President Donald Trump attempted to backtrack on Thursday morning from the stance he took on gun policy on Wednesday at the White House.
The president held a televised meeting Wednesday with members of both parties and encouraged them to pass more restrictive laws, including a new minimum age of 21 years old for buying a rifle. Trump tweeted Thursday morning: “Respect 2nd Amendment!”
Many ideas, some good & some not so good, emerged from our bipartisan meeting on school safety yesterday at the White House. Background Checks a big part of conversation. Gun free zones are proven targets of killers. After many years, a Bill should emerge. Respect 2nd Amendment!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 1, 2018
The president has been hit by criticism from conservatives, who are upset that he seemed so eager to shut down House Majority Whip Steve Scalise’s suggestion of passing concealed carry permit reciprocity, on the one hand, and so enthusiastic about adding Democrats’ gun control proposals to existing bipartisan proposals, on the other.
But what was most lacking in Wednesday’s meeting was any real defense of the Second Amendment.
Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) came closest, when he pushed back against Trump’s rebuke for not raising the minimum age in his bill with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) to expand background checks.
After Trump accused Toomey and Manchin of being “afraid of the NRA,” Toomey explained: “My reservation about it, frankly, is that the vast majority of 18-,19-, and 20-year-olds in Pensylvania who have a rifle or a shotgun — they’re not a threat to anyone. They’re law-abiding citizens. They have that because they want to use it for hunting or target shooting. And to deny them their Second Amendment right is not going to make anyone safer.”
But neither Toomey nor anyone else explained the substance of that right.
In a free-wheeling debate, where the president seemed open to listening to all points of view, Democrats were not shy about promoting their view that gun ownership was the fundamental problem for school safety, while the Republicans present failed to make the case for the Second Amendment as the foundation of liberty.
The whole discussion took place in “problem-solving mode,” where it was taken for granted that the government had to “do something” in response to the shooting in Parkland, Florida — even though, arguably, it was the government’s failure to “do something” that allowed the shooting to take place, or that allowed it to continue as long as it did once it had begun.
No one — not even Republicans — made the case that until law enforcement can do its job, we should not infringe on one of the most fundamental freedoms of all.