Ever since seventeen children were tragically killed and another sixteen injured last month in yet another school shooting at Marjorie Stoneman-Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, the nation has been embroiled in a national debate which has been amplified by the survivors of that tragic event.
Key to the debate has been the age requirement or lack thereof, for individuals to procure such a lethal weapon. In fact, due to such pressure the state of Florida, under Republican control, not only passed, but has signed into law, broad legislation which not only raised the age to buy firearms to twenty-one, banned bump-stocks, allowed for restrictions for those individuals deemed a threat to themselves or others to owning a gun, and had a controversial component allowing certain school employees to carry a gun.
As a result of that legislation, the National Rifle Association filed suit against the State of Florida, within hours of the bill’s passage and now all eyes look to the White House for the essential leadership to get such an initiative passed in other states.
Last week during a televised bipartisan meeting of Senators, Trump seemed to provide a glimmer of hope for such leadership when he made clear his support for the gun lobby, going so far as to refer to the lobby as “great patriots,” while arguing that his support of the lobby “doesn’t mean we have to agree on everything.” He then added:
“It doesn’t make sense that I have to wait until I’m 21 to get a handgun, but I can get this weapon at 18.”
Additionally, Trump chided Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) for not having the age-requirement added into his previous bi-partisan proposal made with Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV). When asking Toomey why the requirement wasn’t added Trump answered his own question saying,
“You know why? Because you’re afraid of the NRA, right? Ha ha.”
However, this weekend Trump released his current plan to deal with what many see as a pervasive gun problem in our nation that includes the provision of training for teachers tasked with the educating of children throughout the nation, but neglecting to include the age-requirement or any other anti-NRA or controversial provisions such as universal background checks, or the banning of assault weapons.
During the White House Press Briefing today, Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked directly by Philip Rucker, from The Washington Post, why Trump was not doing more on guns? Sanders, in response, told Rucker:
“We can’t just write things down and make them law. We actually have to follow a process.”
As if this latter statement would bring the essential clarity and vision needed to lead on such a contentious issue, as the President’s spokesperson, Sanders managed to make things worse by stating: “the door isn’t closed” referencing the age-requirement originally embraced by her boss. In other words, the White House insists the age-requirement is still being considered and one imagines citizens should ignore Trump’s own Tweet this morning which states:
“States are making this decision. Things are moving rapidly on this, but not much political support (to put it mildly).”
However, recent polling by conservative leaning Rasmussen reflects sixty-seven percent of Americans fully support increasing the age for individuals to acquire such weapons. Furthermore, ninety-seven percent of the nation (close to 100% given the margin of error) support universal background checks to prevent these weapons from getting into the wrong hands, and despite these staggering polling numbers Trump does not believe there to be much “support.”
Whether the National Rifle Association’s lawsuit over Florida’s legislation is what served as the impetus for Trump backing down, or the meeting he had with the organization in the Oval Office, just days after the bipartisan meeting, where he sent out word that it was a “great meeting,” and appeared to soften his stance, or other circumstances we are unaware of, is unclear. Of course, another explanation is that as a leader Trump delegated the matter to Betsy DeVos, the controversial Secretary of Education and confused interviewee of Sixty Minutes this past weekend. However, while discussing the opioid epidemic in our nation, Trump made clear his disdain of committee’s and commissions several days ago stating:
“We can’t just keep setting up blue-ribbon committees,” he said, adding that all they do is “talk, talk, talk.”
What is clear is that in order to succeed in conveying to second-amendment right proponents that the reason for gun reform is not to take away citizens’ guns, but to implement ‘sensible and meaningful’ reform to ensure all citizens’ rights are acknowledged requires leadership and thoughtfulness, coupled with sensitivity and conviction, all attributes Trump lacks. This point is especially salient if Trump has taken a position and another with a differing view is the last person to speak to him.
For a guy who bragged about how great a deal maker he is, he surely seems to be failing miserably with navigating the waters around this national debate which does not seem to be going away anytime soon due to the #NeverAgain movement. And neither should it.