Donald Trump once backed an assault weapons ban — but that was years before his political rise became enmeshed with the NRA.
Critics are calling on President Trump to take action following this week’s mass shooting at a Florida high school, in which 17 people were killed and numerous others were injured.
But in order to support such reforms, Trump would have to turn his back on his base — gun-toting Americans who helped vote him into the White House and the National Rifle Association, which shelled out a lot of money to get their attention.
In the 1990s and early 2000s, the then-real estate mogul called for bans on military-style and assault weapons, most notably in his 2000 book, “The America we Deserve” with co-writer Dave Shiflett.
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“I generally oppose gun control, but I support the ban on assault weapons and I support a slightly longer waiting period to purchase a gun,” Trump wrote.
He also criticized Republicans who “walk the NRA line.” But as Trump prepared his presidential run, he was similarly criticized for doing the same thing.
“I promise you one thing, if I run for President and I win, the Second Amendment will be totally protected, that I will tell you,” he said to applauding crowds at the 2015 NRA leadership forum.
By May 2016, Trump took to Twitter to tout an impressive first: the only candidate ever to be endorsed by the National Rifle Association ahead of the GOP convention. He had not yet even officially nabbed the Republican candidacy.
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The one-policy action group propped up the President’s bid for office with more than $ 11 million and spent almost $ 20 million more to tear down his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.
During the general election, Trump attacked Clinton for her stance on gun control and again slammed her position in a recent rally in Alabama.
“You’d be handing in your rifles” if Clinton had been elected, he told the crowds.
Trump seemed to waver just once during his campaign following the Orlando nightclub shooting in June 2016.
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“I will be meeting with NRA who has endorsed me, about not allowing people on the terrorist watch list, or the no fly list, to buy guns,” he tweeted at the time.
Remembering the victims of the Florida high school massacre
The NRA responded on Twitter, wrote, “Our position is no guns for terrorists—period. Due process & right to self-defense for law-abiding Americans.”
There’s no word on what came of the meeting, and Trump’s positions have not appeared to change.
On his official website, Trump previously outlined his “vision” for the future of America and its gun owners. He vowed to defend the Second Amendment, saying “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed upon. Period.”
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He championed a “national right to carry” in all 50 states and promised to “empower law-abiding gun owners to defend themselves.”
The since-deleted page on Trump’s website — “Constitution and Second Amendment” — also featured a call to fix the country’s “broken” mental health system.
“All of the tragic mass murders that occurred in the past several years have something in common — there were red flags that were ignored,” he wrote. “We can’t allow that to continue. We must expand treatment programs, and reform the laws to make it easier to take preventive action to save innocent lives. Most people with mental health problems are not violent, but just need help, and these reforms will help everyone.”
Trump focused on mental health instead of gun control following two recent shootings — this week’s massacre in Florida, and a shooting at a country music concert in Las Vegas in which 58 people were killed.
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Trump said there were “so many signs” that 19-year-old school gunman Nikolas Cruz was “mentally disturbed.”
The Instagram account of suspected Florida high school gunman Nikolas Cruz
He similarly called Las Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock “very sick” and a “demented person” with “a lot of problems.”
Trump’s Thursday address to a nation grieving the loss of slain students and teachers sparked immediate backlash from his critics. His political track record and flippant takes on mental health in the past — he’s called Rosie O’Donnell, Barack Obama and various other rivals mentally unstable — rendered his promises to address the issue hollow, they said.
What’s more, only about “3 to 5% of all violence, including but not limited to firearm violence, is attributable to serious mental illness. The large majority of gun violence toward others is not caused by mental illness,” according to the American Mental Health Counselors Association.
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The American Psychological Association warned against conflating the issue of gun violence and mental health, noting it’s a “complex and multifaceted problem.”
“The use of a gun greatly increases the odds that violence will lead to a fatality: This problem calls for urgent action,” according to its website. “Reducing Firearm prohibitions for high-risk groups have been shown to reduce violence.
“Reducing the incidence of gun violence will require interventions through multiple systems, including legal, public health, public safety, community and health.”
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