Welcome to WHAT NOW, a morning round-up of the news/fresh horrors that await you today.
Now that Donald Trump’s coterie of West Wing ghouls is finally, temporarily, out of the spotlight because of America’s latest mass shooting, they’re busy putting out tidbits about the president’s personal feelings about gun control, effectively softening the ground for Trump to offer the tiniest possible concession.
Axios reported on Wednesday that Trump has privately been telling his associates that he’s not such a fan of high school kids being able to buy guns, and that he would favor imposing a minimum age of 21 to buy weapons like the AR-15 that 19-year-old shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz was able to purchase.
That reporting came a day after White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a briefing—tepid as ever—that age minimums are “certainly something that’s on the table for us to discuss” in the coming weeks.
Trump himself also said on Tuesday that he’s directed Attorney General Jeff Sessions to ban bump stocks (remember when those were all the rage?) even though Cruz didn’t use a bump stock in the shooting.
All of this, coming from a Republican president beholden to gun-loving voters, makes perfect sense.
The goal here, politically speaking, is always to do the absolute least: You, as the president, can’t appear to be doing absolutely nothing after yet another mass shooting, but you should choose a truly minuscule concession to the growing anti-gun crowd, one so small that hopefully even your NRA-member base can let it fly.
In the wake of the massacre on the Harvest Music Festival in Las Vegas, where Stephen Paddock was able to spray the crowd with hundreds of rounds from an elevated position of the Mandalay Bay, the focus was almost immediately on bump stocks. Bump stocks allow you to fire your AR-15 a lot faster, like you would an automatic rifle, but such a ban has no bearing on you being able to buy that AR-15 in the first place. That makes it the perfect minor concession: gun control advocates can register any ban as a victory, however small, and the NRA crowd can agree to let this one go.
Will that be enough this time? It’s hard not to feel like, if Congress won’t act after 20 first graders are gunned down or one of their own is shot, nothing short of a gun flying into the World Trade Center will make them. But things feel different after Parkland: high schoolers are mad as hell, they’re walking out of school, and they’re going straight from their friends’ funerals to anti-gun rallies. Time will tell if it ends up mattering to Congress even a little.
- Organizers of a fundraiser for Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a Republican from Washington, opted to drop their plans to auction off an AR-15 rifle—you know, the same kind used to kill 17 people last week.
- Mike Pence was slated for a secret meeting with North Korea officials at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, but the North Koreans pulled the plug at the last minute, his office told The Washington Post.
- Don Jr. says that, actually, his family is basically losing money on the presidency, and that when critics talk about them “profiteering from the presidency and all this nonsense,” they forget about “the opportunity cost of the deals that we were not able to do.” Sad!