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C-SPANDonald Trump's embrace of gun control during a meeting with members of Congress yesterday was startling to anyone who took seriously his pose as a staunch defender of the Second Amendment during his presidential campaign. But it looks more like a reversion to his actual opinions if you take a longer view.
Yesterday Trump assured legislators that he will soon impose an administrative ban on bump stocks and said he supported legislation aimed at encouraging the sharing of information with the FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), which is used to clear people who buy guns from federally licensed dealers. The National Rifle Association supports both of those measures. But Trump also spoke favorably of requiring background checks for all gun transfers, raising the minimum age for buying long guns, pre-emptively confiscating guns from people who might be dangerous, and even banning so-called assault weapons, to the visible delight of Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.). The NRA opposes all of those ideas, as do the vast majority of Republicans in Congress.
"While today's meeting made for great TV," said NRA spokeswoman Jennifer Baker, "the gun control policies discussed would make bad policy that wouldn't keep our children safer." The New York Times reports that Trump's comments "prompted a frantic series of phone calls from N.R.A. lobbyists to their allies on Capitol Hill." Breitbart News, an early and steadfast Trump booster, ran a story under the headline (since revised) "Trump the Gun Grabber."
In 2016 Trump was enthusiastically backed by the NRA, which spent more than $30 million on ads and other communications aimed at electing him and defeating Hillary Clinton. The unprecedented support was driven not just by Clinton's anti-gun views but by Trump's public statements about the folly of gun control and the importance of the right to armed self-defense.
"I am against gun control," Trump announced at the 2011 Conservative Political Action Conference. He declared himself "a very strong person on the Second Amendment" in a 2013 interview with Fox News. "I'm a big Second Amendment person," he told CNN in 2015. "I believe in it so strongly, and if you take the guns away from the good people, and the bad ones are going to have target practice." In his 2015 book Great Again, he said he was "very much in favor of making all concealed-carry permits valid in every state" (a policy he rejected yesterday as politically unfeasible).
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