At a televised, bipartisan meeting to discuss gun control on Wednesday, President Trump shocked both Congress and viewers with his remarks. Trump expressed support for gun control policy, breaking with his party and the stronghold of the National Rifle Association. At the meeting, Trump told lawmakers he was in favor of sweeping and comprehensive changes, including stronger background checks for guns purchased on the internet and at gun shows, a ban on bump stocks, and restricting gun sales for some young adults. He also suggested he was open to discussing a ban on assault weapons.
In a further slap to the NRA, Trump lambasted Republicans for being “petrified” of the association:
[The NRA] do have great power. I agree with that. They have great power over you people. They have less power over me. Some of you people are petrified of the NRA. You can't be petrified.
For the 2016 election, the NRA spent more than $31 million to back Trump and oppose Hillary Clinton. As predicted, Trump's comments sat none too well with them. Trump's unexpected comments may have seemed like the president has changed his tune on gun control, but Republicans and Democrats were skeptical. This meeting, in other words, is just the beginning.
“You saw the president clearly saying not once, not twice, not three times, but like 10 times, that he wanted to see a strong universal background check bill,” said Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) to The New York Times. “He didn’t mince words about it. So I do not understand how then he could back away from that.” Democrats seemed to be uncertain in general about the president's commitment considering how his new remarks contradict many of Trump's past statements on gun control.
The New York Times also reported that Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) was unmoved by Trump's embrace of gun control, noting that the recent Florida school shooting was not “conducted by someone who bought a gun at a gun show or parking lot.” Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) reportedly called the meeting "fascinating television" and that it was "surreal to actually be there.”
The NRA also seemed to agree that Trump's somewhat rambling arguments were a television stunt. NRA spokesperson Jennifer Baker responded to Trump's meeting with this statement to The Hill:
While today’s meeting made for great TV, the gun control proposals discussed would make for bad policy that would not keep our children safe. Instead of punishing law-abiding gun owners for the acts of a deranged lunatic our leaders should pass meaningful reforms that would actually prevent future tragedies.
In a separate statement to The Hill, Baker reiterated how gun control policies "punish law-abiding Americans." The word "law-abiding" came up multiple times when the NRA began tweeting why it opposed the solutions suggested at Trump's meeting.
Trump's break from the NRA and GOP have left people questioning his sincerity. Following the Parkland mass shooting, which left 17 dead and others severely injured, Trump has suggested arming teachers as a viable solution.
A senior White House official told Quartz, however, that Trump is sincere about passing gun safety laws, even if the NRA opposes them. Trump said he supports a bipartisan bill which would strengthen background checks, but the bill is not the same one backed by the NRA, which strengthens background checks in exchange for expanded concealed carry rights.
Until anything is signed, we'll have to wait and see if Trump follows through with anything he suggested at Wednesday's meeting with lawmakers.