Before departing for Dayton and El Paso in the wake of mass shootings in those cities, President Donald Trump tried to downplay expectations for any legislation that would actually help prevent future gun violence.
Trump did express support for expanding background checks for gun buyers, which as ThinkProgress reported earlier this week is a massive flip-flop from promises he previously made to gun lobbyists. But when asked about an assault weapons ban, Trump claimed that “there is no political appetite for that at this moment.”
“You could do your own polling, and there is no political appetite probably from the standpoint of legislature [sic] but I will certainly bring that up,” he said. “I’ll bring that up as one of the points.”
Contrary to Trump’s claim, new polling is not required to prove that he is generally wrong. As FiveThirtyEight points out, support for gun control measures can ebb and flow, but it is always far stronger in the wake of mass shootings — and has never sunk back to its levels from before the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Moreover, support for assault weapon bans has remained consistently high. According to Quinnipiac, for example, support for such a ban hasn’t fallen below 60% over the last three years. Gallup’s polling has asked a question that included a ban on the manufacturing of assault weapons and found slightly weaker support, but when in 2013 it asked about reinstating the assault weapons ban from the 1990s, it received a strong majority of support.
What is most dispiriting about Trump’s answer is the implication that he’s already given up on the idea of pushing for an assault weapons ban. He said he might “bring that up,” but he certainly didn’t indicate any belief that such a ban would be useful, even though almost every mass shooting uses the same semi-automatic weapons.
Even the Trump-friendly New York Post urged Trump this week to support an assault weapons ban. “It should not have to be this way. Mr. President,” the editorial board wrote. “Do something — help America live without fear. “