Trump, Lawmakers Meet For Surreal Discussion About Gun Control

The White House reality show must goes on.

During a televised meeting with Republican and Democratic lawmakers at the White House, President Donald Trump on Wednesday appeared to broadly support a wide range of initiatives aimed at preventing future mass shootings. They ranged from endorsing stronger background checks to implementing “offensive” capabilities inside schools.

One of the most striking moments came when it became increasingly clear that Trump was unfamiliar with the contents of the Manchin-Toomey bill, which famously failed to pass the Senate in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting. The 2013 legislation, which focused on expanding background checks and was strongly supported by then-President Barack Obama, marks the closest Congress has come in recent years to passing meaningful gun-control legislation. The speech Obama gave in response to the bill’s failure is regarded as his angriest public display. 

But on Wednesday, Trump appeared to blame his predecessor for the bill’s failure. It was just one of several times the president seemed to suggest that Obama didn’t push hard enough on gun control while in office. Trump also accused Toomey, who was in the room for Wednesday’s meeting, of being “afraid of the NRA” for not including language to raise the minimum age to purchase certain weapons.

At another point, Trump said he supported illegally seizing firearms from potential killers first, and then dealing with the due process. “I like taking the guns early,” he said in response to Vice President Mike Pence’s suggestion to do the exact opposite.

Trump later raised eyebrows when he suggested that a ban on assault weapons should also be included in the Manchin-Toomey bill. The surprising proposal was reminiscent of the January meeting at which lawmakers from both parties came together with the president to talk about immigration, and Trump agreed with Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s push for a clean bill on DACA. (Trump, of course, quickly backtracked, and later sought to kill a bipartisan bill many observers considered Congress’ best shot at a DACA resolution.)

Nevertheless, Feinstein, who was sitting next to Trump at Wednesday’s meeting, looked quite pleased with Trump’s recommendation on assault weapons.