Columnist Liz Peek says Trump should shake up the gun debate and upend politics by backing gun safety measures.
President Trump should do more to tackle gun violence, because it is the right thing to do, and because it would drive Democrats crazy.
First up: let’s set the record straight.
Fact: President Trump is no more responsible for the heinous shootings in El Paso and Dayton than President Obama was responsible for the slaughter in Orlando (2016, 49 dead) or Newtown (2012, 27 killed), which were among the worst incidents in our nation’s history.
And, the frequency of these terrible events has not increased under President Trump. According to the non-profit group Gun Violence Archive, there were 269 mass shootings in 2014 (the earliest year collected), 335 in 2015, 382 in 2016, 346 in 2017 and 340 last year. There have been 253 so far this year.
That hasn’t prevented Democrats and their handmaidens in the liberal media from blaming the president for the tragedies in Dayton and El Paso. The bodies had not been identified before the politicization of the murders began, along with ominous alarms that white nationalists across the land are mainlining the president’s rhetoric because he, as 2020 hopeful Beto O’Rourke declared, “stokes racism in this country” and is like “something out of the Third Reich.”
Maybe that bold assertion will boost Beto’s sagging candidacy, but I doubt it. Piling on Trump is as commonplace as ketchup.
Fact: President Trump’s tough line on illegal immigration echoes similar past stances by Democrats. President Clinton won a standing ovation from both sides of the aisle in his 1995 State of the Union when he promised to crack down on people entering the country illegally, noting that “All Americans….are rightly disturbed by the large numbers of illegal aliens entering our country.”
President Obama promised in his 2013 State of the Union Address to put “more boots on the Southern border than at any time in our history and [reduce] illegal crossings to their lowest levels in 40 years.”
Chuck Schumer, a constant scold of the president’s immigration stance, is inconveniently on record saying in 2009, “First, illegal immigration is wrong and a primary goal of comprehensive immigration reform must be to dramatically curtail future illegal immigration.”
The country has not changed its view on this issue; Democrats have. According to Gallup polling from earlier this year, some 77 percent of the country thinks “large numbers of undocumented immigrants entering the United States” constitute either a “critical” or “important” threat to the nation.
Several Democratic 2020 candidates have taken their party sharply off course, recently pledging free health care to those crossing our border improperly and, moreover, looking to decriminalize illegal entry.
If President Trump’s rhetoric has upped the temperature of the debate, so have these candidates. And, so has the absurd stonewalling of Democrats in Congress, who for months refused to admit that tens of thousands of migrants streaming unchecked across our border might constitute a security problem.
Fact: Liberals are distorting the facts behind these terrible events to demonize Trump and to scare Americans, hoping that fear will override voters’ rising optimism about their financial prospects.
The New York Times ran a piece in the wake of the Dayton and El Paso murders entitled “White Terrorism Shows ‘Stunning’ Parallels to Rise of Islamic State”; that is called fear-mongering. There is no caliphate, no leadership, there is no similarity between the sporadic outbursts from a handful of crazed and angry young men in our country and the widespread Islamic terror group that wants to take over the world.
While media outlets have widely broadcast the El Paso shooter’s screed against immigrants, there has been scant mention that the Dayton killer Tweeted his admiration for socialism and Elizabeth Warren. Surely that’s newsworthy, too?
Fact: President Trump is amenable to changes in our gun laws. His White House has banned bump stocks, a device which allowed the Las Vegas shooter to convert a semi-automatic gun into an even more deadly weapon, and passed the Fix Nics law, which strengthened background checks.
Trump recently called for expanded background checks and backed so-called “red flag” laws, which would give law enforcement authorities an opportunity to respond when an individual exhibits dangerous tendencies. These are popular measures.
He should go further. Fully automatic guns are illegal, but the ban on semi-automatics (of the kind used in the Orlando shootings) and related ammunition expired in 2004. That restriction should be revived; nobody needs what many call an assault rifle to hunt game or shoot clay pigeons. At the least, the size of the magazines should be limited, which could lessen the carnage of mass shootings.
Unhappily, as with immigration, Democrats will not want to work with the Trump administration to enact sensible laws that might staunch the bloodshed. It is much more attractive politically to use gun violence as a cudgel. In fairness, many Republicans will not go there either. The National Rifle Association does indeed have a large checkbook, and wields it to stave off tougher gun laws.
But that creates an opportunity for Trump, who more than once has opposed GOP orthodoxy. These shootings are horrific events that have become an unwelcome thread in our country’s ragged social tapestry. Not only are the killings becoming routine, so is our response.
Politicians on the left decry the guns used in the shootings, blame the NRA for our pro-gun culture, and point fingers at anyone callous enough to block legislation restricting gun ownership. Politicians on the right cede sufficient ground to avoid being heckled at their next town hall, talk about untreated mental illness and point out (rightly) that most of the guns used in these shootings were purchased legally, some in the states that claim the toughest gun laws.
Ultimately, nothing happens, and Congress’ approval ratings sink one notch lower.
We can, and should, do better. As with trade and health care, Trump could be the disruptor here. Just as it took a Republican like Nixon to open up China, President Trump could make history by advancing sensible gun legislation. It is time.