Trump Stuns Lawmakers With Seeming Embrace of Comprehensive Gun Control
Democrats, too, said they were skeptical that Mr. Trump would follow through.
“The White House can now launch a lobbying campaign to get universal background checks passed, as the president promised in this meeting, or they can sit and do nothing,” said Senator Chris Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut.
At the core of Mr. Trump’s suggestion was the revival of a bipartisan bill drafted in 2013 by Senators Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, and Patrick J. Toomey, Republican of Pennsylvania, after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Despite a concerted push by President Barack Obama and the personal appeals of Sandy Hook parents, the bill fell to a largely Republican filibuster.
Mr. Trump’s embrace did not immediately yield converts. Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, said after the meeting that he was unmoved, repeating the Republican dogma that recent shootings were not “conducted by someone who bought a gun at a gun show or parking lot.” Senator John Cornyn of Texas, the No. 2 Republican, who sat next to the president looking flustered, emerged from the meeting and declared, “I thought it was fascinating television and it was surreal to actually be there.”
But Mr. Trump suggested that the dynamics in Washington had changed after the school shooting in Florida that claimed 17 lives, in part because of his own leadership in the White House, a sentiment that the Democrats in the room readily appeared to embrace as they saw the president supporting their ideas.
“It would be so beautiful to have one bill that everyone could support,” Mr. Trump said as Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California and a longtime advocate of gun control, sat smiling to his left. “It’s time that a president stepped up.”
Democrats tried to turn sometimes muddled presidential musings into firm policy: “You saw the president clearly saying not once, not twice, not three times, but like 10 times, that he wanted to see a strong universal background check bill,” said Senator Amy Klobuchar, Democrat of Minnesota. “He didn’t mince words about it. So I do not understand how then he could back away from that.”
Just what the performance means, and whether Mr. Trump will aggressively push for new gun restrictions, remain uncertain given his history of taking erratic positions on policy issues, especially ones that have long polarized Washington and the country.