Donald Trump has a unique chance to get something major done on gun control

US president Donald Trump. Photo: Mandel Ngan/ AFP/ Getty Images.
  • US President Donald Trump has solid support from hardline Republicans and the NRA, perhaps enough to get some legislation through on gun control.
  • But Trump has talked about mass shootings as security and mental-health issues in the past, and less so as issues of access to guns.
  • It looks as if Trump may opt to address the US’s mass shooting epidemic as a health or security challenge.

President Donald Trump addressed a grieving nation on Thursday in a speech on the school shooting that claimed 17 lives in Florida the day before, and he echoed what presidents before him have said – that something must be done.

But unlike President Barack Obama, who never had the ear of those opposing gun-control measures, Trump may be perfectly situated to get something done on gun control, having ingratiated himself to gun-rights advocates on the campaign trail.

“It is not enough to simply take actions that make us feel like we are making a difference,” Trump said from the White House on Thursday. “We must actually make that difference.”

Trump seems to be privately positioning himself to act as well, telling those close to him that “we have to do something” and that he wants “to know what our options are,” an administration source told Jonathan Swan of the news website Axios.

In the speech, Trump also announced a trip to Parkland, Florida, where the shooting took place. On official visits, Trump likes to make announcements and have deliverables.

Late in his presidency, Obama said his “biggest frustration” was not passing gun-control legislation. With his party in control of Congress, Trump could perhaps succeed where Obama failed on an initiative that polling indicates would be widely popular.

At the same time, however, Trump did not mention gun control in his Thursday speech, framing the issue the way he typically has after mass shootings, as security or mental-health issues.

Trump to brainstorm on a solution that may not have anything to do with guns

Florida shooting victimsMark Wilson/Getty ImagesFamilies grieve after the Florida shooting.

Axios did cite a senior administration official as saying Trump was planning over the next few weeks to talk to government officials as well as families of the victims of shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School and Columbine High School and “has a strong interest in background checks” and options designed to make schools safer.

But it’s entirely possible that Trump will stick to his position that gun violence is best treated by mental-health and security initiatives rather than by restricting access to guns.

“I don’t think that’s a real possibility,” Axios quoted a source close to Trump as saying about gun control. The source added: “But something to do with school safety or mental health, that’s possible.”

The National Rifle Association campaigned hard for Trump and continues to push for down-ticket Republicans as the 2018 midterm elections draw near. Trump values loyalty, and the NRA’s loyalty may shape his decision.

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