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Trump Talks a Good Game to the NRA. His Policies Tell a Different Story.

When it comes to the Second Amendment, the president is all talk.

President Donald Trump called on his audience at a National Rifle Association convention today to get out and vote in the November election, warning that "your Second Amendment rights are under siege."

He's right on that point. Anti-gun types, habitually Democrats, have become bolder than any time in recent memory when proposing everything from mandatory confiscation of certain types of rifles to the outright repeal of the Second Amendment. In states like California, it seems like new anti-gun laws are being proposed with a frequency and enthusiasm previously reserved only for tax increases and Tesla subsidies.

But what Trump didn't mention is that his own administration is doing its part to whittle away at Americans' Second Amendment rights. With the exception of Trump's judicial appointments—they appear to typically be sound on gun rights—this is, sadly, not a White House that has proven itself to be a reliable champion of American gun owners.

It's true that the president has, as recently as today, broadly endorsed the right to self defense. The "people in this hall have never taken our freedom for granted," Trump told the NRA audience in Dallas, saying they recognized the "sacred rights given to us by God including the right to self-defense."

Trump added that in London, guns are so restricted that knives have emerged as the deadly weapon of choice. And he referenced recent attacks on pedestrians by vehicle-driving killers. By the logic of anti-gun campaigners, he said, "we are going to have to outlaw immediately all van and trucks, which are now the new form of death for maniac terrorists," before concluding with a promise to "always protect your Second Amendment."

Alas, the laws and regulations that have extruded themselves from Washington, D.C., over the last year fall short of this lofty rhetoric. (At times, so have Trump's own remarks.)

There was the Republican embrace of the so-called Fix NICS Act, dealing with background checks, despite Gun Owners of America pointing out that the federal database in question "contains the names of 257,000 law-abiding veterans who have lost their constitutional rights." Fix NICS ended up glued onto a must-pass spending bill—rarely a recipe for sober policymaking—that Trump signed into law in March despite complaining that "nobody read it" and the final draft was "only hours old."

Then there was the unilateral decision by Trump in February to ban "bump stock" devices by executive fiat. That was despite his criticisms of his predecessor for doing just that, despite the Obama administration concluding they were legal, and despite the lack of clear statutory authority to do anything about them. That should be left to Congress. But, as Reason's Jacob Sullum wrote, Trump felt the need to "do something" about gun violence without alienating the NRA.

On the positive side, Congress and the Trump administration did nix a bad anti-gun rule coughed up by the Social Security Administration under President Obama. The rule had raised enough questions about due process that even the ACLU, a group not known for its affection for the Second Amendment, opposed it. (See Reason's February 2017 article by Brian Doherty.)

The more pressing issue for tens of millions of gun owners remains the lack of a broad federal preemption law. Such a law could protect Americans' constitutional right to carry firearms, to purchase the semi-automatic rifles of their choice (especially ones that may be painted black), and to buy ammunition and standard capacity magazines.

Federal preemption would not create new rights. It would instead recognize and underline Americans' rights to self-defense that already exist—and properly understood, existed long before the Bill of Rights was drafted.

After Trump's speech today, Firearms Policy Coalition Chairman Brandon Combs said enacting a strong, constitutionally sound federal preemption law is a top priority.

Today, Americans face the no-win choice between jail time or having a firearm to defend their lives and those of their families. Time after time, we see news reports of Americans arrested and prosecuted in states like New Jersey, New York, and California for even unknowing violations of gun bans.

Passing strong carry reciprocity statutes to protect and advance this right is perhaps the most important next step in restoring the Second Amendment to its proper place among its peers in the Bill of Rights. Indeed, the right to bear arms does not stop at any state border, city, or county line.

But Trump has not championed reciprocity. Nor did he mention it today. That silence measures the distance between pro-gun political rhetoric and actual pro-gun policies.

