Trump blasts senators for being ‘petrified of the NRA,’ endorses civil asset forfeiture for guns

WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 28: U.S. U.S. President Donald Trump (L) speaks as Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) (R) listens during a meeting with bipartisan members of the Congress at the Cabinet Room of the White House February 28, 2018 in Washington, DC. President Trump held a meeting with lawmakers to discuss school and community safety. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Leon Wolf

Continuing his aggressive push for gun control in the wake of the Parkland, Florida, school shooting, President Donald Trump seemed to propose a measure that would allow local law enforcement to confiscate guns from citizens in the absence of a criminal conviction, flatly ruled out any legislation that included nationwide concealed carry, and blasted senators who opposed his proposals for being “petrified of the NRA.”

What happened?

In a stunning meeting with a bipartisan group of lawmakers, Trump declared that he had told key NRA members (including Wayne LaPierre and Chris Cox) during a Sunday lunch that “we’ve got to stop this nonsense.”

Trump openly confronted the NRA and Republican politicians throughout the meeting, including during a discussion of his proposal to increase the minimum legal age to purchase certain rifles like the AR-15.

Trump acknowledged that the NRA was opposed to the proposal, then turned to Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Penn.), who has co-sponsored gun legislation that is pending before the Senate, and asked Toomey whether his bill addressed the age limit. When Toomey responded, “We didn’t address it, Mr. President,” Trump responded, “You know why, because you’re afraid of the NRA, right?”

On another occasion, responding to skepticism from Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) about whether any gun control legislation could make it through the Senate due to the influence of the NRA, Trump said, “They [the NRA] do have great power, I agree with that. They have great power over you people. They have less power over me. I don’t need it. What do I need? … Some of you people are petrified of the NRA. You can’t be petrified.”

In response to a question from Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), who was injured in a shooting at a practice for the congressional baseball game last year, Trump stated that, although he might like to see nationwide concealed carry legislation passed, he opposed its inclusion in any current gun control bill, because “if you add conceal carry to this, you’ll never get it passed.” He later added that “Amy and Dianne”  — presumably, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) — would be opposed to such a measure.

Perhaps most alarming to gun rights advocates, Trump appeared to endorse a program similar to civil asset forfeiture, wherein law enforcement would be able to confiscate guns from citizens on something like a “reasonable basis” standard, and then force citizens to go to court to prove that they should be legally entitled to get their guns back.

Vice President Mike Pence was discussing giving local law enforcement additional tools to confiscate guns from threats like alleged Parkland shooter Nikolas Cruz. Pence emphasized that such a program should “allow due process, so no one’s rights are trampled, but the ability to go to court, obtain an order, and then collect not only firearms but any weapons in the possession of that individual.”

At this point, Trump interrupted and said, “Or Mike, take the firearms first and then go to court, because that’s another system. Because a lot of times by the time you go to court to get the due process procedures… I like taking the guns early. Like in this crazy man’s case that just took place down in Florida…. to go to court would have taken a long time. So you could do exactly what you’re saying, but take the guns first, go through due process second.”

He also promised during the meeting that he would outlaw bump stocks “quickly,” although there are open questions about whether he has the authority to do so via executive order.

It is not immediately clear when or if the Toomey bill, which is cosponsored by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), will reach the Senate floor for debate.