There was no highly-publicized mass shooting in the United States in the last few days, so naturally, Donald Trump felt safe that not many people would notice his walk-back of the promise to support the closing of loopholes to ensure that every prospective gun purchaser undergoes a thorough background check.
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When the one-two-three punch of mass shootings at a Gilroy, California garlic festival, in an El Paso, Texas Walmart, and in a Dayton, Ohio entertainment district took place just two weeks ago, gun regulation reformers thought the time had finally arrived when public outrage would force recalcitrant Republicans to bend to the will of the majority of the nation and enact sensible gun laws.
For a few days, it looked like a real possibility as Trump told reporters that there was “tremendous support for common sense background checks” in Congress and that even the “grim reaper” of virtually all legislation, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, was on board.
A black cloud descended on their expectations yesterday, as Trump backtracked on his initial enthusiasm for tighter background checks, implying that the momentum for enacting any meaningful legislation to curb gun violence may have already dissolved with the passage of time
While speaking to reporters at his Bedminster, New Jersey golf vacation getaway, Trump acknowledged that Congress had been ruminating over various proposals after the public outcry over the spate of mass murders, but that his concern lay primarily with “mental health” issues.
Unfortunately, his statement wasn’t a recognition of his own apparent struggles in that area but was a plea to reinstitute “mental institutions”, which were largely phased out in favor of “deinstitutionalization” after such psychiatric asylums were found to often be dens of patient abuse rather than rehabilitation and care.
Trump told the reporters that he wasn’t looking at the mental facilities as a form of punishment but as treatment centers.
“I’m not talking about as a form of prison,” he said, “I’m saying for help.”
When pressed by a reporter to reiterate his earlier support for background checks, Trump dissembled.
“People don’t realize we have very strong background checks right now,” he said. “If you go in and buy a gun, you have to sign up. There are a lot of background checks that have been approved over the years. So I’ll have to see what it is,” he deferred while again mentioning the “big mental problem” in America.
When asked yet again about his own position on tightening background checks to eliminate loopholes for private sales, Trump replied, “I’m not saying anything.”
With the Senate still on summer recess, no movement on gun regulations already passed by the Democratic House is expected until the upper chamber reconvenes in the second week of September.
Unless we are unfortunate enough to experience another mass shooting between now and then, one can expect that the public pressure on McConnell and the Senate to act will only weaken making inaction even more likely.
Unless all of us take the time to call our elected representatives to insist that they pass legislation to limit gun violence, expectations for change should be tempered.
If any lesson is to be learned, it’s one that most of us learned long ago — nothing that Donald Trump says should be accepted as truth.
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Original reporting by Zack Ford at ThinkProgress.