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On February 21st, D.C. and Maryland high school students descended on the U.S. Capitol to put pressure on Congress to integrate stricter gun control laws. Hundreds of students were gathered for the event. Other students gathered across the country to protest the seemingly lax attitude from Congress about solving one of the country’s most glaring issues. While we’ve seen multiple protests and conversations after previous shootings, such as Sandy Hook, Orlando, and Las Vegas, the powerful voices of these students may have finally gotten through to Mr. Trump.
On Wednesday, the President called for a bipartisan meeting with representatives from Congress to discuss possible gun legislation. The President showed support for stronger background checks in gun purchases, raising the legal purchase age for all firearms to 21, and banning ‘bump stocks’, which convert semi-automatic firearms to fully automatic weapons.
Both Democrats and Republicans were stunned by Trump’s sudden change of heart concerning gun laws. Democrats took the opportunity to propose their ideas directly to the President and ensure they were included in the bipartisan bill. Senator Dianne Feinstein asked the President to consider banning assault weapons for civilians, to which he agreed.
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GOP senators were repeatedly silenced by Trump during the meeting. Senator Steve Scalise’s (R-LA) proposal to add concealed carry reciprocity to the bill was shut down, the President stating, “…if you add concealed carry to this, you’ll never get it passed.” Trump also took the time to address his party about the NRA. GOP senators received direct criticism from Trump for not addressing gun concerns to avoid the backlash from the NRA. The President even suggested seizing guns from the mentally-ill before due process, stating, “I like taking the guns early… take the guns first, go through due process second.”
Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) expressed doubts that Trump’s plan to pass a single, comprehensive bill would go through Congress all at once. Other Republicans doubted that the President would hold his new attitude about guns for long. Senator Ben Sasse (R-NE) has not changed his plans about gun laws going forward. “Strong leaders don’t automatically agree with the last thing that was said to them,” Sasse said in a statement. “We’re not ditching any constitutional protections simply because the last person the president talked to today doesn’t like them.”
A similar situation happened when legislators were debating over DACA. Democrats were hopeful that the President would support a bipartisan immigration bill after a similar meeting took place in early January. Trump even stated that the bill should be called a “bill of love”, and promised he would sign whatever they came up with. This tone quickly changed when he threatened a government shutdown and a veto to any bill that didn’t include certain measures. This led to no bill to replace DACA when it expires in a matter of days. Because of this, both Republicans and Democrats are both still unsure whether the President will stick to these new claims over the next few days.
Wildlife Biology student at Auburn, originally from Asheville, NC