President Donald Trump offered his support Wednesday for a comprehensive approach to gun control, breaking away with a number of Republicans and challenging their long-held positions.
Trump, eager to take action after the February 14 school shooting in Parkland, Florida, had a meeting at the White House with a bipartisan group of lawmakers in order to discuss possible ways to cut down on gun violence. However, the president spent the majority of the meeting expressing support for numerous ideas that are anathema to the National Rifle Association (NRA), The Hill informs.
The televised meeting showed Trump pushing to raise the age at which an individual can purchase a rifle from 18 to 21, despite opposition by the NRA to such a measure. He further called for the expansion of background checks and told the House’s Majority Whip Steve Scalise that a concealed carry bill would never pass attached to legislation to encourage states to enter data into the national background checks database.
The meeting left Democrats hopeful and Republicans utterly perplexed.
“I don’t know how much clearer he could have been and the whole country can watch it,” said Minnesota Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar.
Others, however, were not as convinced that Trump will make good on his word.
“With President Trump, no one believes he will take their guns away,” said West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin.
Earlier in the day, there was little likelihood that gun legislation would be brought to the Senate floor, but the White House meeting seemed to change that dynamic. It also raised questions from aides and lawmakers as to whether Trump would stay true to his word or simply shift away from his positions and enthusiasm for action in the days ahead, as he has done multiple times in the past.
Trump, who demonstrated willingness to do more than what Republicans had been pushing for days, encouraged many of the ideas proposed at the meeting to be added to the background check bill. The president appeared eager to position himself as a Republican who is willing to stand up to the powerful gun group and pushed Republican lawmakers to do the same.
“Some of you are petrified of the NRA,” he said. “They do have great power over you people. They have less power over me. I don’t need it, what do I need?”
Still, Trump voiced support for ending gun-free school zones, a priority backed by the NRA. He also said he likes the idea of arming trained teachers and faculty members with weapons even though Trump pointed out the decision may be better left up to the states.