On Wednesday afternoon at the White House, President Donald Trump held a brainstorming session on gun legislation with members of Congress.
That wasn’t all that unusual. After all, in the wake of the murders of 17 people at a Florida high school two weeks ago, the national debate has centered on what – if anything – legislators can do about gun violence.
What was weird about the meeting was that Trump allowed the press to stay and watch as he bantered with Democratic and Republican senators and House members about possible solutions to the current stalemate over what to do on guns.
The scene made for remarkable television as Trump routinely broke with Republican orthodoxy to push for a comprehensive bill that might deal with strengthening the current background check system and maybe even raising the minimum age to buy certain kinds of semi-automatic weapons.
It was Trump as the consummate performer, keeping everyone on their toes with his unexpected twists and turns. It was, in the words of Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn, “fascinating television” and “surreal.”
I scoured the transcript of the gun session and picked out 43 of Trump’s most memorable lines. They’re below, in the order he uttered them.
1. “We can really get there, but we have to do it.”
Well, I’m convinced!
2. “I see some folks that don’t say nice things about me, and that’s OK.”
So, so true. Not everyone is going to like you in this life. Also, one more bit of advice: You can pick your friends and you can pick your nose. But you can’t pick your friend’s nose.
3. “If you turn that into this energy, I’ll love you. I don’t care.”
I don’t care either. And, I love you too.
4. “You’ve got to have defense, too. You can’t just be sitting ducks.”
This line has emerged as a major part of Trump’s views on guns in the last few weeks. That arming the good guys is the best way to prevent the bad guys from doing so much damage. There is a long-running and hugely contentious debate as to whether Trump’s contention – more guns of law-abiding citizens – actually prevents or even lessens violence. One thing we can all agree on: The best defense is a good offense. Or something.
5. “I’m looking at a number of the folks around the table, and you’re working on different bills. We have to get them done.”
All of them?
6. “I’m the biggest fan of the Second Amendment. Many of you are. I’m a big fan of the NRA.”
Look, a lot of you guys like the NRA. But not like I like the NRA, OK? Believe me.
7. “I had lunch with them – with Wayne and Chris and David, on Sunday”
First name basis.
8. “We got to stop this nonsense. It’s time.”
This is a big deal if Trump means it. As in, is he willing to go against the NRA’s priorities and push like hell – in the House especially – for some more comprehensive gun reforms?
9. “Certain ideas sound good, but they’re not good.”
Like taking your 9-year-old to an indoor skydiving place for his birthday. I mean, hypothetically speaking, of course.
10. “It would be so beautiful to have one bill that everybody could support as opposed to, you know, 15 bills – everybody has got their own bill.”
Um, a few things: a) “so beautiful” b) Trump is advocating for a comprehensive gun bill here c) congressional Republicans would NEVER go for this.
11. “It’s idealistic, it’s wonderful, it’s a beautiful thing.”
Evergreen Trump quote.
12. “I’m going to write the bump stock; essentially, write it out. So you won’t have to worry about bump stock.”
This was news to everyone in that room – and everyone watching on TV. Now, Trump has to, you know, do it.
13. “‘Fix NICS’ has some really good things in it, but it would be nice if we could add everything onto it.”
Again, this is Trump advocating for a more rather than less comprehensive bill on guns. Sit with that.
14. “And maybe you change the title, all right? The US background check bill or whatever.”
Trump is big on names and message sending. Remember that he was a big advocate for getting “tax cuts” and “jobs” in the formal title of the tax bill. (He also proposed calling it the “Cut, Cut, Cut” bill.)
15. “Maybe we could make it much more comprehensive and have one bill instead of 15 different bills that nobody knows what’s happening.”
Comprehensive. Three times. Republican president.
16. “You went through a lot of Presidents and you didn’t get it done. You have a different President.”
Remember how much Trump is motivated by his desire to be the first or the best to do something. One of the prime drivers of his desire to get something done on guns is that President Barack Obama failed to enact meaningful change into law following the 2012 school shooting at Sandy Hook elementary school in Connecticut.
