Will he or won’t he?
President Donald Trump hinted Tuesday that he might step into the controversial debate over gun control in the aftermath of the Las Vegas massacre.
At the same time, Trump’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon fired a warning shot, telling Axios that Trump risks losing his base of supporters should he consider anything that looks like a gun control measure, bipartisan or otherwise.
“Impossible: will be the end of everything,” Bannon, back with Breitbart News, told Axios’ national political reporter Jonathan Swan when asked whether he could imagine Trump pivoting left.
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Trump has made it clear he is an ally to the gun lobby, telling folks attending the National Rifle Association convention in April they have a “true friend and champion in the White House.” He was the first sitting president to address the group since 1983.
While Trump allies are “mostly sure” he’ll resist contemplating new gun measures because he owes too much to the NRA and its supporters, Swan wrote, “even some of them aren’t 100 percent sure.”
Trump opened the door to speculation with a quick, throwaway comment to the media as he left to visit hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico on Tuesday.
“What happened in Las Vegas is in many ways a miracle,” Trump told reporters. “The police department has done such an incredible job, and we’ll be talking about gun laws as time goes by.”
Some took that as a hint that Trump might be willing to work with Democrats on the hot-button issue, as he did in striking a debt limit deal with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
On Monday Pelosi urged House Speaker Paul Ryan to create a Select Committee on Gun Violence to craft “common sense legislation” and called on the Republican majority to take up a bill expanding mandatory background checks for gun owners.
But more than 20 sources inside and outside the White House told Swan that Trump isn’t likely to work with Democrats on the matter of guns.
“Most say they can’t imagine him doing a Chuck-and-Nancy deal on gun control,” Swan wrote.
White House talking points circulated to Trump allies — published Tuesday by The Washington Examiner — support the unlikeliness of that scenario as well.
The memo instructs Republicans to reject any talk about new gun laws that would “curtail the freedoms of law abiding citizens.”
Trump welcomes “a reasoned and well-informed debate on public safety,” but he holds fast to the view that the Second Amendment “is a key constitutional right that is meant to protect people’s freedoms,” the leaked memo reads.
Trump believes “the right to bear arms must be protected while maintaining public safety,” the memo says.
It tells Republicans what to say in responding to renewed calls for gun control.
“When it comes to gun control, let’s be clear: new laws won’t stop a mad man committed to harming innocent people. They will curtail the freedoms of law abiding citizens.”
“We’ve seen terrorist attacks committed with knives, by people driving cars into crowds, and hijacking airplanes ...”
“We’ve had examples where concealed carry has allowed people to protect themselves and stop a mass shooting in its tracks, such as last month in a church in Texas ... more laws on the books may not work.”
Trump is “the key to unlocking anything that could happen on gun control,” one senior Democratic aide told CNN. “If Republicans are going to move, it’s because he makes them.”
One of Swan’s sources suggested that Trump might be swayed by the visuals of “hundreds of severely injured young people.” He and first lady Melania Trump went to Las Vegas on Wednesday.
“The rational route to take would be to let the investigation play out to see if any new laws could’ve prevented this,” the source said. “I’m 100 percent Second Amendment, but … people who had their brains blown out is enough to make anyone with a heart consider anything to prevent this.”