WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump told a gathering of state governors on Monday that “we have to have action” in the wake of the latest US mass shooting and urged governors not to be “afraid” of challenging the National Rifle Association.
He also pledged to find a way to eliminate the use of bump fire stocks and called for improving mental health programs.
Trump took turns praising and expressing a willingness to “fight” the powerful gun lobby and said he had pressed the NRA’s leaders during lunch over the weekend to back reforms to US gun laws.
“Don’t worry about the NRA, they’re on our side,” Trump said. “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. Sometimes we’re going to have to be very tough and we’re going to have to fight ’em.”
Trump said he met over the weekend with NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre and Chris Cox, the head of the NRA’s lobbying arm, the two figures who have most prominently pushed the organization’s opposition to tightening US gun laws over the years.
Trump has yet to lay out a specific legislative framework for his proposals, but over the last week he has signaled his support for measures the NRA continues to oppose, such as raising the age for purchasing semiautomatic rifles and banning bump stocks — the devices that increase the firing rate of semiautomatic weapons to mimic automatic fire.
“Bump stocks, we’re writing that out. I’m writing that out myself,” Trump said. “I don’t care if Congress does it or not.”
Trump has also called for improvements in the background check system — a small portion of which the NRA supports — though it’s unclear whether he is calling for more significant changes the NRA opposes.
“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,” Trump said.
Even as a rift appears to be widening between his positions and those of the NRA — which spent more than $30 million to back his 2016 presidential bid — Trump called the NRA officials “great patriots” and promised that “there’s no bigger fan of the 2nd Amendment than me and there’s no bigger fan of the NRA.”
‘In the old days we had mental institutions’
Trump also honed in on mental health issues, calling for improvements in “early warning response systems” and reiterating his calls for increasing the ability of law enforcement to involuntarily commit individuals to “mental institutions,” just like “in the old days.”
“You know, in the old days we had mental institutions, had a lot of them, and you could nab somebody like this because, you know, they did. They knew he was — something was off,” Trump said. “We’re going to have to start talking about mental institutions, because a lot of the folks in this room closed their mental institutions also.”
Despite facing criticism from many different corners, Trump continued to talk up his proposal to arm trained teachers in classrooms who could defend students, slamming gun-free zones as “an invitation for these very sick people” to carry out mass shootings.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee confronted Trump over the proposal during the White House session on Monday, telling Trump — who crossed his arms as the Democrat spoke — that teachers and law enforcement overwhelmingly oppose the idea.
“I have listened to the biology teachers, and they don’t want to do that,” Inslee said. “I have listened to the first-grade teachers who don’t want to be pistol-packing first-grade teachers. I have listened to law enforcement, who have said they don’t want to have to train teachers as law enforcement agencies, which takes about six months.”