Proposed laws could roll back gun restrictions and expand the locations where gun owners are allowed to carry weapons if President Donald Trump delivers on his campaign promises to pro-gun groups.
In January, congressional Republicans introduced bills that would reduce barriers to purchasing gun silencers and allow concealed weapon holders to cross state lines without having to follow local restrictions. Trump, who’s said he carries a concealed weapon at times, once promised to eliminate gun-free zones and to allow loaded handguns in schools, and said that a “national right to carry” concealed weapons should be legal.
Trump has also nominated a new justice to the Supreme Court, Neil Gorsuch, who has the backing of the National Rifle Association. If confirmed, the 49-year-old will give the court a 5-4 conservative-leaning majority.
There was a yearslong legislative impasse on gun control under former President Barack Obama, despite attempts to push for reforms after a string of mass shootings in places like Newtown, Connecticut, San Bernardino, California and Orlando, Florida. The possible shakeup in gun policy would hand a victory to pro-gun groups that have argued that such attacks mean more people should have more guns in more places.
“This is our historic moment to go on the offense and restore American greatness,” said Wayne LaPierre, the executive vice president of the National Rifle Association, in a video outlining the NRA’s legislative wish list after Trump won the presidency in November. LaPierre also called Trump “the most openly pro-Second Amendment candidate in history.”
“The gun lobby is trying to portray the election of Donald Trump as a far bigger victory than it is. They went all in on him, but it is not the reason he was elected.”
Supporting broader gun rights fits in with Trump’s characterization of himself as the “law and order” candidate. He argues that guns in the hands of law-abiding people deter and protect Americans from crime and terrorist attacks.
But gun control organizations are holding out hope that Trump won’t march in lockstep with the NRA, despite his repeated vows to uphold conservatives’ interpretation of the Second Amendment.
“It’s not as bleak as some people are inclined to think,” said Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. “The gun lobby is trying to portray the election of Donald Trump as a far bigger victory than it is. They went all in on him, but it is not the reason he was elected.”
Officials from gun control advocacy groups like Everytown for Gun Safety and Americans for Responsible Solutions similarly wondered how much Trump would push a gun rights agenda. On the campaign trail, they note, he supported a measure to block suspected terrorists from buying guns. And before Trump entered politics, he’d supported an assault weapons ban and a waiting period to buy guns.
Trump has yet to lay out his gun policy in detail, but the revamped White House website does make a sweeping promise to gun advocates in a section about law enforcement.
“Supporting law enforcement means supporting our citizens’ ability to protect themselves,” the statement reads. “We will uphold Americans’ Second Amendment rights at every level of our judicial system.”
White House press officials didn’t respond to The Huffington Post’s inquiries about Trump’s agenda.
These are likely to be some of the defining gun policy issues of Trump’s presidency. Sooner or later, he will reveal his true colors.
Traveling With A Concealed Weapon
Many gun owner groups are calling for a so-called national right-to-carry law, which Trump also demanded during the campaign. This legislation would allow licensed weapons holders to carry guns in any state, regardless of that state’s specific rules on concealed firearms.
All states allow some version of concealed carry, but they don’t necessarily recognize permits issued in other states. Currently, states can decide themselves whether to recognize out-of-state licenses. Gun owner websites have maps showing users where their permits are accepted.
Rep. Richard Hudson (R-N.C.) is pursuing this goal with a version of the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act, introduced earlier this month.
Opponents fear this measure would allow the states with the least restrictive gun laws to effectively set policy for the entire country.
“This would create a race to the bottom,” said Robin Lloyd, director of government affairs for Americans for Responsible Solutions.
But Trump has expressed support, arguing that if motorists can use their driver’s licenses in other states, gun licenses should be respected around the country, too.
Guns In Schools
Trump has not fulfilled a promise to eliminate gun-free zones at schools on his first day in office.
The wheels are in motion, though. Last month, Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) introduced a bill that would repeal a 1990 law banning guns in schools.
Gun groups say it’s necessary to dissolve gun-free zones because shooters and terrorists attack targets like schools with the knowledge that they’re unlikely to encounter armed resistance. (But Trump’s secretary of education nominee, Betty DeVos, was mocked for saying during a confirmation hearing that guns in schools might help “protect from grizzlies.”)
Critics argue that bringing guns into schools, either by arming teachers or security guards, creates a more threatening environment for children and a risk of deadly accidents.
“This is a nexus between a very small group of extremists who basically want no regulation of anything, and the misinformation of the corporate gun lobby whose goal is simply to sell as many guns as they can without any concern with what happens,” said Gross of the Brady Campaign.
Gun-Friendly Supreme Court
Gorsuch, Trump’s pick to replace Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, could have enormous sway over future U.S. gun policy.
“It’s almost more important than any legislation,” said Sam Paredes, executive director of the pro-gun group Gun Owners of California.
The NRA quickly gave Gorsuch its blessing, saying he has an “impressive record” of opinions involving the Second Amendment. LaPierre and officials from several conservative organizations visited Trump in the White House on Wednesday in an apparent signal that they approve the nomination.
Silencers ― called suppressors by many gun owners because firearms equipped with them are still loud ― are accessories that reduce the noise a gunshot makes. They’re already legal in 42 states, but due to federal restrictions, purchasers must pay a $200 tax and undergo an application process that can take nine months to complete.
Two House Republicans introduced a bill this month that would remove the federal taxes and regulations that currently cover silencers. Reps. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.) and John Carter (R-Texas) have dubbed their bill the Hearing Protection Act, pitching it as a measure to help hunters and sport shooters avoid damaging their ears.
Both sides latch on to evidence that silencers are rarely used in crimes. Supporters of the proposed law say these numbers prove the current restrictions aren’t necessary, while opponents say they prove they’re effective. Using silencers more widely could interfere with technology that notifies police of gunfire, opponents warned.
Minority Gun Owners Have Unique Concerns
Some gun advocates hopes Trump will also consider minority firearm owners’ concerns as he crafts his gun agenda. Philip Smith, president of the Atlanta-based National African American Gun Association, said police should not discriminate against black Americans who are legally carrying guns.
“The problem is in the application of the law,” Smith said. “An African-American can walk down the street and an officer wants to question you [about possessing a gun]. A different person can walk down the street, and there’s no problem.”
It’s not yet clear just how committed Trump will be to loosening gun laws.
But even if he abandons some gun-related campaign promises, it might not hurt him much with groups that were far more worried Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton would push for stricter control on firearms, Paredes said.
“Even if he goes sideways on it, it would still not be as bad as a Hillary Clinton administration,” Paredes said. “That was a really easy call to support Trump.”
The NRA did not respond to HuffPost’s inquiries.