Murphy: ‘I think he knows that the mood of the country has shifted’. Is Trump moving to the center on guns? Don’t hold your breath
Senate Democrats have appealed to Donald Trump not to retreat from his surprise expression this week of support for gun control measures, in the aftermath of the shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, in which 17 people were killed.
At a White House meeting on Wednesday, Trump stunned Republicans and gun rights advocates when he expressed enthusiasm for positions long espoused by Democrats.
He also castigated Republicans for being “petrified” of the National Rifle Association and said in cases of people with mental health problems, the government should “take the guns first, go through due process second”.
But on Thursday, the president met in the Oval Office with leaders of the NRA. The gun rights lobbying group endorsed Trump for president and gave more than $30m to his election campaign, in turn receiving a promise of political fealty in a speech last year.
After the meeting Chris Cox, executive director of the NRA’s lobbying arm, tweeted: “POTUS & VPOTUS support the second amendment, support strong due process and don’t want gun control.”
Trump tweeted that the meeting had been “great”.
On Sunday, the Connecticut senator Chris Murphy told ABC’s This Week: “The president is trying to have it both ways. I think he knows that the mood of the country has shifted.”
Led by student survivors of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school on 14 February, national pressure for reform on issues including background checks and the availability of military style semi-automatic rifles has grown.
Murphy, who represents the families of 20 young children and six adults killed at Sandy Hook elementary school in 2012, predicted an electoral cost in the midterm elections this year.
“[Trump’s] instincts in that meeting are not wrong,” he said, “and if he and Republicans don’t start showing some movement … there aren’t going to be as many Republicans around for him come 2019.”
Another Democratic senator, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, told CNN’s State of the Union he believed the president would sign his bill to boost background checks, co-sponsored with the Pennsylvania Republican Pat Toomey, if it made it to his desk.
“It’s up to the president, truly,” he said. “That can be a legacy for him.”
On CBS’s Face the Nation, Manchin added: “President Trump coming forth to something like this and putting his support behind will give Republicans enough cover to support this in the most reasonable responsible way.”
But on CNN he said his bill would not pass if it included measures on controlling access to assault rifles of the kind supported by the California Democrat Dianne Feinstein, another Trump suggestion.
Manchin and Toomey first introduced their bill in the aftermath of Sandy Hook. Senate Republicans filibustered it. The majority leader, Mitch McConnell, has said he will not allow a gun control debate next week.
On Saturday, a ban on assault weapons briefly appeared to have passed the Florida state senate, where lawmakers conducted a marathon session. A voice vote, senators shouting “yea” or “nay”, appeared to pass the Democratic-supported measure, the Tampa Bay Times reported.
A more formal roll call vote then returned a 21-17 victory for Republicans opposed to such a ban. One Republican state senator, David Simmons, put his opposition in historically questionable terms.
“Adolf Hitler,” he said, “confiscated all the weapons – took all the weapons, had a registry of everybody – and then on the night of 30 June 1934, sent out his secret police and murdered all of his political opponents,” Simmons said. “You think it doesn’t happen in a free society? It does.”
The state senate agreed to advance a bill that would increase school safety and restrict gun purchases. A Democratic proposal to ban large-capacity magazines was also rejected, as was a proposal to strip from the bill language that would create a program to arm teachers who have gone through law-enforcement training.
Florida’s Republican governor, Rick Scott, wants to assign at least one law-enforcement officer for every 1,000 students at a school. Scott is opposed to arming teachers, an NRA-backed policy for which Trump has repeatedly expressed support.
The Florida legislature wraps up its annual session on Friday and lawmakers are scrambling to take some kind of action. The house has yet to take up the bill.
On a national level, Manchin agreed with the CNN host Jake Tapper that there was “a high probability” no gun law reform will be passed at all.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010