Democrats, Skeptical Of Trump Promises On Gun Control, Try To Seize Momentum

WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 28: Donald Trump meets with bipartisan members of congress - including Dianne Feinstein, R - to discuss gun control and school and community safety in the Cabinet Room of the White House on... WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 28: Donald Trump meets with bipartisan members of congress - including Dianne Feinstein, R - to discuss gun control and school and community safety in the Cabinet Room of the White House on Wednesday, February 28, 2018, in Washington, DC. (photo by Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post via Getty Images) MORE LESS
March 1, 2018 2:02 p.m.

President Donald Trump’s off-script comments on gun control at Wednesday’s wild, televised meeting have Republicans in a sweat, but they’re making Democrats cautiously optimistic. In the wake of Trump signaling support for an array of gun control measures and promising to stand up to the National Rifle Association, Democrats and some Republicans are rushing to introduce a slew of bills and nail down his support before the famously mercurial president changes his mind.

On Thursday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) laid out Democrats’ three-pronged strategy for the coming weeks, demanding policies that close the background check loophole for gun show and internet sales, allow for temporary restraining orders to keep weapons from people deemed dangerous, and requesting a floor debate on reviving a national assault weapons ban. Democrats have also co-sponsored bills this week to ban the sale of “bump stocks”—the device used to kill dozens in Las Vegas—and raise the minimum age for purchasing some firearms from 18 to 21.

“Rather than just plugging one leak, we need a holistic approach that improves our gun safety laws from top to bottom,” Schumer said.

Noting that he and his fellow Democrats were “stunned and surprised, many of us pleasantly, by what we saw” from President Trump on Wednesday, Schumer called on Trump to keep his word on backing a “comprehensive” gun safety bill and “provide cover for Republicans” to vote for it.

“I am strongly urging the President to follow through on his comments yesterday and buck the NRA and get this done,” Schumer said. “Words alone will not prevent the next mass shooting.”

Schumer and many other Democrats, however, remain deeply skeptical, cautioning that they’d been “disappointed in the past” by President Trump. In particular, Democratic senators said they were burned by the White House on DACA—first promised collaboration and support on a bipartisan bill to protect hundreds of thousands of Dreamers, only to watch days later as the President and his cabinet worked to kill the bill that had the best chance of passage.

“On the January 9th meeting with the President, I was confident we could solve the problem. 48 hours later, he pulled the bipartisan bill we had offered out from under us, and that was the end of the conversation,” Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) told TPM. “So let’s see where the President is at the end of 48 hours on the issue of gun safety. The question is whether he’s going to be swayed by his staff or whether he’s going to be the Commander in Chief.”

Already there are signs that Trump’s “take the guns first” stance from Wednesday may crumble as rapidly as his promise to back a “clean” DACA bill. A post on Twitter Thursday morning did not mention his recent backing for raising the age of purchasing an assault weapon or issuing temporary restraining orders, and concluded with an NRA-friendly call to “Respect 2nd Amendment!”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), who appeared over-the-moon in Wednesday’s meeting with Trump, returned to Capitol Hill with a skeptical outlook on the ongoing negotiations.

“It was a good meeting. I thought the President was very candid, but we’ll see what comes of it,” she told reporters. “Whether it lasts or not, I don’t know. I hope it does.”

Schumer was more blunt. He referenced the lobbying power of the NRA, which came out swinging Wednesday night, blasting the President’s pro-gun control remarks as “great TV” that would “make for bad policy.”

“The 64,000 dollar question is: when the NRA starts coming down on him, will he resist?” Schumer asked.

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