During the White House news briefing on Monday, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders struggled to deal with a series of questions about President Trump’s new school safety proposal — one that contains precisely zero provisions opposed by the NRA, and that represents an about-face from what he said in the wake of the Parkland school shooting, when he met with survivors and vowed he’d work to raise the minimum age for purchasing assault weapons to 21.
The first gun-related question Sanders fielded was about whether “there’s a single thing in this proposal from the president that is not supported by the NRA.” The press secretary tried to dodge it with a bit of trickery, claiming that while Trump may not be endorsing an AR-15 minimum purchase age increase, he could still end up doing so it a new federal commission determines it’s a good idea.
Next, Sanders was asked why Trump called for the creation of the aforementioned commission to study gun violence in schools just hours after he mocked commissions of that sort during a rally in Pennsylvania.
“Less than 24 hours after ridiculing the idea of blue ribbon commissions — he said, ‘all they do it talk and talk and talk, and then two hours later they write a report’ — and then on this issue, a commission is okay? Why?” a reporter asked her.
Sanders again dodged, saying, “Look, the president doesn’t just have one piece of this plan. There are a number of things that he is pushing forward that are very tangible.”
Later, Sanders was asked about the disconnect between Trump’s comments call for the minimum age for assault weapons purchases to be raised during his meeting with Parkland survivors, and his new plan, which does not include any proposal to change purchase ages.
“The president, here in the White House, met with six students from Parkland, Florida, and said specifically that he would ‘go strong’ on the age limits. And this proposal doesn’t have the president stepping forward and demanding action on the age limits. Why is the president backing away from that promise to those six students?” a reporter asked.
Sanders’ response was that while the president personally supports raising the age, “We’re pushing forward on the things that have support.”
But as another reporter mentioned later, polling consistently shows upwards of 75 percent of Americans in favor raising the age for assault weapons purchases. Nonetheless, Trump tweeted earlier Monday that there is “not much political support (to put it mildly)” for the proposal.
….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).
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 12, 2018
Sanders dismissed the disconnect between Trump’s comments and the polling by claiming that his tweet referred to “Congress, who actually has the ability to make law — not online polls.”
Ironically, on February 22 — eight days after the Parkland shooting — Trump held a bipartisan meeting with members of Congress in which he chastized members for being owned by the NRA and asserted that he, by contrast, would not be intimidated. (The NRA spent $30 million to get Trump elected.)
“They do have great power, I agree with that,” Trump said during the meeting. “They have great power over you people. They have less power over me. What do I need?”
Despite his posturing, the next day Trump gave a speech at CPAC in which he parroted the NRA’s talking points.