President Donald Trump is once again proving himself to be a coward with little interest in actually tackling America’s gun problem, despite voicing his support for “meaningful background checks” following two mass shootings earlier this month.
Trump’s wholly predictable—and largely telegraphed—about-face comes amid pressure from pro-gun advocates, including National Rifle Association chief Wayne LaPierre, who reportedly spoke with the president during Trump’s recent vacation at his Bedminster, NJ, property. Following those conversations, Trump’s rhetoric has begun hewing more and more closely to the NRA’s stock language following mass shootings, blaming mental illness rather than America’s obsession with guns and its lax firearm laws.
“It is not the gun that pulls the trigger,” Trump exclaimed during a recent MAGA rally in New Hampshire. “It is the person holding the gun.”
When asked by reporters this weekend whether he was backing away from doing anything about guns, Trump shifted responsibility, answering: “I’m not saying anything. I’m saying Congress is going to be reporting back to me with ideas. And they’ll come in from Democrats and Republicans. And I’ll look at it very strongly.”
“Just remember, he added, “we already have a lot of background checks.”
A former top aide to Paul Ryan, Brendan Buck, offered a charitable explanation of Trump’s apparent lack of resolve.
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“I think he personally wants to do something, but I’m not sure how equipped he is to maintain his attention on it for the next two months — which this would require — in the face of pushback from people he cares about,” Buck told the Washington Post this week.
“We’ve seen this movie before,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement on Monday night. “President Trump, feeling public pressure in the immediate aftermath of a horrible shooting, talks about doing something meaningful to address gun violence, but inevitably, he backtracks in response to pressure from the NRA and the hard-right.”
And so it seems inevitable that we’ll see this cycle itself out again and again: an instance of large-scale violence—and yes, there will almost certainly be more—will prompt hemming and hawing from Trump, who will cry crocodile tears before retreating into the welcoming arms of his gun-loving base and the gun lobby.