Photo Credit: SERGIO FLORES/UPI/Newscom

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  • SIV||

    Trump is better on 2A than any of his predecessors since at least Herbert Hoover. He hasn't oppose reciprocity or preemption. He opposed putting reciprocity into the "fix NCIS bill" because none of it would have made it through the US Senate. Trump's gun policy is whatever the NRA tells him is best. I hope we're all 2A absolutists here (unlike editors emeritus Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch) but the NRA practices a legislative strategy of first, no new 2A restrictions.

    Trump is way better on 2A than than previous GOP nominees and at least half the last LP ticket.

  • Iheartskeet||

    Agree. There is plenty to criticize Trump about, but for the love of god, he's far better on the 2A than any alternative we had to chose from, and seems pretty good in absolute terms also. Out of all that crap to worry about...THIS ?

  • Brett Bellmore||

    MSM coverage of Trump, (And reason is now JV MSM.) is divided into two categories: Stories meant to get the left-wing base riled up, and stories meant to get the right-wing base demoralized.

    Guess which this is?

  • Tony||

    He's never going to let you suck his cock.

  • Lucius Fergeson||

    Jesus, Tony. Your have phallus on the mind more than Freud. Is there something you want to tell us?

  • rocks||

    Liberals are the most homophobic people on the planet, thanks for playing Tony

  • Tony||

    And conservatives are the most sensitive of little princesses.

  • ||

    NOPE

  • Moo Cow||

    So, the only president in living memory to call for the confiscation of firearms has been...Donald Trump!!!

  • Zebra Jr.||

    Those words could make a pretty potent political ad.

  • Nardz||

    Right.
    Then all the civil rights advocates (2a folk) will go running to the D to protect their rights...

  • ||

    Absolutely agree, but its more "hold the line" protection than actually advancing protection.

  • Ken Shultz||

    Sometimes it's perfectly appropriate to consider the alternative. If Trump were merely neutral on gun rights, he would still be head and shoulders above his competition in the Democratic party.

    Hillary Clinton campaigned against gun rights. Ask yourself, "What would Hillary Clinton have done in the wake of the Las Vegas shooting and the Florida school shooting?"

    I think she'd have gone as far as she possibly could to ban assault weapons at the very least--and I think she'd probably have tried to go even further than that.

  • ||

    Ugh.

    "What would Hillary Clinton have done"

    Is a really bad idea for a book or movie.

  • Ken Shultz||

    That's the apt comparison in this case.

    If you're going to compare Trump to something, it isn't some theoretical Democrat who would have been much better than Trump on gun rights.

    The alternative was Hillary Clinton.

  • ThomasD||

    But that's not the Reason playbook.

    Trump, not being a Democrat, must be compared to the ideal.

  • LarryA||

    Which was the source of many of the Trump votes: He was the second-worst candidate.

  • SIV||

    As McCullagh points out, Trump appoints strong pro-2A federal judges. Those Trump-appointed judges may save Declan's gun rights the next time he gives a beatdown to some broad.

  • Ken Shultz||

    I'm reading reports, elsewhere, that in this speech to the NRA, Trump read statements from the judge in the Manafort case from earlier today lambasting Mueller for overstepping his mandate:

    At a tense hearing in a federal court in Virginia on Friday, U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III sharply questioned whether Mueller exceeded his authority in filing tax and bank fraud charges against Trump's former campaign manager, Paul Manafort . . . . Ellis asked why a run-of-the-mill bank fraud case with no "reference to any Russian individual or Russian bank" could not be handed over to the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Eastern District of Virginia."

    ----Reuters

    http://www.reuters.com/article.....SKBN1I51WE

  • Zebra Jr.||

    That judge is out of line making statements like that. Mueller is on a fact finding mission and Manafort is refusing to cooperate so demanding that cooperation is exactly within the mandate. Who knows what Manafort will say. The judge presumes his testimony would incriminate Trump. That is one hell of a presumption. It's one thing for the judge to determine whether Mueller is within the bounds of the authority he was given by the acting AG but it's entirely something else to give an opinion about some other witness (Trump) who isn't even in the courtroom and has nothing to do with this judge. The word Trump should not have come out this judge's mouth. Why are all these Republicans trying to obstruct fact finding. Why is it so difficult for Trump to answer questions? It's insane. If it was a traffic accident and Trump witnessed he would have to testify. Well, this is counter intelligence investigations of great importance. Trump should be compelled to say something or plead the 5th but get on with it.

