5 Donald Trump Quotes About Gun Control That Are Majorly Controversial
Following back-to-back mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio, on Aug. 3 and 4, President Donald Trump has been fielding significant criticism on the issue of gun control. In an Aug. 5 speech addressing the shootings, Trump proposed several ideas to combat gun violence, ranging from cracking down on violent video games to implementing "red flag" laws, which would allow law enforcement officials to confiscate firearms from people deemed potentially dangerous. The president also suggested passing legislation that combines background checks and immigration reform. Unsurprisingly, Donald Trump's quotes about gun control, both this past week and in the last several years, have faced significant backlash. Let's take a look at some of the things he's said.
Over the course of his 2016 presidential campaign, Trump made many broad promises about guns. He claimed that he would "get rid of gun-free zones" in schools on his first day in office, and that he was proud to have the NRA's endorsement. According to fact-checking organization PolitiFact, there have been at least 20 mass shootings since Trump took office, compared to at least 41 mass shootings over the course of Barack Obama's eight years in the White House. Trump has been president for two and a half years, which means that there have an average of eight mass shootings per year under his administration.
Despite this uptick in mass shootings, Trump has spent more time criticizing the media and Democratic lawmakers than he has calling for more stringent gun control measures. Below are some of the more controversial statements Trump has made on gun control and gun violence.
1. Trump weighed in on banning assault weapons
In a campaign policy paper published on his website in September 2015, Trump argued that banning assault weapons takes guns away from "law-abiding gun owners," rather than someone who might perpetrate a mass shooting. He said,
Gun and magazine bans are a total failure. ... Opponents of gun rights try to come up with scary sounding phrases like “assault weapons," “military-style weapons” and “high capacity magazines” to confuse people. What they’re really talking about are popular semi-automatic rifles and standard magazines that are owned by tens of millions of Americans. Law-abiding people should be allowed to own the firearm of their choice. The government has no business dictating what types of firearms good, honest people are allowed to own.
As ABC News pointed out, this policy paper marked a reversal from an argument Trump made in his 2000 book, The America We Deserve. In this book, Trump disclosed that he supported a ban on assault weapons, despite typically opposing gun control, ABC News reported.
2. Trump criticized gun-free zones in schools
At a January 2016 campaign rally in Burlington, Vermont, Trump said he would eliminate gun-free school zones, something that he has since reiterated as president. He said,
I will get rid of gun-free zones on schools, and — you have to — and on military bases. My first day, it gets signed, OK? My first day. There's no more gun-free zones.
According to The Washington Post, Trump has argued on several occasions that gun-free zones make it impossible for people to arm and protect themselves in the event of a mass shooting. He reiterated this claim in the aftermath of a 2018 school shooting in Parkland, Florida, though critics pointed out that gun-free zone legislation aimed to take guns away from students, not law enforcement officials. The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment on this criticism.
3. Trump showed off his endorsement from the NRA
During his first presidential debate against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in September 2016, Trump touted his endorsement from the National Rifle Association(NRA), and reaffirmed his support for the Second Amendment. He said,
I have the endorsement of the NRA which I'm very proud of, these are very, very good people and they’re protecting the Second Amendment, but I think we have to look very strongly at no-fly lists and watch lists and when people are on there, even if they shouldn’t be on there, we’ll help them, we’ll help them legally, we will help them get off.
As president, Trump has routinely brought up the fact that he has the backing of the NRA. However, during a bipartisan meeting with members of Congress in early 2018, Trump also suggested that lawmakers' inaction on gun violence was a result of the fact that they were "afraid of the NRA," per CNN.
4. Trump suggested arming teachers to limit school shootings
During a February 2018 listening session with Parkland students and teachers, Trump proposed policies that would arm some teachers and school staff members. He said,
If you had a teacher who was adept with the firearm, they could end the attack very quickly. This would be obviously only for people who were very adept at handling a gun, and it would be, it's called concealed carry, where a teacher would have a concealed gun on them. They'd go for special training and they would be there and you would no longer have a gun-free zone.
Although CNN reported at the time that many of the listening session attendees supported Trump's proposal, the idea of arming teachers was met with widespread backlash from Parkland survivors, teachers, and Democratic lawmakers. Former Arizona Rep. Gabby Giffords — who survived an assassination attempt during a mass shooting in Tucson back in 2011 — wrote that "arming teachers is a terrible idea," pointing to data indicating that doing so would actually lead to more gun-related deaths and injuries. Trump later walked back his suggestion, saying in a Feb. 22 tweet that he "never said 'give teachers guns,'" but rather, allow "gun adept" teachers with training or experience to carry concealed weapons.
5. Trump responded to mass shootings with calls for immigration reform
In August 2019, following two mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton, Trump suggested on Twitter that Congressional lawmakers needed to combine background checks for firearm purchases with immigration reform. On Aug. 5, he tweeted,
We cannot let those killed in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, die in vain. Likewise for those so seriously wounded. We can never forget them, and those many who came before them. Republicans and Democrats must come together and get strong background checks, perhaps marrying this legislation with desperately needed immigration reform. We must have something good, if not GREAT, come out of these two tragic events!
The White House did not immediately respond to Elite Daily's request for comment on the tweets. Trump held a press conference at the White House later that same day, in which he addressed changes to gun policy including red flag laws, but made no mention of immigration or background checks.
This proposal prompted swift backlash from lawmakers and social media users alike. According to The Washington Post, New Jersey Sen. and presidential hopeful Cory Booker described Trump's remarks on gun violence as “a bullsh*t soup of ineffective words.”
Over the years, Trump has gone back and forth on many issues related to gun violence. His administration officially banned bump stocks in December 2018, as he promised to do, but he also rolled back Obama-era regulations on background checks in February 2017. He has made vague promisees to implement gun control legislation following mass shootings, but he has rarely clarified what that legislation would look like. As a result, gun control advocates have largely given up on Trump, The New York Times reported, and are instead working to make sure that ending gun violence becomes a central focus in the 2020 presidential election. Many of the 2020 Democratic candidates have also routinely weighed in on this issue.
In all the back and forth, the only thing that's ultimately clear is that combating gun violence will continue to be a priority heading into next year. Whether or not 2020 brings change, is up to the candidates.