Trump Prods Party to Defy NRA on Guns, Says Obama Did Too Little

Updated on
  • Obama was repeatedly rebuffed by Republicans over gun controls
  • President told Senator Toomey ‘you’re afraid of the NRA’
Trump Says It's Time for a President to 'Step Up' on Guns

President Donald Trump blamed his predecessor, former President Barack Obama, for failing to address gun legislation that would address violence in schools, such as the shooting this month in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 dead.

It’s time for a president to “step up,” Trump told a bipartisan group of lawmakers at a televised meeting on possible gun control legislation at the White House. Trump added that Obama “was not proactive in getting a bill signed, in all fairness.”

Gun control was a key priority for Obama, coming to a head after the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, which resulted in the deaths of 20 children and six teachers. Obama. After gun-control legislation stalled in the Republican-led Congress, Obama released a 23-point presidential memo that instructed federal agencies to present relevant information to the federal background-check system. His steps drew condemnation from the NRA and Republicans in Congress.

In 2016, Obama wrote in a New York Times editorial “I will not campaign for, vote for or support any candidate, even in my own party, who does not support common-sense gun reform.”

When Republican Senator Patrick Toomey of Pennsylvania told Trump that Obama did press for gun legislation, the president responded, “That was your problem.”

Trump has vowed to pass new laws designed to curb campus gun violence following the Feb. 14 shooting at a Parkland, Fla. high school in which 17 people were killed and more than a dozen more wounded. The White House is expected to unveil a legislative framework on Thursday.

Trump has said he would like to end the practice of making schools gun-free zones, so teachers and other staff members could be armed and trained to confront possible shooters. The White House has also endorsed legislation championed by Majority Whip John Cornyn that would strengthen the existing federal background system.

Trump has signaled support for raising the legal age to purchase firearms to 21, as well as unspecified action on mental health issues. Late last month, the president ordered the Justice Department to draft regulations blocking the sale of bump stocks, which allow semi-automatic rifles to fire more rapidly. The White House has said the president would also support legislation accomplishing that goal.

When Toomey explained that a piece of legislation he has sponsored that would require background checks for firearms sale at gun shows or over the Internet didn’t include a provision to raise the age limit for purchase of semi-automatic rifles to 21, Trump interjected “You know why: Because you’re afraid of the NRA.”

“It is a big issue right now,” Trump added. “A lot of people are talking about it. A lot of people are afraid of that issue, raising the age for that weapon to 21.”

Attendees at Wednesday’s meeting included a diverse group of lawmakers, including Cornyn, a Texas Republican, and Chris Murphy, the Connecticut Democrat who has been a vocal proponent of gun regulation since the massacre at Sandy Hook elementary school in his home state in 2012.

Senator Dianne Feinstein the California Democrat who has pushed for a broad assault weapons ban was also there. Feinstein witnessed the aftermath of gun violence firsthand when she discovered the body of slain San Francisco politician Harvey Milk, who was killed by an assassin in 1978.

Steve Scalise, the Louisiana congressman who was shot when a gunman attacked a congressional Republican baseball practice, was also at the meeting. Scalise has said lawmakers should focus on mental health and law enforcement issues rather than banning guns.

Prior to the meeting, four Democratic senators led by Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, urged Trump to support background checks on all gun sales that "closes those loopholes for good."

As lawmakers plot their course of action, corporations have begun to respond to the shooting. Dick’s Sporting Goods Inc. announced it’s ending sales of assault-style rifles and high-capacity magazines, while raising the minimum age for firearm purchases to 21. Some other companies that offer discounts to NRA members, including Delta Air Lines Inc. and United Continental Holdings Inc., have cut ties to the lobbying group after calls for a boycott proliferated on social media.

Michael R. Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg LP, which operates Bloomberg News, serves as a member of Everytown for Gun Safety’s advisory board and is a donor to the group. Everytown for Gun Safety advocates for universal background checks and other gun control measures.

— With assistance by Sahil Kapur

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