stocks?
It would be nice to think Trump is serious about actually doing any of those things. Unfortunately, hard experience teaches us that his desire for approval far outweighs his desire to make substantive policy change.
“Only one candidate in the general election came to speak to you, and that candidate is now the president of the United States, standing before you,” Trump said at the NRA’s 2017 annual convention, according to The New York Times. “You came through for me, and I am going to come through for you.”
On Thursday, Trump doubled-down on his support for the NRA, calling them “great American patriots,” on Twitter.
According to NBC News, the NRA donated $21 million to Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. When Republicans in Congress starts feeling the heat, Trump’s base begins to squawk and the NRA mobilizes gun owners, who do you think is going to win the argument?
Sadly, it probably won’t be the kids from Parkland.
Still, as with everything with Trump, it’s more important to watch what he does, not what he says.
Take, for instance, how Trump proposed to ban bump-stocks, which allow semi-automatic weapons to be converted into nearly automatic weapons.
He signed a memo recommending that Attorney General Jeff Sessions propose regulations to ban bump stocks. Unfortunately, there are more if/then statements baked into it than one of the old BASIC programs you wrote in middle school.
That’s because the argument over any new regulation could rage on for months as it goes through the standard regulatory review process — let alone any litigation.
The faster way to ban bump-stocks would be through legislation, which Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, has said is the only answer.
That’s because, as The Washington Examiner reports, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms lacks the power to ban the weapons on their own, leaving a bill the only answer.
“If [the] ATF tries to ban these devices after admitting repeatedly that it lacks the authority to do so, that process could be tied up in court for years, and that would mean bump stocks would continue to be sold. Legislation is the only answer,” Feinstein said in a statement.
Getting such a bill passed, though? That’s another matter entirely.
That depends on whether such a bill could garner “60 votes in the Senate,” and clear the U.S. House, U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., told me this week.
At an appearance at the state Capitol in Harrisburg, Pa., Toomey said he does think “there is broad Republican support for using legitimate regulatory authority” to regulate bump stocks in the same way the government strictly regulates civilian access to fully automatic weapons.
“Whether that translates into legislation or not, I’m not sure,” said Toomey, one of the Senate GOP’s most vocal proponents of expanding background checks for gun purchases.
Toomey told reporters that he wants to talk to Trump about expanded background checks. The Pennsylvania Republican said he will probably reintroduce the compromise measure he initially crafted with U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., that fell six votes short of the number needed to pass the Senate in 2013.
“My goal is to move this process forward,” he said. “It might take some tweaks to the legislation. I’m open to that. I do think it is reasonable to require a background check on commercial gun sales.”
And that may be what it takes to keep Trump’s famously short attention span focused on this issue.
If Toomey and other senior lawmakers stay focused on this potent (election-year) issue, which could require a spinal transplant in the face of NRA pressure, Trump may remain focused as well.
Left to his own devices, the president will just move on to the next Twitter fight.
An award-winning political journalist, Micek is the Opinion Editor and Political Columnist for PennLive/The Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pa. Readers may follow him on Twitter @ByJohnLMicek and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.