Donald Trump shocked his supporters and allies during an hour-long White House meeting in which he pushed for tighter gun control.


Congressional Republicans and Democrats met Wednesday under pressure to address the topic of guns after the Parkland, Florida, school shooting last month. During the televised discussion, Trump spoke about a “beautiful” bill to expand background checks, raise the required age to purchase certain firearms, upping school security and keeping guns out of the hands of the mentally ill.


“You have to be very, very powerful on background checks. Don’t be shy,” the president said. “I’d rather have you come down on the strong side than the weak side. The weak side is easier to do.”


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Conservatives and Republican allies of Trump seemed chocked at his words, with many turning on him. Just on Wednesday, the president had said that the NRA had “no bigger fan” than himself. Far-right news outlet Breitbart has since denounced Trump as a “gun grabber” who “cedes” to Democrats.

Conservative Senator Ben Sasse (R-Nebraska) slammed Trump for his tendency to change his mind on a whim. “Strong leaders do not automatically agree with the last thing that was said to them. We have the Second Amendment and due process of law for a reason,” he said. “We’re not ditching any constitutional protections simply because the last person the president talked to today doesn’t like them.”

Sen. Pat Toomey (R–Penn.) and Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) are planning to reintroduce a bill for universal background checks on commercial gun purchases both at gun shows and online. Eighty-four percent of Americans are in favor of such a law, and Trump urged the senators to add a measure to incentivize public agencies to report to the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Checks System. When asked by Trump if their bill would raise the gun purchase age from 18 to 21, Toomey replied that it would not.

“You know why? Because you’re afraid of the NRA,” Trump shot back, later adding, “some of you people are petrified of the NRA. You can’t be petrified.”

The president shocked more when he suggested that law enforcement should be allowed to “take the guns early” – “take the guns first, go through due process second.”

Vice president Mike Pence suggested they “allow due process so no one’s rights are trampled, but the ability to go to court, obtain an order and then collect not only the firearms but any weapons…,” before he was interrupted by the president. “Or, Mike, take the firearms first, and then go to court,” he said.

In the same session, Trump advocated for his idea to “harden” schools and arm some teachers to prevent future shootings. But he also promised to ban bump stocks, the devices used to convert semi-automatic weapons into fully automatic ones: “You don’t have to worry about bump stocks. Shortly that will be gone, I’ll do it.”

Overall, Trump urged the congressmen and women to go bigger, and reminded them that the majority of Americans support the expanding of background checks. Despite this, Sen. John Cornyn (R–Texas) is confident that no political action will have any consequential action on gun control. “They call politics the art of the possible for a reason. A lot of things that sound like interesting ideas, we just simply can’t get the votes for them,” Cornyn said. “Everybody’s trying to absorb what we just heard.”

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