WaPo: Say, you know who wanted an "assault weapons" ban?

AP Photo/Alex Brandon

I’m still wading through the Washington Post’s 10-part hit piece on the AR-15 released on Monday, but reporter Emily Miller has discovered this little nugget involving former President Donald Trump. According to the Post, back in 2019 Trump floated the idea of banning modern sporting rifles in 2019, just months after the ATF enacted a ban on “bump stocks” under his watch.


Shortly after Parkland, President Donald Trump repeatedly floated the idea of supporting a new assault weapons ban.

He mentioned it on live television to one of the Senate’s most vocal gun-control backers, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), and in a private meeting with Parkland families. His comments rattled NRA officials and some of his own advisers.

NRA representatives later warned Trump against taking action. “They came up here and said to him, the base is going to blow you up,” according to a former official who sat in during a series of meetings with the NRA. They, like others interviewed for this article, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private interactions.

But Trump kept coming back to the idea, according to several former administration officials.

In the summer of 2019, after back-to-back mass shootings in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso involving an AR-15-style pistol and an AKM-style rifle, Trump told aides that he wanted to ban AR-15s, accordingto people present for the statements.

“I don’t know why anyone needs an AR-15,” Trump told aides as he flew on Marine One to the White House in August 2019, according to a person who heard his comments.

As one former official put it in describing the real estate developer turned politician, “His reflexes were a New York liberal on guns. He doesn’t have knee-jerk conservative reflexes.”

But Trump was also petrified of the NRA and others taking him on, former advisers said, and heard from a number of advisers that it would be unpopular. Trump ultimately stopped entertaining the idea of working with Democrats on gun control later that year, when he was caught in a scandal over his now-infamous phone call with Ukraine’s president.

“F— it, I’m not going to work with them on anything. They’re f—ing impeaching me,” Trump said in one Oval Office meeting, according to a participant.

Steven Cheung, a Trump spokesman, did not respond to detailed findings in this article but said that “there had been no bigger defender of the Second Amendment than President Trump.” He said that Trump had offered other proposals after mass shootings, such as adding security guards to schools and allowing teachers who are licensed to carry a weapon to do so.


That’s an interesting non-denial on the part of Cheung. While Trump’s record on the Second Amendment has to take into account his judicial nominations, which have been a boon to gun owners nationwide, his administration did enact a gun control law through regulation; one that the Fifth Circuit says was beyond the ATF’s authority. And the Post’s reporting on Trump’s supposed desire for a gun ban does kind of fit with some of his other comments while in office, including his endorsement of “red flag” laws following the shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida in 2018.

“I like taking the guns early, like in this crazy man’s case that just took place in Florida … to go to court would have taken a long time,” Trump said at a meeting with lawmakers on school safety and gun violence.

“Take the guns first, go through due process second,” Trump said.

Trump was responding to comments from Vice President Pence that families and local law enforcement should have more tools to report potentially dangerous individuals with weapons. {mosads}

“Allow due process so no one’s rights are trampled, but the ability to go to court, obtain an order and then collect not only the firearms but any weapons,” Pence said.

“Or, Mike, take the firearms first, and then go to court,” Trump responded.

Trump eventually backed off on his support for “red flag” laws, just as he supposedly did with an “assault weapons” ban, but his first instinct was to embrace one of the gun control lobby’s top demands.


Over at Hot Air, my colleague David Strom says gun owners and Trump supporters shouldn’t be surprised by the WaPo’s revelation, calling him a political chameleon who changes positions with the wind and arguing that a second term for the former president would give him the opportunity to reverse course once again.

On abortion that would be, mostly, a non-issue. His Supreme Court appointments have made their mark, and Democrats have undone decades of abortion restrictions at the federal level. Those aren’t coming back anytime soon.

But a presidential change of heart would be a big deal on guns. With anyone as mercurial as Trump he would be very unpredictable on this issue in a second term.

… Trump can only be relied on to support Trump. He will say what he needs to in order to keep the political enthusiasm for his candidacy high among his supporters. Should he get elected for a second term, expect policy reversals once he feels he can get away with it.

I know that Trump supporters may want to dismiss the WaPo’s story as “fake news”,  but the Post’s report is in line with some of Trump’s other public statements in support of gun control, and I don’t think they can be simply explained away by media bias, even if those nameless officials who related his comments didn’t want to go on the record with their recounting,. How big an issue this will be for his base of support in 2024 remains to be seen, but many gun owners may be reluctant to roll the dice on a second term (at least in the primaries) for a guy whose first instinct on 2A issues has all too often lined up with the anti-gun views of groups like Everytown and Moms Demand Action.




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