AP Photo/Evan Vucci
A solid part of the Republican base is gun owners. While some Democrats own guns and even support gun rights, they’re a distinct minority in the gun rights community. Guns and Republicans are synonymous in a lot of people’s minds, which is why gun rights supporters were a big part of President Donald Trump’s base when he shocked the media by winning the 2016 presidential election.
However, things haven’t been all roses and daisies since then. Trump had the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives make a ruling that would classify bump stocks as machineguns to ban them without legislation. But generally, the president got a pass on it. After all, what transpired is still better than what almost happened. As a result, a lot of gun rights supporters were willing to shrug it off.
Now, in the wake of mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton, President Trump is once again signaling his willingness to wheel and deal on gun control legislation.
It seems that for some, it’s enough to make them reconsider voting for the president next time around.
Less than a week before calling for more gun control laws, President Trump invited boos at a massive Ohio campaign rally, warning 17,000 supporters that if Democrats reclaim power, “there is no Second Amendment.”
Within 72 hours of the rally, gunmen randomly murdered nearly three dozen people in nearby Dayton and in El Paso, Texas. And despite the campaign line, Trump called for new restrictions, outraging gun rights hardliners.
Trump told reporters that he would “certainly” bring up a semiautomatic gun ban, and pushed lawmakers to expand mandatory background checks and to allow temporary gun confiscation.
“I’ll be convincing some people to do things that they don’t want to do, and that means people in Congress,” Trump said, calling for “great legislation after all of these years.”
Michael Hammond, legislative counsel of Gun Owners of America, which claims 2 million members and supporters, said Trump risks losing both conservative and traditionally Democratic Midwestern voters.
“I am no longer committed to voting for Donald Trump,” said Hammond, who spends most of his time in New Hampshire. “I think he’s about to make his ‘read my lips’ mistake. He thinks he can do anything on the Second Amendment and gun owners will love him.”
Hammond isn’t alone. I’m seeing a lot of gun rights supporters expressing similar desires.
The National Rifle Association issued a statement regarding its continued support for the president.
In a statement, the NRA defended Trump.
“Donald Trump is the most pro-Second Amendment president in recent American history. From nominating Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court, to removing the United States from the United Nations gun ban treaty, President Trump has stood strong for the rights of law-abiding gun owners,” the group said.
However, it’s important to remember that while the NRA is influential, it’s not handing down directives that gun rights supporters must obey. Trying that with gun folks would be worse than herding cats.
Of course, that also doesn’t mean Trump couldn’t get away with it either. In a post from earlier today, I wrote that polling data suggests broad support for both universal background checks and red flag laws, as well as surprising support for an “assault weapon” ban. I speculated in that post that such support was soft, but if it’s not, then Trump would appear to have little to lose.
This is especially true if his opposition is a vehement gun grabber like so many of the Democratic candidates are right now. After all, who else are you going to vote for, right?
Still, it’ll be interesting to see how this impacts the 2020 race and whether those poll numbers remain constant or not.
Tom Knighton is a Navy veteran, a former newspaperman, a novelist, and a blogger and lifetime shooter. He lives with his family in Southwest Georgia. https://bearingarms.com/author/tomknighton/