Last week President Trump held a meeting regarding the gun issue. It was very similar in structure to the meeting on immigration in January. Trump laid out his agenda and then opened it up to input from several members of Congress. And also like the immigration meeting, Trump made some comments that were taken out of context, alarming some of his supporters and generating headlines like “Trump Guns for the NRA”. However, if you take the entire meeting in whole context, I believe those fears are allayed.
First Trump outlined his thoughts and priorities on gun control:
Building defense at our schools:
“We must harden our schools against attack. These include allowing people with a certified training, very talented people, to carry firearms. Some people are going to disagree with that, and I understand that. I fully understand that. And if you do, I want you to speak up today, and we’ll listen. You’ve got to have defense, too. You can’t just be sitting ducks. And that’s exactly what we’ve allowed people in these buildings and schools to be.”
Dealing with the mental health aspect of mass shootings:
“We have to confront mental health. There’s never been a case that I’ve ever seen — I’m sure everybody would feel the same — where mental health was so obviously — 39 different red flags. I mean, everybody was seeing them — the local police, the state police, the FBI. Everybody was seeing that this guy was sick, and nothing happened.”
Taking preemptive action when the warning signs are present:
“We have to ensure that, when students, educators, family, neighbors — that, when they warn authorities — that the authorities act quickly and decisively, unlike what took police in Florida, which was horrible.”
Improve background checks:
“We have to pursue common-sense measures that protect the rights of law-abiding Americans while keeping guns and — we have to keep the guns out of the hands that pose the threat. And this really includes background checks.”
And finally the moral issue:
“And we have to create a culture that cherishes life and human dignity.”
I am glad he brought this up because no one else is and I think this is the main root cause of the violence we are seeing.
Trump also rejected the idea of “hardening a site”:
“Certain ideas sound good, but they’re not — they’re not good. You know, you can harden a site to a level that nobody could get in. The problem is, if the shooter’s inside and he gets to — he gets in the door and closes the door, we can’t get people in.
It’s going to cost hundred of millions of dollars all over the country, and we’ll have nice hard sites. The door closes, and now we can’t get in — have to send a tractor through the walls. So we have to be careful of that.”
After Trump spoke he opened it up for discussion among the Senators and Congressman that were in the meeting. Much of the discussion revolved around the 4 points Trump listed above and how to accomplish it in a bill that would pass. Currently there are several different bills in the works that addresses different aspects of the issue. Trump articulated his support for combining them into one bill with the Fix NICS (background check) bill being the template from which to build on.
Trump made it clear he intended to lead on this (and many in the room appreciated his efforts on it):
“I think it’s time. It’s time that a president stepped up, and we haven’t had them — and I’m talking Democrat and Republican presidents. They have not stepped up.”
Joe Manchin (D-WV) concurred, explaining in a nutshell why some of the bills were not passed during the last administration:
“Mr. President, the difference is this: There’s not a person in West Virginia that believes that you’re not going to defend their Second Amendment rights — not a person. With you taking a lead on something like this, it gives them the comfort that something reasonable — and this bill’s been vetted for over five years, and over 70, 80 percent, even, of gun owners say, “We like your bill, Pat and Joe. We’re just afraid that President Obama would take it further, and take more rights away.” That’s what I was running into in West Virginia.”
Masha Blackburn (R-Tenn) address an issue that I feel is another root cause of violence. You can have all the defense and security you but in the end it’s ultimately a matter of the heart and mind:
“Another thing that has come up from some of the moms: I was a room mother when my kids were in school, and now, as a grandmother, I’m talking to a lot of young moms.
And they have said one of the things we need to do, as we review these issues, is look at entertainment and the video games — the ratings system — the movies, how things are approved and what children are being exposed to, and especially children that have some of these mental health issues. And they feel that has a role to play.”
Trump: “The video games, the movies, the Internet stuff is so violent. It’s so incredible. I see it. I get to see things that you would be — you’d be amazed at. I have a young — very young son who — I look at some of the things he’s watching, and I say, “How is that possible?” And this is what kids are watching.
And I think you maybe have to take a look at it. You know, you rate movies for different things. Maybe you have to also rate them for terror, for what they’re doing and what they’re all about.
It’s hard to believe that, at least for a percentage of — maybe it’s a small percentage of children — this doesn’t have a negative impact on their thought process. These things are really violent.
But as I mentioned in the opening, there were some things Pres. Trump said that have been exaggerated and taken out of context.
