Posted: 4:08 pm Wednesday, February 28th, 2018
By Jamie Dupree
Searching for answers with a bipartisan group of lawmakers on Wednesday afternoon at the White House, President Donald Trump jumbled the debate over guns by embracing plans from Democrats on gun control, as he urged members of both parties to press ahead with efforts in Congress to bolster school security in the wake of a mass school shooting in Florida, saying it’s time for a ‘comprehensive’ response to deter future attacks, and putting himself at odds with the GOP on several matters.
“I think it’s time that a President stepped up,” Mr. Trump said.
In a fast-moving meeting, the President alternately encouraged and rejected different plans from each party, imploring Democrats and Republicans in the Congress to come together and reach an agreement.
“I don’t understand why this hasn’t happened,” the President said, admitting he was puzzled by the lack of action after past mass shootings.
“I’m not into popularity, I’m into getting something done that’s good,” Mr. Trump added, making it clear that he wanted a number of different items to be acted on all at once by the Congress.
— CNN International (@cnni) February 28, 2018
Like a televised meeting with members of Congress on immigration earlier this year, this discussion on school safety and guns quickly veered away from longstanding GOP goals in some cases, as the President embraced a series of ideas raised by Democrats.
The President expressed his support for the following items:
+ A bipartisan “Fix NICS” bill that would bring more information into the federal background check system.
+ The Manchin-Toomey plan on expanded background checks – while that plan is bipartisan, it is a very controversial effort to expand background checks, which was opposed by the National Rifle Association, and stopped by a filibuster after the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.
+ Provisions that would include domestic violence and mentally ill matters in the federal background check system, as the President indicated he would rather act first to take away weapons, and ask questions later.
+ Increasing the age of purchase for certain weapons to 21 years old, something that has also drawn opposition from the NRA and Republicans in the Congress.
+ Mr. Trump also reiterated his support for having some teachers and school administrators carry concealed weapons, something that Democrats have rejected.
As the meeting progressed, Democrats seemed to sense that the tide was running their way on a number of issues, as they repeatedly urged the President to lead on the issue of gun violence.
“You can get this done Mr. President,” said Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL).
This exchange is just, wow.
KLOBUCHAR: We need domestic violence check in background check.
TRUMP: "I'm all for it."
CORNYN (winking): Let's let Steve Scalise speak.
SCALISE: What about adding concealed carry reciprocity to the bill?
TRUMP: Not in this bill. pic.twitter.com/RFtkn6jG6f
— JM Rieger (@RiegerReport) February 28, 2018
At one point, Republicans seemed worried about the direction that the discussion was heading, as they tried to steer the conversation back to a plan that has strong GOP support, which would allow people with concealed carry permits to have them be allowed in other states.
But that went nowhere with Mr. Trump, who bluntly slapped down the idea.
“You’re not going to get concealed carry approved,” the President said, rejecting the idea two separate times, even as Republicans said it was something that needed to be included.
The President even suggested action that would certainly draw strong opposition in the GOP, telling Vice President Mike Pence that people who are a threat should not be able to keep their firearms.
— CNN (@CNN) February 28, 2018
One of the few areas where the President did not give GOP lawmakers additional heartburn was on an assault weapons ban, as he made clear that probably would be a bridge too far in terms of any school safety legislation.
But overall, the meeting seemed to favor ideas from Democrats, as the President seemed intent on loading a series of gun matters into one large piece of legislation, which is certainly not a course favored by GOP leaders in the Congress as a response to the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
At times in the meeting, the President did not seem to grasp some of the longstanding divisions that have plagued past legislative efforts, like on background checks, as he asked Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) why they didn’t include provisions in their bill dealing with the age of purchase for certain weapons.
The answer was simple – that bill dealt with background checks – the age issue was not being discussed at the time.
Back on Capitol Hill, there was no feeling that the President’s meeting was going to dramatically change the gun debate, which has been heated for years, and not exactly filled with bipartisan compromise.
No bills related to guns, or school safety are on the schedule at this point in either the House or Senate, even as lawmakers and the President said action was needed, and needed now.
Q: How confident are you that Pres Trump will follow through on these promises?
Sen @ChrisMurphyCT: “Not highly confident, the question is what is the president going to do now…”
— Frank Thorp V (@frankthorp) February 28, 2018
“I think people want to get it done,” the President said at one point – but the reality may be different when the votes are counted in the Congress.
The events at the White House left some conservatives angered – as was evident on the website Breitbart: