The White House on Monday defended its piecemeal approach to combating gun violence and insisted President Donald Trump hasn’t entirely abandoned the idea of raising the minimum age for purchasing guns, hours after the President said there was “not much political support” for the initiative.
“Right now, the President’s primary focus is on pushing through things that we know have broad bipartisan support,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said. “But we haven’t let go of some of those other things that we’re going to continue to review and look at.”
Sanders said “the door isn’t closed” on a White House push for raising the age of gun purchases to 21 at the federal level, even as the White House kicked consideration of the issue to a commission to be led by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. The White House’s proposal on Monday focused largely on measures backed by the National Rifle Association, such as arming teachers and a bill to modestly improve background check reporting.
Hours earlier, Trump defend his administration’s newly unveiled gun and school safety proposals, specifically his walkback of support for raising the age limit for some firearm purchases.
“On 18 to 21 Age Limits, watching court cases and rulings before acting. States are making this decision. Things are moving rapidly on this, but not much political support (to put it mildly),” Trump tweeted.
The White House’s proposal represented a shift from a President who just 10 days earlier floated his support for the change and other more significant gun law reforms, promising he would be willing to risk political capital to push legislation forward.
“I think we’ll have a great bill put forward, very soon, having to do with strong background checks … and perhaps we’ll do something on age because it doesn’t seem to make sense that you have to wait until you are 21 years old to get a pistol, but to get a gun like this maniac used in the school, you get that at 18,” he told Fox News in an interview that aired February 24. “That doesn’t make sense.”
Sanders insisted Monday that Trump “still supports raising the age limit to the age of 21 for the purchase of certain firearms” and said the administration had simply decided to begin by focusing on legislation that could win support in the Republican-held Congress. But that’s a far cry from Trump’s promises to lead the way on passing significant federal legislation.
“He hasn’t backed away from any of these things at all,” Sanders said. “But he can’t make them happen with a broad stroke of the pen. You have to have a congressional component to do some of these things.”
There were no signs Monday of Trump’s plans to support broader legislation, which he signaled his support for just weeks earlier.
Sanders declined to say whether Trump supported the Manchin-Toomey bill that would close background check loopholes involving online and private sales, saying only the White House will “consider other options beyond” the proposals it is already backing.
The National Rifle Association on Friday sued the state of Florida after Republican Gov. Rick Scott signed Senate Bill 7026 into law, the first gun control legislation enacted in the state after the Parkland school massacre on February 14.
The NRA has not yet commented on the White House proposals.
Trump also touted tenets of his policy including strengthening background checks and providing some school personnel with “rigorous” firearms training.
“Very strong improvement and strengthening of background checks will be fully backed by White House. Legislation moving forward. Bump Stocks will soon be out. Highly trained expert teachers will be allowed to conceal carry, subject to State Law. Armed guards OK, deterrent!”