Trump’s Seeming Embrace Of Gun Control Further Roils An Evolving Debate

Lawmakers and observers were stunned when the president suggested confiscating guns without due process. And some gun retailers are announcing changes to what they sell and how they sell it.

By Alain StephensMarch 1, 2018 7:15 am, ,

Whether the Parkland, Florida shooting and the activism surrounding it will actually lead to any substantive change in the nation’s gun laws remains to be seen, but the possibility of change is having an effect, both in Washington, and on businesses that sell guns.

On Wednesday, President Donald Trump surprised lawmakers gathered at the White House for a bipartisan summit on gun violence by issuing what sounded like a call for comprehensive gun control. At one point the president suggesting something like gun confiscation. “Take the guns first, go through due process second.”  This is probably not what the NRA bargained for when it threw its support behind the president’s campaign in 2016.

The Texas Standard’s Alain Stephens has been covering the fallout from the Florida shooting. He says Trump’s comments about taking guns startled just about everyone.

“[The president talked about] seizing weapons from the mentally ill and other potentially violent people before going through the courts,” Stephens says “which I think is really surprising coming to… have a Republican president start talking about these kinds of measures.”

Cornyn, whose “Fix NICS” bill seeks to put teeth in the existing federal gun buyer background check system, seemed surprised by Trump’s expansive musings on gun restrictions.

Stephens says the uncertainty about whether or how the government will act to change gun regulations, along with excess inventory in the hands of gun makers and sellers, has led to a buyer’s market for guns, and, since Parkland, a spike in sales of the AR-15 rifle, the gun used by the Florida shooter.

“Every time there’s a shooting, there’s always a spike,” Stephens says. “Still, for the manufacturers, they’re not feeling that yet.”

Meanwhile, two national retailers that sell guns, Dick’s Sporting Goods and Walmart, have announced they are raising the age at which people can buy firearms in their stores. Dick’s will no longer sell the AR-15. Stephens says both companies had previously indicated they would pare back gun sales. Katy, Texas-based Academy Sports and Outdoors says it supports background checks, but will not change the kinds of weapons it sells.

The NRA, the largest and most vocal advocate of gun rights, may now find itself pushing back against a Republican president in the same way it attacked Democratic attempts to pass gun control legislation, Stephen says.

“The manufacturers have seen a slump as far as gun sales, because there has been no fear of regulation,” Stephens says. “Now that there is a fear of regulation, that kind of solidifies support for the NRA.”

Written by Shelly Brisbin.