WASHINGTON — President Trump told a few dozen governors at the White House today that he’d draft restrictions on bump stocks himself if Congress didn’t ban the conversion devices that make guns automatic.
The heads of states were in town for the National Governors Association winter meeting this past weekend. Among them was Florida Gov. Rick Scott; Trump praised his “leadership in the aftermath of the terrible tragedy in Parkland, Florida, horrible.”
“But we’ll turn our grief into action. We have to have action. We don’t have any action. It happens. A week goes by. Let’s keep talking. Another week goes by. We keep talking. Two months go by, all of a sudden everybody is off to the next subject. And when it happens again, everybody is angry and let’s start talking again. We’ve got to stop,” he said. “By the way, bump stocks, we’re writing that out. I’m writing that out myself. I don’t care if Congress does it or not. I’m writing it out myself, OK.”
The governors in attendance applauded.
“You put it into the machine-gun category which is what it is; it becomes essentially a machine gun, and nobody’s going to be able — it’s going to be very hard to get them. So we’re writing out bump stocks,” Trump added. “But we have to take steps to harden our schools so that they’re less vulnerable to attack.”
He once again pitched the idea of more armed staff on school grounds, and criticized armed officers who responded to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting on Valentine’s Day but stayed on the perimeter. “You know, I really believe — you don’t know until you test it, but I think — I’d really believe I’d run into — even if I didn’t have a weapon, and I think most of the people in this room would have done that too, because I know most of you. But the way they performed was really a disgrace,” he said.
The president also talked about more institutionalization of the mentally ill. “You can’t put him in jail, I guess, because he hasn’t done anything. But in the old days you’d put him into a mental institutions, and we had them in New York, and our government started closing them because of costs,” he said. “And we’re going to have start talking about mental institutions, because a lot of the folks in this room closed their mental institutions also. So we have no halfway. We have nothing between a prison and leaving him at his house, which we can’t do anymore. So I think you folks have to start thinking about that.”
Trump said he had lunch with National Rifle Association executive vice president Wayne LaPierre, chief lobbyist Chris Cox and general counsel David Lehman over the weekend, “and I said, ‘Fellows, we’ve got to do something. It’s too long now, where we’ve got to do something.'”
“And we’re going to do very strong background checks, very strong. We’re going to do background checks. If we see a sicko, I don’t want him having a gun. And, you know, I know it was a time when anybody could have — I mean, even if they were sick, they were fighting. And I said, ‘Fellows, we can’t do it any more,'” the president continued. “There’s no bigger fan of the Second Amendment than me, and there’s no bigger fan of the NRA. And these guys are great patriots. They’re great people. And they want to do something. They’re going to do something. And they’re going to do it, I think, quickly. I think they want to see it.”
Police have to have “immediate access to taking those guns away, so that they don’t just leave, and he’s sitting there with seven different weapons,” Trump said of people like accused school shooter Nikolas Cruz.
“Don’t worry. You’re not going to get any — you won’t — don’t worry about the NRA; they’re on our side. You guys, half of you are so afraid of the NRA. There’s nothing to be afraid of. And you know what? If they’re not with you, we have to fight them every once in a while. That’s OK. They’re doing what they think it right,” Trump said. “I will tell you, they are doing what they think is right. But sometimes, we’re going to have to be very tough, and we’re going to have to fight them. But we need strong background checks. For a long period of time, people resisted that. But now people, I think, are really into it.”
“And John Cornyn — great guy, senator — Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan and Kevin McCarthy, hopefully, are going to work on some legislation. I hope you guys — they started already. In fact, John has legislation in. We’re going to strengthen it. We’re going to make it more pertinent to what we’re discussing. But he’s already started the process. We’ve already started it.”
Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) sponsored a bill to make improvements to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System after the Sutherland Springs, Texas, church massacre in November.
Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a statement after Trump’s remarks that Democrats “are pleased to hear that the president recognizes the need to strengthen the Fix NICS bill”
“If all Congress does in response to the Parkland shooting is to pass the Fix NICS bill, it would be an abject failure and a dereliction of our duty,” Schumer said. “Democrats believe that, at a minimum, the Congressional response to the Parkland shooting should include universal background check legislation that would close the gun show and internet sales loopholes that allow guns to fall into the wrong hands.”
“It is our hope that Republican leaders will help pass real legislation that makes a difference, rather than NRA-backed bills that make Republicans feel better without meaningfully addressing the issue of gun safety,” he added. “We can’t afford a bill that is simply aimed at pleasing the NRA but doesn’t get the job done; we need real results.”