President Donald Trump could barely feign interest in enacting basic gun control measures after 22 people were killed in El Paso, Texas, in August, saying he was moving “very slowly” on measures that he could not even specify. Now his intentions are more obvious: He plans to do nothing.
In the midst of fighting for reelection and against an impeachment inquiry (for which he unwittingly continues to provide more evidence), Trump has reportedly decided to give up on gun control measures to instead focus on his own political survival. As The Washington Post reports:
Trump has been counseled by political advisers, including campaign manager Brad Parscale and acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, that gun legislation could splinter his political coalition, which he needs to stick together for his reelection bid, particularly amid an impeachment battle.
The president no longer asks about the issue, and aides from the Domestic Policy Council, once working on a plan with eight to 12 tenets, have moved on to other topics, according to aides who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the private deliberations.
It comes as no surprise to those who have closely followed the president’s inaction after the multiple mass shootings that have happened during his presidency.
In September, Trump said he didn’t want “crazy people” having such easy access to guns, indicating that he might support stronger background checks. But he tempered that by saying there were no concrete measures he was considering that he was willing to share with reporters, and predictably blamed Democrats should these hypothetical non-measures fail to pass.
“It depends on if Democrats want to take your guns away,” Trump said. “If this is a movement by the Democrats to take your guns away, it’s never going to happen.”
Still, there was hope that lawmakers on both sides of the aisle could get something done. Attorney General Bill Barr was on Capitol Hill in September talking to Senate Republicans about expanding background checks for gun sales. But now that Trump is facing impeachment, talks are off.
“President Trump quietly moved gun control to the side and let it be replaced by breaking news,” Dan Eberhart, a major GOP donor, told The Washington Post. “I suspect that was the plan all along.”
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), who has been at the forefront of Democratic-led gun control efforts, had been in continued negotiations with the Trump administration on expanding background checks just before the impeachment inquiry began. He told Politico that the Trump administration has since gone dark on the issue.
“I haven’t heard anything since Wednesday and I don’t think that’s coincidental to this crisis,” Murphy said in September. “I understand calling for impeachment proceedings to begin could chill the administration’s interest in working with me on background checks. But this is about the future of the Republic.”
Trump’s vision of the future of the Republic doesn’t appear to be one in which Americans are safer, but instead simply just one in which he remains in power. Last month, Trump met with the chief executive of the National Rifle Association on the same day a Senate committee released a report accusing the NRA of being a “foreign asset” of Russia.
The meeting indicated the influence the gun lobby continues to exert over the president, and the lengths he’ll go to to ensure his continued political survival.