President Trump stunned Republicans on live television Wednesday by embracing gun control and urging a group of lawmakers at the White House to resurrect gun safety legislation that has been opposed for years by the powerful National Rifle Association and the vast majority of his party.
In a remarkable meeting, the president veered wildly from the N.R.A. playbook in front of giddy Democrats and stone-faced Republicans. He called for comprehensive gun control legislation that would expand background checks to weapons purchased at gun shows and on the internet, keep guns from mentally ill people, secure schools and restrict gun sales for some young adults. He even suggested a conversation on an assault weapons ban.
At one point, Mr. Trump suggested that law enforcement authorities should have the power to seize guns from mentally ill people or others who could present a danger without first going to court. “I like taking the guns early,” he said, adding, “Take the guns first, go through due process second.”
The declarations prompted a frantic series of calls from N.R.A. lobbyists to their allies on Capitol Hill and a statement from the group calling the ideas that Mr. Trump expressed “bad policy.” Republican lawmakers suggested to reporters that they remained opposed to gun control measures.
“We’re not ditching any constitutional protections simply because the last person the president talked to today doesn’t like them,” Senator Ben Sasse, Republican of Nebraska, said in a statement.
Democrats, too, said they were skeptical that Mr. Trump would follow through.
“The White House can now launch a lobbying campaign to get universal background checks passed, as the president promised in this meeting, or they can sit and do nothing,” said Senator Chris Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut.
At the core of Mr. Trump’s suggestion was the revival of a bipartisan bill drafted in 2013 by Senators Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, and Patrick J. Toomey, Republican of Pennsylvania, after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Despite a concerted push by President Barack Obama and the personal appeals of Sandy Hook parents, the bill fell to a largely Republican filibuster.
Mr. Trump’s embrace did not immediately yield converts. Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, said after the meeting that he was unmoved, repeating the Republican dogma that recent shootings were not “conducted by someone who bought a gun at a gun show or parking lot.” Senator John Cornyn of Texas, the No. 2 Republican, who sat next to the president looking flustered, emerged from the meeting and declared, “I thought it was fascinating television and it was surreal to actually be there.”
But Mr. Trump suggested that the dynamics in Washington had changed after the school shooting in Florida that claimed 17 lives, in part because of his own leadership in the White House, a sentiment that the Democrats in the room readily appeared to embrace as they saw the president supporting their ideas.
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SOURCE: The New York Times, Michael D. Shear