The White House on Monday defended President Trump’s gun proposals as it faced questions about whether he had “chickened out” in the face of pressure from the National Rifle Association (NRA).
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump “hasn’t backed away” from his support of expanding background checks or raising the age limit on gun purchases, although neither were addressed in a plan the administration rolled out Sunday night.
The NRA, which contributed heavily to Trump’s election campaign in 2016, opposes both measures.
“He hasn’t backed away from these things at all,” Sanders said at a press briefing where she faced numerous questions on the issue, including from a Washington Post reporter who asked why Trump “backed away from some of the ideas he brought into the discussion” and “chickened out.”
“They’re still outlined in the plan,” Sanders said.
She made the case that Trump was focusing on proposals that had the most support, while continuing to push for other measures.
“But he can’t make them happen with a broad stroke of the pen,” she said. “You have to have some Congressional component to do some of these things and without that support, it’s not as possible.”
Weeks ago at a White House meeting with lawmakers from both parties, Trump accused Republicans of fearing the NRA and backing down against it. He also repeatedly said he was different from other presidents and that he would take action after the Parkland, Fla,., high school shooting that left 17 people dead.
The proposals advanced in a White House plan revealed Sunday included little that would bother the NRA.
She said the White House was focused on what it could do immediately, also noted that former President Obama was not able to do anything on gun control.
“Let’s not forget that the Obama administration had the White House and all of Congress for two years and didn’t do anything,” she said. “This president is still laying out other priorities that he would like to say talked about and implemented, whether we have to do that on a state level.”
Trump said over Twitter on Monday he still supports raising the minimum age for purchasing a gun but that there isn’t enough “political support” on that front right now.
The president has reiterated his support for strengthening background checks, arming school officials and banning bump stocks. He has also voiced support for existing bills aimed at enforcing the background check system and encouraging students and teachers to report suspicious behavior.
The White House announced Sunday that Education secretary Betsy DeVoss would lead a federal commission to determine how best to address gun violence in schools.
Meanwhile, the Justice Department is reviewing whether it can ban bump stocks through the regulatory process.
“The president still has in this plan the age limit increase and that is part of one of the things that will be — one of those things will be reviewed on what the best path forward is on that front, whether it can be done at a federal level or whether it needs to be done on a state-by-state basis,” Sanders said.
“But the president, as you know, doesn’t have the ability to just create federal law, and he would need a number of other individuals to come together to help make that happen,” she said. “So what he is pushing forward are things that can immediately be accomplished, either through the administration or that have broad base bipartisan support in Congress. But that doesn’t mean that he has wiped away some of those other things that we’re still looking at how best we can move forward on.”
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