In the wake of the Las Vegas shooting, the deadliest shooting in U.S. history that killed at least 58 and injured over 500, it's important to look at how President Trump's stance on gun control has changed over the years. We observe the history as people question if this historic massacre will do anything to affect the minds of law and policy makers for gun control. Over the years, Trump's stance has slightly altered, especially in the past few years as he entered the presidential race.
In April 2015, just two months before he entered the presidential race, Trump said at a National Rifle Association (NRA) forum, "I love the NRA. I love the Second Amendment." He promised the crowd that if he ran for and won the 2016 presidential election, the "Second Amendment will be totally protected, that I can tell you."
Trump's stance on gun control, or lack thereof, was a crucial part of his presidential campaign that earned him many of the conservative, right-wing supporters that voted him into office. On the campaign trail, he criticized Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton for planning to strip away gun rights if elected president.
It should come as no surprise that in May 2016, the NRA endorsed Trump in his candidacy. Around the same time, Trump said he opposed any new regulation on firearms, including assault weapons, proclaiming, “The government has no business dictating what types of firearms good, honest people are allowed to own.”
For taking such a strong stance on gun control, one must think Trump has maintained a deep-rooted and long-lived allegiance to this value. However, if we rewind 15 years, it seems that Trump did not feel the same way about guns as he does now.
In 2000, Trump wrote a book called The America We Deserve, in which he looked down upon Republicans who “walk the NRA line” and “refuse even limited restrictions” on firearms laws. So what changed?
Likely, he changed his stance on guns in order to better serve his strategy for his campaign and the group of Americans he planned to target as voters.
So, we know that Trump changed his stance to pro-gun rights, but what are the details of his views in regards to existing legislation and background checks, among other things?
Let's fix what's already broken:
Throughout his campaign, Trump has called on the government to expand rights for law-abiding citizens who want to own guns, arguing that if civilians were armed, they could stop mass shootings, which is a belief that the NRA and other pro-gun activists have argued as well.
He has stated during the campaign that an "overwhelming majority of people who go through background checks are law-abiding gun owners." Trump said he wanted to focus on fixing defective gun legislation already in place. He said, "What we don't need to do is expand a broken system. We need to fix the system we have."
After the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida, Trump commented that if people, "had guns on the other side, you wouldn’t have had the tragedy that you had.”
Included in that "broken system" is the issue of mental health related to mass shootings. Trump has called for expanding mental health treatment programs to "fix our broken" mental health system that has allowed "red flags" to slip through the cracks.
He also said that law-abiding gun owners get "blamed by antigun politicians, gun-control groups, and the media for the acts of deranged madmen."
At a Vermont campaign rally in January 2016, Trump said, he would "get rid of gun-free zones on schools and military bases" on his first day in office.
Trump has also supported the "national right to carry" legislation that would permit people to use their respective state permit to carry a gun in all 50 states.
Since his gun-free zone statement in January, Trump softened his position in May 2016 by saying that, "school resource officers" or trained teachers should carry guns. He said that not all schools would be gun free-zones, and only in "some cases" would they be eliminated.
During his Face the Nation debate in June 2016 with Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, Trump agreed with Clinton's statement that terrorists on the FBI's watch list should not be able to buy a gun, a policy known as “no fly, no buy.” While some viewers were shocked that he agreed with Clinton, from the beginning, his campaign was rooted on the fear of terrorism and stopping ISIS. So, it only makes sense that Trump's one caveat to gun rights would be terrorists.
Trump has changed his views drastically on gun control over the years. In response to two previous deadly shootings in the United States, Trump encouraged the right to carry guns as a "fix" to the problem, which, he reportedly believes, would have resulted in less bloodshed. In response to Las Vegas, Trump only spoke of heartfelt prayers and a call to united love. He made no mention of gun control talk, so it is unclear if anything is going to change as a result of this horrific event. As Commander-in-Chief, it is his duty to console the American people in times of tragedy, but it is equally his job to push for policy that can prevent this from happening again. We don't just need his prayers, we need his action.