Putting fellow Republicans in the hot seat, President Donald Trump called for speedy and substantial changes to the nation’s gun laws Wednesday, criticizing lawmakers in a White House meeting for being too fearful of the National Rifle Association to take action.
In a freewheeling, televised session that stretched for an hour, Trump rejected both his party’s incremental approach and its legislative strategy that has stalled action in Congress. Giving hope to Democrats, he said he favored a “comprehensive” approach to addressing violence such as the shooting at a Florida school earlier this month, although he offered no specific details.
Instead, Trump again voiced his support for expanded background checks. He endorsed increased school security and mental-health resources, and he reaffirmed his support for raising the age to 21 for purchasing some firearms. Trump also mentioned arming teachers, and said his administration, not Congress, would ban bump-stock devices that enable guns to fire like automatic weapons with an executive order.
“We can’t wait and play games and nothing gets done,” Trump said as he opened the session with 17 House and Senate lawmakers. “We want to stop the problems.”
Trump also raised eyebrows by suggesting that law-enforcement officials should be able to confiscate people’s firearms without a court order to prevent potential tragedies.
“Take the guns first; go through due process second,” he suggested.
The president has previously backed ideas popular with Democrats, only to back away when faced with opposition from his conservative base and his GOP allies in Congress. It was not clear whether he would continue to push for swift and significant changes to gun laws when confronted with the inevitable resistance from his party.
Still, the televised discussion allowed Trump to play the role of potential dealmaker, a favorite for the president. Democratic lawmakers made a point of appealing to the president to use his political power to persuade his party to take action.
“It is going to have to be you,” Sen. Chris Murphy told Trump.