First, that he chastised/mocked fellow Republicans for being afraid of the NRA. It sounds serious in print but if you watch the video of it, it looks to me like Trump is making a satirical joke. He was laughing as he said it. If he was mocking anybody, it was the media and their constant drumbeat about how the NRA controls the Republicans (funny how no one ever talks about how the Unions own Democrats. Or Planned Parenthood).
Second, several reports of the meeting stated that Trump had broke rank with the NRA and heavily criticized them, leaving the impression that he had abandoned them. The following exchange sheds light on that inaccuracy:
So, you have a case right now were somebody can buy a handgun at 21 — now this is not a popular thing to say in terms of the NRA, but I’m saying anyway, I’m going to just have to say it, but you can’t buy — I mean think of it, you can buy a handgun, you can’t buy one, you have to wait till your 21, but you can buy the kind of weapon used in the school shooting at 18.
I think it’s something you have to think about.
So, I’ll tell you what, I’m going to give it a lot of consideration and I’m the one bringing it up, but a lot of people don’t even want to bring it up because they’re afraid to bring it up, but you can’t buy a handgun at 18, 19 or 20. You have to wait till you’re 21, but you can buy the gun, the weapon used in this horrible shooting at 18.
You are going to decide, the people in this room pretty much, you’re going to decide. But, I would give very serious thought to it. I can say that the NRA is opposed to it and I’m a fan of the NRA. I mean, there’s no bigger fan. I’m a big fan of the NRA. They wanted to (ph) — these are great people. These are great patriots. They love our country. But that doesn’t mean we have to agree on everything. It doesn’t make sense that I have to wait until I’m 21 to get a handgun but I can get this weapon at 18. I don’t know.
Just because Trump disagrees with them on this issue doesn’t mean he has divorced himself from them.
But the big quote that everyone seems to be panicked about is Trump’s statement “take the guns first”. Again, you have to look at the entire conversation to understand that what Trump was saying was very limited in scope. It begin with John Rutherford, R-Fla discussing a law in Florida known as the Baker Act:
“We have — we actually take folks who are a danger to themselves or others, we Baker Act them — in Florida it’s called Baker Act. It’s a crisis stabilization process. They’re there for three days, 72 hours, they get stabilized, they get out, and we have to give them their guns back.”
This bill has been law in Florida since 1971! Other states have adopted their own version of it. Basically anyone who is deemed to have mental health issues that could cause then to be a danger to themselves or others can be examined (involuntarily if necessary) for up to 72 hours. Rutherford indicated that after 72 hours they were given their guns back which assumes they were taken during the examination process.
“I tried not to do that one time, and I actually got sued and lost the case — had to give the guns back and we got fined.
So the state of Florida has this bill that was mentioned earlier that the Senate just passed. It has these risk-protection orders built in the bill…and those — and there are some states that already had that, I believe. And I think those are going to be critical for law enforcement, to help take the guns out of the hands of … these individuals who we know should not be carrying. And then we need to make sure that those individuals get placed into the national background check system.”
Vice President Mike Pence then entered the discussion:
“Well, in the category you — you spoke about it, Mr. President, gun violence restraining orders, and they’re called — California actually has a version of this. And I think you, in your meeting with the governors earlier this week, individually and as a group, we spoke about — about the states taking steps, but the focus is to literally give families, and give local law enforcement additional tools if an individual is reported to be a potential danger to themselves or other. Allow due process, so that no one’s rights are trampled, but the ability to go to court, obtain an order, and then collect not only the firearms, but any weapons in the possession of that individual.”
Then, after this discussion, is when Trump made this comment:
“Or, Mike, take the firearms first, and then go to court. Because that’s another system. Because a lot of times, by the time you go to court, it takes so long to go to court, to get the due process procedures — I like taking the guns early. Like in this crazy man’s case that just took place in Florida, he had a lot of firearms (ph). They saw everything — to go to court would have taken a long time. So you could do exactly what you’re saying, but take the guns first, go through due process second.”
I believe Trump was expressing a preference to do something similar to the Brady Act and removing the guns first for someone deemed dangerous. It was NOT a broad appeal to confiscate guns as many media outlets insinuated.
You can read the entire transcript of the meeting here. I found it very interesting and quite different than the “sound bytes” version we have read/seen.
I think Trump is once again leading on an important issue and quite possibly maneuvering himself to take an issue away from the Democrats much like he did DACA. It will be quite interesting to see if they really want to do something on this issue or just have it as an election issue this fall.