President Donald Trump said this week law enforcement should take guns away from potentially dangerous individuals and worry about due process rights later.
The president’s comments came during an exchange with Vice President Mike Pence in a televised meeting with lawmakers at the White House Wednesday. Pence said some states, including his own Indiana, have enacted violence protection orders allowing families to request police confiscate guns from loved ones displaying signs of mental instability.
“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 the firearms but any weapons,” he said.
“Or Mike, take the firearms first and then go to court,” Trump said, noting legal proceedings involve extended periods of time incompatible with the ultimate goal of separating dangerous people from their firearms. “I like taking the guns early, like in this crazy man’s case that just took place in Florida. He had a lot of firearms. They saw everything. 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.”
The statement bewildered gun rights groups and conservatives in Congress, marking yet another departure from one of Trump’s most influential campaign donors, the National Rifle Association.
“I think everybody is trying to absorb what we just heard,” Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn told NPR Wednesday. “He’s a unique president and I think if he was focused on a specific piece of legislation rather than a grab bag of ideas then I think he could have a lot of influence, but right now we don’t have that.”
Cornyn’s Fix NICS Act is just one of the many legislative proposals the president has thrown his support behind — at least partially — in an effort to “do something” after the Valentine’s Day massacre in Parkland, Florida.
Other Trump-approved measures include expanding background checks, banning bump stocks, outlawing rifles sales to anyone under 21, “hardening” schools and arming teachers. He told lawmakers he isn’t afraid of the NRA, like other Republicans.
“They have great power over you people,” he said. They have less power over me … Some of you people are petrified of the NRA. You can’t be petrified.”
The NRA stood alone as the first political organization to throw its support behind Trump during the 2016 election. The organization spent more than $30 million branding the president as a protector of the Second Amendment and the only candidate capable of preserving the conservative majority on the Supreme Court.
Trump responded in kind after his electoral victory, choosing conservative, gun-friendly Neil Gorusch for the high court seat while also nominating more than a dozen conservative judges to fill vacancies in federal district courts nationwide.
The NRA’s influence over Trump’s judicial nominees angered gun control groups and congressional Democrats. The Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence even sued the administration in December over its dealings with the gun lobby, its “radical gun agenda and absolutist view of the Second Amendment.”