The Parkland shooting was as unexpected as it was horrific.
Perhaps what was even more unexpected is that this shooting would cause gun control to suddenly become the top issue facing Congress right now. And nobody could have predicted that this newfound gun control debate would give President Trump the golden opportunity to score another major political victory, as he is currently set to do.
Just a few weeks ago, immigration was at the forefront of everyone’s minds. It was thought impossible that now, just a few days before DACA’s expiration date of March 5th, the immigration debate would already suddenly be a distant memory. But with the failure of all four major immigration bills, the Democrats were eager to move on from that failure to a new issue that they feel much more confident about.
Thus, when Trump appeared ready to suddenly meet them on this new turf, they should have been prepared for him to run circles around them, again. First, Trump started off with the usual tactic of setting his initial baseline goals for his ideal gun bill, listing his three key areas of concern.
This already was a rather lukewarm proposal in the sense that no part of it is truly controversial. Even the NRA endorsed banning bump stocks in the aftermath of the Las Vegas shooting. The emphasis on mental health—thus bringing the discussion back to the perpetrators and potential criminals rather than the weapons themselves—is something the GOP has been promoting for years now. The potential raising of the minimum age is perhaps the most controversial, even though 21 has been the minimum age for buying handguns since the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968.
But these three conditions were on top of Trump’s repeated calls for arming teachers and putting armed guards in public schools, which he even suggested at his town hall with survivors and families of mass shooting victims. This is on top of his insistence that he does not support an assault weapons ban, as well as his endorsement of the House GOP’s “concealed-carry reciprocity” bill.
Then, as is commonplace in Trump's art of negotiating, the president appeared to moderate in both directions, giving up some ground to both his more conservative supporters and his more liberal opponents. Just as he seemed to back off a bit more from the potential age raising, he also advised against including concealed-carry reciprocity in the final bill since it could harm the bill’s potential passage, and instead told House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) that it should remain a standalone bill.
But once again, it was an unprecedented open meeting with members of Congress—which the press was allowed to record and broadcast—that has stolen the show, and given rise to irrational anger from the far-right. Once again, President Trump proved more than capable of acting presidential and being willing to compromise, in a very open and transparent manner. As if it wasn’t enough that the head of the NRA’s lobbying arm reaffirmed Trump’s commitment to the Second Amendment, all of his supposed instances of “flip-flopping” can be easily explained away with some context.
At the same time, as Scott Adams pointed out, he flawlessly utilized his years of experience with reality TV to put on a very entertaining—if not mesmerizing—display of bravado as he challenged politicians and narratives from all sides. Perhaps the best example is his line to Senators Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), in which he said that their proposed bipartisan bill didn’t include raising the minimum age to 21 because they were “afraid of the NRA.”
What most may not realize is that this line harkens back to one of the key factors of Trump’s successful outsider candidacy in 2016: the fact that, due to his own vast personal wealth, he is not bought and paid for by any one particular donor or group, thus giving him greater political freedom and maneuverability. It was not an attack on the NRA, whom Trump still listens to and meets with; but rather, it was proving that Trump was not—and never has been—at the beck and call of any interest group when it comes to such political negotiations.
There still remains the two most controversial moments from Trump’s open meeting. The first is the line where he said “Take the guns first, go through due process second.”
Now this, of course, sounds quite terrible by itself; several prominent anti-Trumpers have already begun the pearl-clutching. “Trump saying we should take away guns without giving Americans their right to due process? How could he?!”
But a little context goes a long, long way. What Trump was referring to is a legal process known as Gun Violence Restraining Orders (GVRO’s). The process, utilized in such places as California, is applied directly to individuals who pose “an immediate and present danger of causing personal injury to themselves, or to another person.” In other words, a GVRO could have been used to briefly circumvent the usual legal process and swiftly disarm someone like Nikolas Cruz—who had been reported to law enforcement over 30 times, and even reported himself to authorities—when it was obvious he presented a serious threat to others.
But the final major point that most people have taken away—once again, with the wrong assumptions—was Trump asking California Senator Dianne Feinstein, one of the most notorious gun control advocates in the Senate, to include her own proposal for an “assault weapons ban” in the comprehensive bill for consideration. To the far-right, this seemed to represent a complete reversal on Trump’s part as he supposedly endorsed banning assault weapons.
However, one quick look at the history of this proposal by Feinstein should calm all fears that this could actually pass. As Breitbart News reported, Feinstein’s proposal has been rejected numerous times in the past. In the same article, it was pointed out that the bill Trump said she could add her proposal to—the aforementioned Toomey/Manchin bill—has also failed before. The most recent time the Toomey/Manchin bill failed was April 17, 2013; that was in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting, and back when Democrats controlled both the Senate and the White House.
Now the tables are turned, with Republicans controlling the Senate and already expressing skepticism at such a proposal. Now ask yourself: who actually believes that two different gun control proposals that have separately failed in the past, combined together, could possibly have a better chance of passing if they couldn’t even earn the approval of a Democrat-controlled Senate?
If any bill is produced out of this, it is all too easy to predict that it will go the exact same way as Trump’s DACA proposal. Trump, once again, seems to be offering the Democrats exactly what they say they’ve wanted (an assault weapons ban). But that will be on top of Trump’s own baseline requirements, including the proposal for arming teachers and putting armed guards in schools, which Democrats have fiercely opposed. Just as with the DACA bill and Trump’s baseline conditions of the Wall, ending chain migration, and eliminating the visa lottery, Trump seems unwilling to back down on his terms while also generously offering the Democrats what they supposedly want (just as he did with the proposed amnesty for 1.8 million illegal aliens).
And we all know how that went. Trump proved, once and for all, that the Democrats didn’t really care about amnesty. In the process, he was able to wipe his hands clean and essentially say, “Hey, don’t look at me; I tried to get something done, but they rejected it.” It will be the same thing here, with gun control. A very comprehensive and seemingly bipartisan bill will come forward, with the Democrats’ alleged top priority combined with Trump’s own priorities.
Once again, unwilling to compromise and risk being seen as working with Trump (which would enrage their far-left base), the Democrats will reject this bill as well. Just as with DACA, no deal getting done on gun control is a net positive for the Republicans, while the Democrats walk away with nothing but the blame of moderate voters, and the anger of the far-left.
And all the while, Donald Trump will have played the Democrats like a cheap fiddle. Only this time it will be even more hilarious, for he is literally taking them through the same exact song and dance routine as DACA; but like a running gag in a cartoon, the dopey villains will march right into the same exact trap again— they clearly did not learn their lesson the first time.