  • Ken Shultz||

    Mueller's mandate gave him the authority to investigate allegations that the Trump campaign collaborated with the Russians in regards to the 2016 elections. Manafort's charges have nothing to do with that.

    The deputy AG did not give Mueller a mandate to prosecute anyone and everyone he wants for anything and everything he wants--no matter how unrelated to his mandate--in the hope that something might shake loose that's relevant to his mandate.

    Either Mueller's mandate has limitations or it doesn't, and if it has limitations, then it's possible for Mueller to overstep them. Given that fact and the fact that Manafort's charges are unrelated to Mueller's mandate, I don't see why it is inappropriate for the presiding judge in the Manafort trial to ask whether Mueller exceeded his limitations.

    Maybe look at it this way--will the prosecution drop the charges if at some point during the trial, Manafort agrees to testify against Trump? At that point, wouldn't it be appropriate for the judge to ask whether charges are being dropped because of the implications to Mueller's unrelated investigation? If it's appropriate for the judge to ask that question then, why is it inappropriate for the judge to ask that question now?

  • Brett Bellmore||

    "The deputy AG did not give Mueller a mandate to prosecute anyone and everyone he wants for anything and everything he wants--no matter how unrelated to his mandate--in the hope that something might shake loose that's relevant to his mandate."

    Technically, one of the things Mueller is refusing to hand over is an unredacted copy of the letter authorizing his investigation. So, it's quite possible the deputy AG DID give Mueller a mandate to prosecute anyone and everyone he wants for anything at all, and he's refusing to hand the memo over because it would start a firestorm if people ever saw it.

  • Headache||

    Adam is that you?

  • ThomasD||

    " Mueller is on a fact finding mission..."

    No.

  • ||

    Trump just has to remain firm in his steadfast defense of the 2A. Too many are wishy-washy about it and he could pave that path for other politicians to show courage on its importance.

    The 2A and 1A are quintessentially what makes America truly unique.

    It's liberty personified.

    You lose those and you lose your essence and your soul.

  • The gouch||

    Trump packs to..

  • Tony||

    There is no God, so rights don't come from it.

  • Tony||

    I don't think rights exist in nature, because if they do, where were they for the first 200,000 years of the existence of humans? And what were they doing before then?

  • Tony||

    Whether I have the right depends exclusively on whether some goon will show up to enforce my ability to exercise it, if necessary. Same as with any other. There are no negative rights.

  • Headache||

    There is a natural action of self defense in most living entities. Even plants invoke defense mechanisms.

  • ThomasD||

    "The vast majority were not yet needed. And they had no governments to defend them."

    This is where you and your ilk go astray. (Although it's hard to fault people, given how badly we have misused the language since the left took over education.)

    Rights - those inherent in our existence (what you call 'innate') - have always existed and were always expressed. That's exactly what the term 'natural rights' means - it is in the nature of our existence to have them.

    Those things you think were 'not yet needed,' and 'require government to defend' although often described as rights are actually not the same sort of things as natural rights.

    Like 'voting' rights. There is no right to vote any more than it can be said there is a 'right' to blueberry pie. Because both suppose the prior existence of things that you may or may not have any right to access or obtain.

    (cont)

  • ThomasD||

    (cont)

    In order to have a blueberry pie you must have (among a list of things) blueberries. If you cannot freely grow them (own no plants or no land,) or freely collect them (have no right to access land with blueberry bushes) or lack the funds to buy them then you don't get to have blueberry pie.

    Same goes for voting. In order to cast a vote there must be an election. Elections always and everywhere requiring the participation of others. Any attempts to compel the participation of others being a violation of their natural right to be left unharmed. Elections require cooperative effort, so voting cannot be a natural right.

    Governments may exists for the express purpose of defending rights, and their continued existence may create certain conditions that are mistaken for natural rights, but they are not, they are (at best) civil rights. with emphasis on the civil. Because absent the 'civil' part they very much do cease to exist. Leaving us only and always with our natural rights.

