Editor’s Note: Jen Psaki, a CNN political commentator, was the White House communications director and State Department spokeswoman during the Obama administration. She is vice president of communications and strategy at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Follow her at @jrpsaki. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.
No, America. Donald Trump is not going to be our savior on gun reform. And he is not going to deliver swift action to keep our kids safe from mass shootings. The speech he made Friday to conservatives at the Conservative Political Action Conference made that clear.
When given the opportunity to stand in front of an audience of his supporters and call for real reforms that would have an effect, his answer was to double down on his call for more guns, including arming “well-trained, gun-adept teachers and coaches” with concealed weapons.
If this refrain sounds familiar, it’s because this is a position and an approach long called for by one of Trump’s top cheerleaders, the National Rifle Association. In fact, the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre expressed support for it the day before at the exact same conference.
“Every day young children are being dropped off at schools that are virtually wide open soft targets for anyone bent on mass murder …,” LaPierre said. “Schools must be the most hardened target in this country, and evil must be confronted immediately with all necessary force to protect our kids.”
The opponents of arming teachers with guns are none other than teachers, school administrators and law enforcement. Why? Because America’s problem with gun violence is not going to be addressed by pushing through an NRA-backed call for more guns in schools.
As for the other “reform” proposals Trump put forward this week, LaPierre likely ended the week quite proud of his apprentice. While promising action and convincing even some of his skeptics that he meant it, Trump managed to call loudly for not much of anything.
So what did he “propose”?
Comprehensive background checks sure sound good, but this would only mean tweaks to a completely broken system, and that would be the ineffectual proposal the NRA supports – not more sweeping criminal background checks of all individuals applying for gun ownership.
Bump stocks? Sure, we should ban bump stocks, as Trump has proposed. But when prominent gun control groups such as Everytown for Gun Safety basically shrug in response to this relatively small-bore proposal – and even the NRA isn’t overly exercised – it is pretty clear not the answer.
And as for raising the age at which it is legal to buy a gun, that is a reasonable proposal and one that most people may support. But would it get to the heart of the problem – widespread availability of guns in America? No.
The back-to-back CPAC speeches by LaPierre and Trump exposed more than just their common view on guns; it also highlighted their shared love and deep understanding of the use of fear. Of scaring people.
LaPierre told the CPAC crowd Thursday, “You should be anxious, and you should be frightened. If they seize power, if these so-called ‘European socialists’ take over the House and the Senate, and God forbid they get the White House again, our American freedoms could be lost and our country will be changed forever.”
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And the next day Trump followed LaPierre’s lead, ludicrously warning that Democrats would “take away your Second Amendment,” an election rallying cry the NRA has been funding for decades.
So how did Trump go from emotional host of the families of victims one day to NRA apprentice the next? The nearly $31 million the NRA contributed to his campaign and to oppose Hillary Clinton in 2016 gives a pretty clear hint as to Trump’s loyalties.
And his speech at CPAC confirmed he is not about to challenge his fear-mongering mentor and the NRA.