As President Donald Trump talked this week about banning “bump stocks” and curbing young people’s access to guns, the gun owners and advocates who helped propel his political rise talked about desertion and betrayal.
Trump’s flirtation with a set of modest gun control measures drew swift condemnation from gun groups, hunters and sportsmen who banked on the president to be a stalwart opponent to any new gun restrictions. In his pledge to make schools safer and curb gun violence after the massacre at a Florida high school, gun advocates see a weakening resolve from the man they voted for in droves and spent millions to elect.
“Out in the firearms community there is a great feeling of betrayal and abandonment, because of the support he was given in his campaign for president,” Tony Fabian, president of the Colorado Sports Shooting Association, said Friday.
The comments highlight how little room the president and his party have to maneuver without angering and activating the politically powerful gun rights community. Trump has not yet formally proposed any legislative plan and he spent much of the week endorsing the notion of arming teachers and school officials — a plan the gun lobby supports. Still, just floating proposals that defy the National Rifle Association and other groups drew threats of political retribution and legal action.
The confrontation is set to test whether Trump, a figure deeply popular with his party’s base, is willing to risk his political capital to take on a constituency few Republicans have challenged.
“The president has a unique ability right now to maybe really do something about these school shootings,” said Rep. Tom Rooney, a Republican from Florida. “Nobody is more popular in my district — and I know in a lot of other people’s districts — than Donald Trump. He’s more popular than the NRA. … So it’s up to him whether or not anything happens with guns.”