No matter how you feel about President Donald Trump, there’s little doubt that he has been a more positive force for gun owners and the Second Amendment than any of his 2016 Democratic rivals would have been had he not been elected. As president, he has rejected various gun control proposals, embraced gun owners as a constituency and appointed Constitutionalist federal judges. President Trump’s record on the issue is clear and indicates a safer and more predictable path for the future of gun rights. However, he’s not perfect.
Truth & Consequences
On March 26, 2019, “bump stocks” officially became “machine guns” by executive decree. An entire category of products was banned without Congress’ involvement, setting-up a potentially dangerous precedent for future bans. The ban was a popular response to the mass shootings in Las Vegas where the killer used such a stock on at least one of his rifles. Gun-control groups were not satiated by the bump stock ban, and they pursued a complete ban on semiautomatic rifles and pistols, as well as most detachable box magazines. However, President Trump’s ban appeared to satisfy the need by the Administration to “do something” in the wake of the Vegas tragedy for a time.
There are other circumstances where President Trump’s statements or Tweets didn’t sit well with many gun owners, even though no policy decisions followed. A lifelong urbanite, no one would expect the president to have a deep understanding of the nuances of firearms and, when you make as many free-wheeling public remarks as he does, it is easy to get yourself in trouble. We took a look at some of those statements and then envisioned what the president might have said (or meant) had he given the issue a little more thought.
5. Red Flag Laws
In August 2019, the U.S. was rocked by back-to-back mass shootings in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas. More than 30 victims died during those terrible attacks with more than 50 wounded.
What Trump said: “We must make sure that those judged to pose a grave risk to public safety do not have access to firearms and that if they do those firearms can be taken through rapid due process. That is why I have called for Red Flag laws, also known as ‘Extreme Risk Protection Orders.’”
What gun owners wish he’d said: Since 1968, Federal law has banned the possession of firearms by individuals who are a danger to themselves or others. During the Obama Administration, prosecutions of these prohibited possessors fell tremendously. We are going to enforce these laws aggressively and ensure that firearms do not find their way into the hands of those who are prevented from having them by law. We don’t need new laws. We need to better enforce the laws that we have.
4. Hunting 'Horror'
In November 2017, just a year after being elected as the 45th President, Donald Trump referred to elephant hunting as a “horror show” in one of his infamous tweets.
What Trump said: “Big-game trophy decision will be announced next week but will be very hard pressed to change my mind that this horror show in any way helps conservation of elephants or any other animal.”
What hunters and conservationists wish he’d said: I’m not a hunter but legal, legitimate sport hunting is one of the most effective conservation and anti-poaching tools available. Hunters have a vested interest in preserving wildlife and their habitats. Legal hunting is a constant threat to poachers who would kill animals illegally for commercial gain. Nations such as Kenya, which banned most legal hunting in 1977, have seen poaching reach epidemic levels as a result of the ban. We know that the demand for illegal ivory and rhino horn is coming from Asia. I have directed the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to work closer with African nations to disrupt the flow of this contraband. If China and its neighbors don’t act to quell their ridiculous demand for trinkets and witch-doctor potions, we will enact economic sanctions to force the issue.”
3. Background Checks
In August 2019, President Trump indicated a shift in policy regarding background check requirements. Trump signaled that he might be open to increasing the regulatory requirements of firearm ownership.
What Trump said: “We have background checks, but there are loopholes in the background checks. That’s what I spoke to the NRA about yesterday. They want to get rid of the loopholes as well as I do. At the same time, I don’t want to take away people’s Second Amendment rights.”
That actually wasn’t a terribly egregious statement, yet the President corrected the record just a few days later. (These are his actual words, not our suggestion of what he could have said.): “We have very strong background checks right now. But we have missing areas, and areas that don’t complete the whole circle. And we’re looking at different things. And I have to tell you that it is a mental problem. And I’ve said it a hundred times, it’s not the gun that pulls the trigger, it’s the people.”
President Trump went on to add, “A lot of the people who put me where I am are strong believers in the Second Amendment. And I am also. You know they call it the ‘slippery slope.’ And all of a sudden everything gets taken away.”
2. Silencing Suppressors
In June 2019, President Trump told news and TV personality Piers Morgan that he was considering a ban on sound suppressors after a shooting in Virginia.
What Trump said: “I’d like to think about it. I mean nobody’s talking about silencers very much. I did talk about the bump stock and we had it banned and we’re looking at that. I'm going to seriously look at it. I don’t love the idea of it.”
What we wish he’d said: “We have these big, beautiful suppressors. The save people’s hearing including our police officers and troops, which reduces lifelong damage to their health and need for as many disability claims. They make guns more polite at ranges, especially those in urban areas, and reduce stress on animals in the field. They already are a huge success in Europe, very popular there, believe me. They are a great tool for teaching new shooters without that loud, scary crack, too! They make a huge difference. Besides, suppressors are among the most highly regulated consumer items in America. It takes extensive background checks and paperwork to even obtain a suppressor, and the process is already the better part of a yearlong. If anything, we should be lowering the barriers to their access and make purchasing a suppressor the same as any firearm.”
1. Bump Stocks
As mentioned at the outset of this article, the Trump Administration banned the possession of bump stocks in March 2019. Though the decision was announced by the Department of Justice — and we can find no direct quotes on the subject — we can still put our own words into his mouth.
What he was thinking: Look, nobody in my administration wants to ban anything. When I saw ads for these things in Guns & Ammo, I didn’t think they would even work! We’re giving the gun control side this little victory to keep them happy, so they don’t try and ban everything else. Congress should have acted, but they didn’t. I don’t actually believe we have the authority to do this, so someone should file a lawsuit and challenge it in the courts. I know a lot of great lawyers, tremendous lawyers, who could get this ban overturned or thrown out.