17. “It’s time that a President stepped up, and we haven’t had them.”
18. “One bill is nicer than having seven bills.”
And that makes four mentions by a Republican president of his desire to have a more comprehensive bill.
19. “Number one, you can take the guns away immediately from people that you can adjudge easily are mentally ill, like this guy.”
Not legally, you can’t. At least not right now.
20. ‘I’d just like to ask Joe and Pat. In your bill, what are you doing about the 18 to 21?”
Trump quizzing Pat Toomey, R-Pennsylvania, and Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, on their bipartisan bill, which failed to make it to a final floor vote in 2013. I don’t know if I am more surprised that Trump doesn’t seem to know the details of the bill or that he is advocating – again – for potentially raising the age to buy a rifle. Actually, I am much more surprised at the latter.
21. “And I’m a fan of the NRA. I mean, there’s no bigger fan. I’m a big fan of the NRA.”
Big fan. Biggety-big fan. The biggest.
22. “You know why? Because you’re afraid of the NRA, right?”
Ah ha ha ha ugh. This was a Trump jibe at Toomey for not including raising the age to buy a rifle from 18 to 21 in the bipartisan bill. It was funny – except if you are Pat Toomey.
23. “I think it’s a position. It’s a position.”
Is it a position or not? I can’t live in the kind of limbo!!
24. “If he knew there was offensive power inside, of the 14 events, probably none of them would have happened, which is an important point for people to understand.”
Again, there’s lots and lots of conflicting evidence about whether or not good guys with guns either prevent or mitigate mass casualty shooting events.
25. “Texas, as an example, is very much as to what I’m saying.”
26. “I think that some states are different.”
Fact Check: True!
27. “It’s the best we’ve ever done, too. By far.”
It’s not clear to me from the context what Trump is referring to here. But I guess it doesn’t matter because, whatever it was, it was the best ever.
28. “Big (inaudible).”
My favorite line. I don’t know if it’s the “big” or the (inaudible).” Maybe it’s just how they work together. Like peanut butter and chocolate.
29. “We’re going to get it passed. We’re going to get it passed.”
[Narrator voice]: They might not get it passed.
30. “You’ll never get this passed. If you add concealed carry to this, you’ll never get it passed.”
A Republican president telling a member of the House Republican leadership that an element of a gun bill that allows reciprocity for conceal-and-carry permits is a poison pill for a larger gun bill. Remarkable. And not wrong.
31. “The video games, the movies, the Internet stuff is so violent. It’s so incredible.”
Agree wholeheartedly. Lots of awful stuff that young kids are being exposed to in ways they never were when I was growing up – and certainly not when Trump was growing up.
32. “Some of you people are petrified of the NRA. You can’t be petrified.”
Trump is 100% right about how some politicians live in fear of the NRA. And, that fear is justified politically speaking. The NRA has lots of legislative and political swat and have shown over the years they’re not afraid to use it.
33. “Look, you’re not going to get concealed carry approved.”
A remarkable admission from a Republican president staring at a Republican-controlled House and a Republican-controlled Senate.
34. “Take the guns first, go through due process second.”
Well, you could do that. I mean, it would be illegal. But, you could do it.
35. “I like that much better, having a comprehensive bill.”
I had not heard that before!
36. “It would really be nice to create something that’s beautiful, that works.”
I feel like Trump may not totally grasp the definition of the word “beautiful.”
37. “I like it together better.”
38. “I like a merger because I think the merger works out better.”
39. “Fox News does a very good job, relatively speaking.”
Because, of course.
40. “If we can come up with something that’s very strong, very heavy with mental illness, very heavy, and everything.”
Trump requirements regarding mental illness in a gun bill:
- Very strong
- Very heavy
41. “I’m not into popularity, I’m into getting something done that’s good.”
42. “If you could all get together and we could put it in one great piece of legislation.”
If you’re counting – and I am – that’s the sixth time a Republican president has pushed for a comprehensive bill on guns in this meeting alone.
43. “I’d rather have you come down on the strong side instead of the weak side.”
To summarize: Strong > Weak