The long history of Donald Trump having no idea what he thinks about guns

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Move over, women. Donald Trump is ready to cherish something else in this country: the Second Amendment.

"Hillary Clinton wants to abolish the Second Amendment," the presumptive Republican said Friday at the the National Rifle Association's annual meeting. "We're not going to let that happen. We're going to preserve it, we're going to cherish it."

Beyond the observation that his adult sons owned what could be interpreted as an alarming number of firearms, Trump's speech was a lot of what you'd expect: vague declarations of love for guns, a pledge to Make America Great Again, and repetitive assurances about winning.


But Donald Trump has staked out firm positions on gun policy before. It's just that his views, like most of the things he says about policy and governance, are confused. And confusing.

Assault weapons ban

In 2000, Trump wrote in his book The America We Deserve that he was generally opposed to gun control, but supported an assault weapons ban and a waiting period on purchases:

It's often argued that the American murder rate is high because guns are more available here than in other countries. Democrats want to confiscate all guns, which is a dumb idea because only the law-abiding citizens would turn in their guns and the bad guys would be the only ones left armed. The Republicans walk the NRA line and refuse even limited restrictions…

I generally oppose gun control, but I support the ban on assault weapons and I support a slightly longer waiting period to purchase a gun. With today's internet technology we should be able to tell within 72 hours if a potential gun owner has a record.

But the ban on assault weapons is a position that he no longer holds in 2016, according to his campaign website (there's nothing on the site about waiting periods):

Opponents of gun rights try to come up with scary sounding phrases like “assault weapons”, “military-style weapons” and “high capacity magazines” to confuse people.

What they’re really talking about are popular semi-automatic rifles and standard magazines that are owned by tens of millions of Americans. Law-abiding people should be allowed to own the firearm of their choice. The government has no business dictating what types of firearms good, honest people are allowed to own.


Gun reform to reduce mass shootings 

Here the Trump of December 2012 expressed apparent support for gun control:

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As a reminder, this is what President Obama said that day at a vigil for the 20 children and six adults killed in the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School:

These tragedies must end.  And to end them, we must change.  We will be told that the causes of such violence are complex, and that is true.  No single law—no set of laws can eliminate evil from the world, or prevent every senseless act of violence in our society.

But that can’t be an excuse for inaction… Are we prepared to say that such violence visited on our children year after year after year is somehow the price of our freedom?


But in 2013, just five months after he said that Obama "spoke for every American" in his speech about Newtown, Trump tweeted that gun control legislation isn't effective at reducing gun violence:

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Gun-free zones

Jump again to December 2015, and Trump seemed to express vague support for gun-free zones when he liked (née "faved") a tweet from Piers Morgan about keeping guns off campus:

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And here's the Trump of May 2016 at the NRA convention: "Gun-free zones. We're getting rid of gun-free zones, OK? That I can tell you. We're getting rid of them."

Guns for people on the terror watch list

In November 2015, Trump broke with Republican orthodoxy on the question of whether people on the terrorism watch list should be permitted to buy guns:

"We have to have a watch list, but we have the laws already on the books as far as Second Amendment for guns, if people are on a watch list or people are sick, this is already covered in the legislation that we already have," he said, mistakenly, on This Week. After being corrected that current law allows people on the watch list to purchase and possess guns, he said that maybe that wasn't such a good idea: "If somebody is on a watch list and an enemy of state and we know it's an enemy of state, I would keep them away, absolutely."


Trump hasn't, to my knowledge, changed his mind on that one. But it may just be because no one has asked him about it yet. But given his record of self-contradiction and brazen bullshitting, it could just be a matter of time, particularly in a general campaign against Hillary Clinton.

It's going to be a long six months.

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