    The failure to clearly identify what is a right, and what is a civil right is the source of your confusion and contradiction.

  • ||

    They were there being exercised. Just because rights are protected don't mean they don't exist.

  • Headache||

    Bullshit.

  • Mock-star||

    "But on gun ownership, Life can be TOTALLY ignored."

    Citation needed.

  • ||

    Uhhh on gun ownership life is completely focused. That's the whole point of gun ownership- to protect life.

  • Jerryskids||

    *sigh*

    I guess somebody's gotta condemn you Trumpalos who get your panties in a wad anytime anybody criticizes your Cheeto Messiah, and I guess it's gotta be me.

    Jesus Fucking Christ - Trump's a New York RINO who's never said a damn word against New York's gun control laws, his knee-jerk reaction to the shooting in Florida was to suggest maybe we need some of that "reasonable" gun control, he did the bump stock ban, he spent half his time at the NRA (America's most powerful gun control lobby)meeting whining and crying about how everybody's picking on poor little Donald Trump - and you fuckers still will defend him no matter what. Pathetic.

    The "but Hillary" shit's getting old, too. Hillary wouldn't be doing nothing but rotting in her grave right now had she been elected, and if a bear's gnawing off your leg it's not much comfort to say well, at least it's not two bears and a mountain lion!

  • Headache||

    This JerryKid has MD (mental defect)

  • esteve7||

    It's so bizarre how most at Reason have such disdain for Trump and would have preferred Hillary. Please tell me one area where policy would have been more Libertarian under Hillary?

    With Hillary there would be 5 votes on the SC to reverse Heller and Citizen's United. We would have tax increases, not decreases. More government regulation, not less. And on and on.

  • Tony||

    The ends justify the means, just what I've been hearing from libertarians all these years.

  • Brett Bellmore||

    The ends sure as hell don't justify the exact means that would frustrate them.

    Looking at Trump and saying, "No thanks, he's so obnoxious I'd rather have Hillary" is like saying, "I'm not going to eat that garbage sandwich, I prefer the fuming Nitric acid drenched arsenic."

    He's no prize, but she's the anti-prize. Unless you've decided the nation is over, we might as well run it over a cliff as soon as possible to get things done with, there's no sense in preferring her to Trump. She's worse than him on basically every conceivable metric.

  • ||

    No you haven't.

  • LST||

    Oh I'm sure that's what he's been hearing, but that doesn't in any way mean that's what anyone here has been saying...

  • LarryA||

    It's so bizarre how most at Reason have such disdain for Trump and would have preferred Hillary.

    False dilemma: It's quite possible to disdain Trump, and still not prefer Clinton.

  • Brett Bellmore||

    Yeah, it is, and that's, expressly, not Reason.

    It's not bizarre. It's the march through the institutions. Which must be almost complete, if they've bothered with Reason.

    There was that "liberaitarian" proposal a while back, for a tactical alliance between libertarians and the left. Any sensible person would look at history, and start heating the boiling oil and preparing for a siege; The left doesn't do tactical alliances. They do takeovers.

    Reason said, "Sure, why not?", and threw open the gates to the barbarians. It's all over for Reason except for finishing the purge and establishing rigorous censorship of the comment threads.

  • Headache||

    They prefer Mao over Stalin as well.

  • TxJack 112||

    The simple truth is we need to go back to handling gun rights like we did prior to 1934, at the state level. The Feds stayed out of gun laws until the US experienced a two year crime wave in the early 1930s. Those names we all know so well, Bonnie and Clyde, Dillinger, Pretty Boy Floyd, etc. were all part of this crime wave and most used automatic weapons which at the time were legal to own. Once the Feds began to regulate guns, they never looked back. National reciprocity will never happen, so that needs to be dropped. As for the veterans in federal databases, that can be fixed as easily as it was with the rescinding of the moronic Obama Social Security rule. If our goal is truly protect our 2nd amendment rights, we need to get the Feds out of the discussion. Counties in Illinois have now declared themselves to be sanctuary counties for gun owners which is a good start.

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