The Trump White House is quietly reaching out to Second Amendment organizations and high-level supporters to let them know that the president is no longer backing any form of “red flag” firearms legislation or changes to the current background check laws, according to sources familiar with the conversations.
According to one individual who spoke to Bearing Arms on the condition of anonymity, the White House is instead looking to focus efforts on mental health, and is “looking at something along the lines of Cornyn’s bill”, a reference to Sen. John Cornyn’s RESPONSE Act unveiled this week. The source was careful to point out, however, that the White House has not endorsed the Cornyn proposal, and may not be on board with all of the provisions.
Gun control was pushed to the sidelines as Democrats kicked off their impeachment campaign, though one industry figure believes it was Beto O’Rourke and his push to ban and confiscate so-called “assault weapons” that scuttled the discussions between the White House and gun control supporters in Congress, not the impeachment proceedings themselves.
The news that the White House won’t support any new gun control measures will almost certainly have an impact on Capitol Hill, where Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he will only bring up legislation that the president is willing to sign. If the president is no longer willing to sign a red flag law or some expansion to the current background requirements, we’re not likely to see a vote held at all. That will infuriate gun control activists, who are already planning on spending millions of dollars to unseat the Senate majority leader next November.
Gun owners are a key constituency in the Trump re-election coalition, so perhaps it’s just good politics to stay on the good side of Second Amendment supporters and not endorse any gun control proposals. Still, according to one industry insider, the president wants to do something “that will save lives,” and has decided that focusing on mental health is the better way to go. Considering the rise in suicide rates, including non-firearm related suicides, that’s a pretty good idea.
According to one source familiar with one conversation between White House officials and a Second Amendment advocate, the officials didn’t get into specific mental health proposals, but a key point seems to be improving access to treatment, both in-patient and out-patient care. President Trump has talked about his desire to open new mental health hospitals but hasn’t said how many new hospitals he’d like to see, or where the money would come from to pay for construction and staffing. Gun control activists, meanwhile, have complained that focusing on mental health instead of gun bans, “red flag” laws, and background check bills won’t do anything to address the issue of active assailant attacks and gun-related violence.
I think it’s a wise move for the president to back away from the gun control policies he’d previously expressed support for, both politically and from a policy perspective. I look forward to hearing mental health proposals from the president in the near future, but I’d also encourage the White House to take a look at some other policies to address violent crime, including the expansion of the Project Ceasefire programs currently funded by the Department of Justice. There are several great ideas on how to reduce violent crime without trying to ban or arrest our way to safety, and that’s one that’s deserving of presidential attention and support.