Trump said several things that stunned Republicans in an extraordinary meeting about guns

Alex Wong/Getty Images
  • US President Donald Trump stunned Republicans and appeased Democrats in a freewheeling White House meeting on gun control.
  • Trump at one point blasted Republicans for being “afraid of the NRA.”
  • He also backed several Democratic suggestions and ordered the lawmakers to “sit down” and discuss it.

President Donald Trump held a remarkable public meeting with lawmakers at the White House on Wednesday, tossing ideas on gun-control and school-safety measures back and forth with Republicans and Democrats.

The meeting came two weeks after a gunman opened fire on a Florida high school, killing 17 students and staff members with a legally purchased AR-15 rifle, roiling a nationwide debate over what types of firearms civilians should be allowed to buy.

To the glee of Democrats, Trump appeared to throw some support behind their proposals and shut down some favoured Republican ideas. At one point he tried to persuade Republicans to be less “afraid of the NRA.”

In the meeting, Trump:

  • Doubled down on his proposal to raise the age of all firearms purchases to 21 from 18, despite vehement opposition from the National Rifle Association.
  • Accused Republicans of being “afraid of the NRA,” adding that he’d had lunch with NRA leadership on Sunday and noticed they “have great power” over Republicans but “less power over me.”
  • Encouraged four senators to work on an wide-ranging bill encompassing various gun-control ideas, though one has already declared he wants a clean bill on background checks. “Maybe you could all get together?” Trump said.
  • Repeated his support for arming certain teachers with concealed weapons and reducing “gun-free zones,” despite pushback from some Republicans like Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who has argued that the proposal carries serious practicality problems.
  • Appeared to empathise with Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s concerns about military-style weapons in the hands of civilians, directing senators to “sit down with Dianne” and discuss the issue. “I’d rather you come down on the strong side instead of the weak side,” he added.
  • Declared he would write an executive order banning “bump stock” devices that accelerate semiautomatic rifles’ gunfire. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has previously ruled that the devices are legal, likely meaning Congress will have to act on the issue.
  • Shut down Republican Rep. Steve Scalise, who wanted to add language advancing concealed carry reciprocity to the bill. “You’ll never get this passed if you add concealed carry to this,” he said.
  • Agreed with Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who pushed to address the issue of domestic violence in the background checks bill. Trump said “that would be great” and asked senators to add the issue to the bill.

Democrats in the meeting appeared heartened, with Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut telling Trump that bills could likely pass the Senate with Trump’s support.

“Mr. President, it’s going to have to be you that brings Republicans to the table on this because right now the gun lobby will stop it in its tracks,” Murphy said. “The reason that nothing’s gotten done here is because the gun lobby has had a veto power over any legislation that comes before Congress.”

Trump ended the meeting by encouraging four senators, Democrats Joe Manchin and Murphy and Republicans Pat Toomey and John Cornyn, to get together and start a bill that addressed several of the proposals discussed.

“Chris and John, Pat, Joe – maybe you could all get together? You’ll start it?” he said, adding that he thought it was “going to be a very successful bill and I will sign it.”

“But you have to be very, very powerful on background checks,” he continued. “Don’t be shy. Very strong on mentally ill.”

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