Just as George H.W. Bush said “read my lips, no new taxes,” Donald J. Trump made unequivocal commitments to protect the Second Amendment. It is time to review them against his current remarks, preparatory to him working with Congress to “do something.” Has he been so shaken as to blunder into the George H.W. Bush trap, thinking he can explain away a plain, strong campaign promise? Is President Trump in danger of tarnishing his brand: “political promise keeper?”
Candidate Donald J. Trump needed the votes of gun owners, especially of women in the Rust Belt swing states. The NRA focused its advertising on them. They chose Trump, even after the Billy Bush tape October surprise. Salena Zito called this group of unlikely Trump voters “girl gun power.”* These women hold the strongest belief, among the population, that they have the right to choose the firearm they deem best for home defense. AR-15 variants and semi-automatic pistols with “high capacity” magazines are just right for them, in calibers and forms that fit smaller hands, arms, and shoulders. President Trump will need every one of these voters again, plus some, in 2020.
President Trump’s voice started to break, and he almost lost his composure, at the end of his formal statement Monday morning. Has he been so shaken by these two mass murders as to throw away his promises in the name of political reality or circumstances? His answers to (leftist Democrat) reporters on the way to Marine One were concerning but ambiguous. Was he just trying to get through the worst of it sounding reasonable? You decide.
Candidate Trump’s 2016 position paper was specific, substantive, and sensible. President Trump should review them on his next flight, and give copies to his key staff as his still official position. You should read them and encourage the president and legislators to follow through on this real common sense. Here are his promises, in full, from the 2016 campaign, interspersed by his recent remarks, departing for Dayton and El Paso [remarks indented and bold]:
Donald J. Trump on the Right to Keep and Bear Arms
The Second Amendment to our Constitution is clear. The right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed upon. Period.
The Second Amendment guarantees a fundamental right that belongs to all law-abiding Americans. The Constitution doesn’t create that right – it ensures that the government can’t take it away. Our Founding Fathers knew, and our Supreme Court has upheld, that the Second Amendment’s purpose is to guarantee our right to defend ourselves and our families. This is about self-defense, plain and simple.
It’s been said that the Second Amendment is America’s first freedom. That’s because the Right to Keep and Bear Arms protects all our other rights. We are the only country in the world that has a Second Amendment. Protecting that freedom is imperative. Here’s how we will do that:
Enforce The Laws On The Books
We need to get serious about prosecuting violent criminals. The Obama administration’s record on that is abysmal. Violent crime in cities like Baltimore, Chicago and many others is out of control. Drug dealers and gang members are given a slap on the wrist and turned loose on the street. This needs to stop.
Several years ago there was a tremendous program in Richmond, Virginia called Project Exile. It said that if a violent felon uses a gun to commit a crime, you will be prosecuted in federal court and go to prison for five years – no parole or early release. Obama’s former Attorney General, Eric Holder, called that a “cookie cutter” program. That’s ridiculous. I call that program a success. Murders committed with guns in Richmond decreased by over 60% when Project Exile was in place – in the first two years of the program alone, 350 armed felons were taken off the street.
Why does that matter to law-abiding gun owners? Because they’re the ones who antigun politicians and the media blame when criminals misuse guns. We need to bring back and expand programs like Project Exile and get gang members and drug dealers off the street. When we do, crime will go down and our cities and communities will be safer places to live.
Here’s another important way to fight crime – empower law-abiding gun owners to defend themselves. Law enforcement is great, they do a tremendous job, but they can’t be everywhere all of the time. Our personal protection is ultimately up to us. That’s why I’m a gun owner, that’s why I have a concealed carry permit, and that’s why tens of millions of Americans have concealed carry permits as well. It’s just common sense. To make America great again, we’re going to go after criminals and put the law back on the side of the law-abiding.
THE PRESIDENT: So, we’re going to Dayton first, and then we’re going to El Paso. And we’ll be meeting with first responders, law enforcement, and some of the victims, and paying my respects and regards. I’ll be going with the First Lady. And it’s a terrific opportunity, really, to congratulate some of the police and law enforcement. The job they’ve done was incredible. Really incredible. [Nothing about personal protection or wishing a good guy with a gun was at the El Paso Walmart to stop the monster cold.]
Fix Our Broken Mental Health System
Let’s be clear about this. Our mental health system is broken. It needs to be fixed. Too many politicians have ignored this problem for too long.
All of the tragic mass murders that occurred in the past several years have something in common – there were red flags that were ignored. We can’t allow that to continue. We need to expand treatment programs, because most people with mental health problems aren’t violent, they just need help. But for those who are violent, a danger to themselves or others, we need to get them off the street before they can terrorize our communities. This is just common sense.
And why does this matter to law-abiding gun owners? Once again, because they get blamed by anti-gun politicians, gun control groups and the media for the acts of deranged madmen. When one of these tragedies occurs, we can count on two things: one, that opponents of gun rights will immediately exploit it to push their political agenda; and two, that none of their so-called “solutions” would have prevented the tragedy in the first place. They’ve even admitted it.
We need real solutions to address real problems. Not grandstanding or political agendas.
Defend The Rights of Law-Abiding Gun Owners
GUN AND MAGAZINE BANS. Gun and magazine bans are a total failure. That’s been proven every time it’s been tried. Opponents of gun rights try to come up with scary sounding phrases like “assault weapons”, “military-style weapons” and “high capacity magazines” to confuse people. What they’re really talking about are popular semiautomatic rifles and standard magazines that are owned by tens of millions of Americans. Law-abiding people should be allowed to own the firearm of their choice. The government has no business dictating what types of firearms good, honest people are allowed to own.
Q What about assault rifles? A lot of people would like to see them banned. What is your position?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I can tell you that there is no political appetite for that at this moment. If you look at the — you could speak, you could do your own polling. And there’s no political appetite, probably, from the standpoint of legislature.
But I will certainly bring that up. I’ll bring that up as one of the points. There’s a great appetite — and I mean a very strong appetite — for background checks. And I think we can bring up background checks like we’ve never had before. I think both Republican and Democrat are getting close to a bill on — they’re doing something on background checks.
Q Mr. President, you banned bump stocks. Would you consider a ban on these huge, large-capacity magazines?
THE PRESIDENT: So, you have to have a political appetite within Congress. And, so far, I have not seen that. I mean, I can only do what I can do. I think there’s a great appetite to do something with regard to making sure that mentally unstable, seriously ill people aren’t carrying guns. And I’ve never seen the appetite as strong as it is now. I have not seen it with regard to certain types of weapons.
Q Mr. President, you still believe there’s no political appetite for an assault weapons ban, but as the leader of this country, do you personally believe people should be able to buy assault weapons?
THE PRESIDENT: That’s right. I’ll be — I’ll be convincing some people to do things that they don’t want to do, and that means people in Congress. But you’ve got a lot of people on one side, and you have a lot of people in the other. But I can — I have a lot of influence with a lot of people, and I want to convince them to do the right thing.
And I will tell you, we’ve made a lot of headway in the last three days. A lot of headway.
BACKGROUND CHECKS. There has been a national background check system in place since 1998. Every time a person buys a gun from a federally licensed gun dealer – which is the overwhelming majority of all gun purchases – they go through a federal background check. Study after study has shown that very few criminals are stupid enough to try and pass a background check – they get their guns from friends/family members or by stealing them. So the overwhelming majority of people who go through background checks are law-abiding gun owners. When the system was created, gun owners were promised that it would be instant, accurate and fair. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case today. Too many states are failing to put criminal and mental health records into the system – and it should go without saying that a system’s only going to be as effective as the records that are put into it. What we need to do is fix the system we have and make it work as intended. What we don’t need to do is expand a broken system.
Q The [Democrats] background check bill already that has passed the [Democrat controlled] House, what good (inaudible)?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I’m looking to do background checks. I think background checks are important. I don’t want to put guns into the hands of mentally unstable people or people with rage or hate, sick people. I don’t want to — I’m all in favor of it.
NATIONAL RIGHT TO CARRY. The right of self-defense doesn’t stop at the end of your driveway. That’s why I have a concealed carry permit and why tens of millions of Americans do too. That permit should be valid in all 50 states. A driver’s license works in every state, so it’s common sense that a concealed carry permit should work in every state. If we can do that for driving – which is a privilege, not a right – then surely we can do that for concealed carry, which is a right, not a privilege.
[Silence on this. Praise for police but no word about the true first responders being armed citizens.]
MILITARY BASES AND RECRUITING CENTERS. Banning our military from carrying firearms on bases and at recruiting centers is ridiculous. We train our military how to safely and responsibly use firearms, but our current policies leave them defenseless. To make America great again, we need a strong military. To have a strong military, we need to allow them to defend themselves.
* See Salena Zito and Brad Todd, The Great Revolt, Chapter 5, “Girl Gun Power,” page 109:
The Great Revolt Survey found that the one demographic group among Rust Belt Trump voters most likely to agree with the notion that “every American has a fundamental right to self-defense, and a right to choose the home defense firearm that is best for them” is women under age forty-five.