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President Trump's Proposed Gun Control Measures Remain Politically Cautious

Mar 12, 2018
Originally published on March 12, 2018 6:55 pm
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SARAH MCCAMMON, HOST:

After the school shooting in Parkland, Fla., President Trump said, quote, "we will act. We will do something." Today we have a better sense of what that something is. The White House's new plan on school safety includes support for a bill in Congress that would shore up the background-check system. It urges states to pass laws that temporarily take guns out of the hands of people judged to be dangerous, and it renews President Trump's call to arm teachers and other school staff on a volunteer basis. What the plan does not include - some measures Trump had floated that pitted him against the National Rifle Association.

NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson joins us with more on that from the White House now. Hello, Mara.

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Hi, Sarah. Nice to talk to you.

MCCAMMON: So Mara, what's missing from this plan?

LIASSON: What's missing is the things that he talked about during those listening sessions that he held after the shooting. He told the students from Florida, for instance, that he wanted to raise the age of ownership for long guns from 18 to 21. He said he was going to be very strong on this. This is something the NRA opposed. And in one of those well-publicized television - televised meetings with lawmakers, he even chastised them for being petrified of the NRA. He said, sometimes we have to fight the NRA. But now it seems he doesn't seem to want to.

MCCAMMON: And what's the White House saying about why that was not included?

LIASSON: Well, the president says there's no political support for raising the age limit, but polls show there is widespread, bipartisan, public support for this - as a matter of fact, that there's tremendous support. In some polls, it's 78 percent. Eighty-two percent for raising the age limit. The lowest number I found, which is in a Rasmussen poll, 67 percent. But the president is right.

In terms of political support in Congress, it's true there's not enough Republican support because the NRA opposes this. The White House is also saying he's not backing away from this proposal. It's still on the table. It's something that a commission they've set up - that Betsy DeVos is going to head - will study. But he's just not going to go out on a limb and push for this. They say he wants to get behind things that can pass quickly, which even Democrats say is certainly better than nothing.

MCCAMMON: And about that school safety commission - just this weekend, the president was at a campaign rally in Pennsylvania, and he made fun of commissions.

LIASSON: Yes.

MCCAMMON: (Laughter).

LIASSON: He certainly did. There's a saying that you can always find a Trump tweet saying exactly the opposite of what he was tweeting today. In this case, it was something that Trump actually said at a rally just two days ago.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We can't just keep setting up blue-ribbon committees with your wife and your wife and your husband. And they meet, and they have a meal. And they talk - talk, talk, talk.

LIASSON: He went on to say, look; that's what I got in Washington. I got all these blue-ribbon committees. Well, guess what? He's got himself another one because one of the main proposals he put out today was another blue-ribbon commission on school safety chaired by Betsy DeVos. It's going to look at age restrictions, video games, school security, mental health treatment. Today Sanders said - press secretary Sarah Sanders said that wasn't a contradiction. The school-safety plan is more than just the commission.

MCCAMMON: And Mara, how do you see the politics of all this playing out?

LIASSON: Well, for a moment there, it looked like the aftermath of the Parkland shooting seemed to break the mold with the victims, the students who were so righteously angry and passionate about this - they seemed to be moving the debate. And the president seemed to be moved on this. But now it looks like we're reverting to the pattern that we've seen in the past where there's generally not a push for very big legislative solutions on guns because the public moves on.

The people who are motivated by gun control are usually not as impassioned as gun right supporters. What we don't know is, among the parts of the public who are motivated now and want some kind of governmental action, will that be enough to affect the politics of this in certain races in November?

MCCAMMON: All right, well, thank you, Mara. That's NPR's Mara Liasson at the White House.

(SOUNDBITE OF RJD2 SONG, "SUITE 2") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.