White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Monday claimed that President Donald Trump still supports raising the purchase age for firearms, though he’s done little to enact any relevant policy.
At a press briefing, Sanders claimed that Trump was referring to Congress when he tweeted Monday morning that there is “not much political support” for a proposal to raise the purchase age for firearms.
The White House did not list the policy as a legislative priority in a plan to prevent school shootings that it unveiled on Sunday, though various polls show that most Americans support raising the age for gun purchases. Instead, it announced that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos will lead a Federal Commission on School Safety to “study and make recommendations” on that subject and others.
“The President, as you know, doesn’t have the ability to just create federal law,” Sanders said Monday. “What he is pushing forward are things that can immediately be accomplished, either through the administration or that have broad-based bipartisan support in Congress. But that doesn’t mean that he has wiped away some of those other things that we’re still looking at how best we can move forward on.”
Sanders said Trump and congressional Republicans could ultimately leave it to states — as Florida did recently — to raise the purchase age on their own.
“Look, the President still has in this plan the age limit increase and that is part of one of the things that will be reviewed on what the best path forward is on that front, whether it can be done at a federal level or whether it needs to be done on a state-by-state basis,” she said.
Sanders separately complained that members of the media “continue to misunderstand and misrepresent the comments that I’m making,” but acknowledged that DeVos’ commission wasn’t focused on immediate legislative priorities.
“Why did he name this DeVos commission less than 24 hours after ridiculing the idea of blue ribbon commissions?” ABC’s Jonathan Karl asked at one point, referring to Trump’s characterization of opioid commissions during a rally Saturday in Moon Township, Pennsylvania. “He said all they do is talk and talk and talk and two hours later, they write a report. On this issue, a commission’s okay? Why?”
Sanders did not dispute Trump’s disparaging description of commissions, but told Karl, “There are a number of things that he is pushing forward that are very tangible,” citing “support of specific pieces of legislation that we expect to move forward” and “administrative action like getting rid of the bump stocks that the President has been very vocal about and is going to continue to push for.”
Sanders in February said that Trump was “supportive of the concept” of raising the age of gun ownership to 21 years old in the wake of the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, which left 17 people dead. Trump himself endorsed the idea in more absolute terms, and at one point said Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) was “afraid of the NRA” for hesitating at the proposal.
I will be strongly pushing Comprehensive Background Checks with an emphasis on Mental Health. Raise age to 21 and end sale of Bump Stocks! Congress is in a mood to finally do something on this issue – I hope!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 22, 2018
The White House’s policy proposal announced Sunday backed away not only from the proposal to raise the purchase age for firearms but also from other policies objectionable to the gun lobby, including universal background checks and empowering law enforcement to seize firearms from individuals understood to be an urgent threat to themselves or others.