For years, the National Rifle Association has been warning gun-loving Americans of a president who will take away their firearms, no matter what the Second Amendment says.
On Wednesday, that conservative nightmare became a reality when the current Republican U.S. president, Donald Trump, proposed taking away people’s guns, even without the legal right to do so.
“Take the guns first. Go through due process second,” Trump said at a meeting with Democratic and Republican lawmakers at the White House. “I like taking the guns early.”
Trump said law enforcement officers should specifically have taken the firearms possessed by Nikolas Cruz, the suspected gunman in the Feb. 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida.
“I think they should have taken them away, whether they had the right or not,” he said.
The semiautomatic rifle that Cruz is accused of using to murder 17 people at the Parkland high school was purchased legally. Cruz, 19, was old enough to purchase the weapon, and he cleared a background check because he had no criminal record ― even though his behavior showed numerous troubling signs.
There are some circumstances in which individuals are forced to give up their guns before they have their day in court.
Momentum has been building for “red flag” laws, which allow family members or police to petition a court to temporarily remove firearms from an individual deemed to be a danger to themselves or others. In these cases, a person must generally relinquish their guns prior to having a chance to appear in court to defend themselves.
Gun violence prevention organizations maintain that red flag laws uphold due process, as the relinquishment is temporary. Within a few weeks, individuals are given notice of a full hearing, where they can contest the evidence against them. They can also appeal the decision.
In some states, domestic abuse suspects are also required to immediately relinquish their firearms if a person files a protective order against them. Domestic violence experts say that these laws are helpful, because the period of time right after a victim files for a protective order can be volatile and dangerous.
Trump didn’t elaborate on when, exactly, he believes law enforcement should be allowed to take away guns that someone legally possesses. And the NRA strongly opposes laws that even temporarily confiscates a person’s firearms.
Trump also, of course, has a habit of making promises on policy and never following through. But even if he doesn’t do anything on this front, the rhetoric alone is what the NRA has, for years, been warning its members about.
The NRA has consistently insisted that Democratic politicians are a threat to the Second Amendment. The group warned that President Barack Obama was “coming for our guns” and said, if elected, Hillary Clinton would “come for your guns, she will attack your right to carry, she will attack your most basic right to defend your family with a firearm in your home.”
All this fear-mongering was big business for the gun industry, which saw sales skyrocket during Obama’s presidency.
While Trump praised the gun lobbying group on Wednesday, he also urged lawmakers not to be scared of the organization. NRA leaders reportedly appealed directly to Trump not to raise the age limit for buying certain guns.
It’s fairly easy to imagine how the NRA would have reacted had Obama or Clinton made a statement about taking guns away without due process. In a statement to CNN, NRA spokeswoman Jennifer Baker called the proposals discussed at the meeting “bad policy” but didn’t go after Trump more aggressively.
“While today’s meeting made for great TV, the gun-control proposals discussed would make for bad policy that would not keep our children safe,” Baker said. “Instead of punishing law-abiding gun owners for the acts of a deranged lunatic, our leaders should pass meaningful reforms that would actually prevent future tragedies.”
Melissa Jeltsen and Hayley Miller contributed reporting.
This article has been updated to include an NRA spokeswoman’s comment.