Conservatives floored by Trump’s gun control lovefest
“If he embraces some of the things he talked about yesterday, a lot of folks up here on our side are not going to be for some of that stuff,” Thune said of Trump’s gun push.
While Republicans think it’s important to discourage the president from upsetting his rural, gun-loving base, most have taken to privately registering those feelings of discomfort with the White House rather than dressing down the president publicly. It’s a courtesy they never extended to President Barack Obama after his calls for tougher background checks.
Instead, most Republicans spent Thursday highlighting the problems with Trump’s seeming support for proposals advocated by the likes of Sens. Dianne Feinstein of California and Chris Murphy of Connecticut.
“I’m a firm believer that due process means that you get a lawyer, a trial, a hearing, an impartial court making a decision before any of your rights are taken away,” Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said of Trump’s call to “take the gun first, go through due process second.”
House Freedom Caucus founder Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) similarly shied away from criticizing Trump personally, while firmly rejecting the bulk of the ideas the president floated Wednesday. Jordan emphasized similarities with Trump’s viewpoints on arming teachers, and turned his criticisms toward Democrats instead of the White House.
“On the most fundamental level in Florida, we had the most systemic failure of government to deal with this bad guy, and now we’re supposed to say the answer is more government?” he asked. “The premise that so many on the left have — so many Democrats — I just don’t buy into that premise.”
But didn’t Trump buy that premise? “All I know is the answer is not more government,” Jordan replied.
There’s a smaller faction of Capitol Hill Republicans who’ve attacked the president personally on guns. Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), who leads the House’s gun caucus, tweeted Thursday that “like liberals, @realDonaldTrump mentions Columbine, Pulse, Sandy Hook to motivate gun control, but totally ignores how guns were acquired: columbine: straw purchases, pulse: registered security guard, sandy hook: stolen. DISGRACEFUL!”
There were a few Republicans who applauded Trump. They included Sens. Jeff Flake of Arizona and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, who are pushing proposals to raise the age limit for buying some rifles and to enforce background checks for internet and gun show sales.
“He was enthusiastic about it,” beamed Toomey after Trump lavished praise on his background-checks plan.
The pair of GOP senators and some Democrats, meanwhile, held out hope that perhaps Trump could finally break the entrenched politics of gun control by getting behind “common-sense” regulations. It’s one thing when a Democratic president calls for stricter gun rules; it’s a different equation when a pro-NRA Republican president does so.
“There’s no one concerned about Donald Trump taking their Second Amendment rights away,” Manchin said.
That still might be wishful thinking. Senators said Trump would struggle to move all but a handful of Republicans in the Senate. And in the more conservative House, prospects for new gun laws look even bleaker.
“There’s no changing minds,” said Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.).