Former president Donald Trump took the phrase “retail politics” to a whole new level on Monday while visiting the state of South Carolina. Trump made a stop at the Palmetto State Armory retail store in Summerville, and expressed interest in a Glock handgun… one emblazoned with his name and “45” on the slide and his portrait on the grip.
Despite a now-deleted post on X by campaign spokesperson Steven Cheung that stated Trump had bought the Glock, however, the former president did not end up going through with the purchase, according to CNBC. Not only would that purchase requiring shipping the pistol to an FFL in Trump’s home state of Florida, the federal prohibition on indicted individuals purchasing firearms still applies to the former president. It’s unclear whether Trump’s handlers recognized that before he filled out a Form 4473 and submitted himself to a background check, but according to press on hand the purchase was never completed.
While Trump was admiring the wares at Palmetto State Armory, one of the political action committees backing Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s campaign took advantage of the setting to remind Republicans of Trump’s misfires on the Second Amendment when he was in office.
Never Back Down, the super PAC supporting Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, immediately hit back at Trump’s visit to the state and released an ad targeting the former president over his position on the Second Amendment and gun rights.
“Trump promised NRA members he’d have their back. But when Second Amendment rights came under attack, Trump abandoned us and stood with liberal Democrats,” a narrator says in the ad from Never Back Down.
You can check out the ad for yourself here:
— Never Back Down (@NvrBackDown24) September 25, 2023
The clips, most of which featured Donald Trump speaking after the Las Vegas Harvest Festival murders and the attack on students and staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, are probably well-known to gun owners. There are clips of the president talking about “having to fight” the NRA “once in a while,” his initial embrace of “red flag” laws (including his “take the guns first and then go to court” comment), praising Dianne Feinstein’s push for a ban on “assault weapons,” his call to ban bump stocks through an ATF order, and even his support for raising the age to purchase any firearm from 18 to 21.
“Trump cut and run like a coward,” the narrator grimly intones, adding “Trump the gun grabber doesn’t deserve a second chance.”
The ad from the DeSantis-supporting PAC doesn’t mention that Trump eventually backed away from his initial support for “red flag” laws and never twisted any arms to get Dianne Feinstein’s gun ban enacted into law, nor did he make any real push to raise the age to purchase long guns from 18 to 21. Trump did follow through on his administratively imposed ban on bump stocks, however, one that is likely headed for Supreme Court review after circuit courts have split on the constitutionality of the ATF order reclassifying the devices as “machine guns”.
Overall, I think Trump did more help than harm to gun owners during his time in office; if nothing else simply by virtue of his judicial appointments, which helped create the 6-3 majority in Bruen and placed hundreds of judges on district and appellate benches where they’ve largely (but not entirely) cast a skeptical eye on state and federal gun control laws. But as DeSantis and his supporters have been struggling to gain momentum against the former president, going after his knee-jerk support for a wide variety of gun control laws in the immediate aftermath of a tragedy is a good way to remind Second Amendment advocates and single-issue voters that the former president comes with some anti-gun baggage.
Of course, DeSantis is lugging around some baggage of his own when it comes to the right to keep and bear arms; most notably his decision not to push for the inclusion of open carry in Florida’s permitless carry bill and his gubernatorial campaign’s willingness (and apparent push in at least one case) to hold events in “gun-free zones.” The Florida governor has made no real effort to push for repeal of the state’s “red flag” law or its own ban on gun sales to adults under-21 either, which cuts against the case Never Back Down presents against Trump. The truth is that both candidates have some issues with their track record on the Second Amendment, but either one (in fact, every declared Republican candidate) would be a significant improvement over the current occupant of the White House when it comes to the right to keep and bear arms.