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Fecteau: Will Trump’s Rhetoric Help Rein in Gun Violence?

Friday, October 06, 2017

 

For once, President Donald Trump’s ability to not tell the truth might just be conducive to producing substantive action on guns in our country. In light of the recent shooting in Las Vegas, Mr. Trump should act on gun violence; he already has the political capital especially because he was endorsed by the NRA, and due to his cult-like following, he can sell the populist wing of the Republican Party on any idea (e.g. millions of “illegals” voted in the last presidential election).

In the past, Mr. Trump was in favor of specific gun control laws. Mr. Trump mentioned explicitly on Twitter years before his presidential campaign began he favored expanded background checks to “weed out the sicko's [sic]”. In his book from 2000, "The America We Deserve," Mr. Trump said that while he opposes a number of gun restrictions, he supports a federal assault weapons ban – this ban expired in 2004 – and a longer waiting period for gun purchases (don’t tell his supporters!).

Despite Mr. Trump’s position on gun control in the past, he still sold the gun rights advocates and conservative voters on the idea he was the Second Amendment candidate in the Republican primaries, and also the voters in the general election (as President George W. Bush said, “fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can't get fooled again,” but the Republicans are still fooled to this day).

While Democrats are leading the charge in Congress, Republican lawmakers -- such as US House Speak Paul Ryan – and even the NRA have already shown an interest in banning ‘bump stocks’ which were used in the mass shooting in Las Vegas. Bump stocks legally convert semi-automatic weapons to weapons with near automatic capability. Considering fully automatic weapons are almost all banned, bump stocks should already be against the law to own, but are not – to the surprise of even certain Republican lawmakers.

While some Republican lawmakers may still yet be ambivalent, Mr. Trump’s demagogic capability may just be an asset to prod them to rein in the accessibility of guns or banning the aforementioned bump stocks.  Mr. Trump can sell his supporters on almost any idea, why not gun control? While he has not endorsed anything specific, Mr. Trump recently said, “We will be talking about gun laws as time goes by” which gives me room for optimism; Mr. Trump can be the gun control advocate President Barack Obama was not – imagine that?

Mass shootings shouldn’t be a normal occurrence, and the United States should adopt reasonable gun control measures that make everyone safer; Mr. Trump can make some serious progress on this issue using his bombastic ability to sell his supporters even the Brooklyn Bridge. The question is: will Mr. Trump take advantage of the political populist appeal to protect everyday Americans from the scourge of gun violence? Maybe, just maybe.

Matt Fecteau ([email protected]) is a Master of Public Administration candidate at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, and an Iraq War veteran. Follow him on Twitter @MatthewFecteau

 

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