Congressional Democrats let it be known to President Trump that they will not sign any gun control measure unless it includes universal background checks. This, say Democratic leaders, was the upshot of a Sunday phone call with the president. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) made their position public in a joint statement over the weekend saying anything less, “would not get the job done.”
The ultimatum is a bit peculiar, as it could potentially put Mr. Trump in the catbird seat. Doing nothing regarding gun control would more than satisfy his most stalwart, hard-core base.
But as talk of further legislating firearms in America has reached a fever pitch, the president’s position has been difficult to ascertain. Sensing a political hot potato, Trump has waffled in his public statements about federal laws that would force everyone in America who wants to purchase a firearm to undergo a new and likely rigorous process of evaluation. As well, should Congress pass such a measure, it could be thrown into the courts as a possible violation of the Second Amendment. Constitutional attorney and Liberty Nation Legal Affairs Editor Scott D. Cosenza points out that it may not matter in the long run:
“Many of the proposals tossed around are far afield of what has been allowed previously under our Second Amendment. I’m thinking especially of the proposals announced by those vying for the Democratic nomination for president. While no evidence exists to suggest that universal background checks will yield a safety benefit, courts haven’t shown such regulations much hostility at state and local levels.”
Should President Trump acquiesce to the demands of the Democratic leadership, they promised, “… a historic signing ceremony at the Rose Garden.” But glad-handing among the roses may be nothing more than a ticket to getting pricked by the thorns. There is no doubt the president’s consent to such a measure would hurt him among the most entrenched conservatives.
In a Pickle
An astute observer of politics, the president likely is aware of this conundrum which puts him in a vulnerable position. Should he agree to universal background checks, many on the right will be furious. Should he do nothing, those in the center – and these would be general election voters – may be dissatisfied with him as well. And those on the left were never going to vote for him anyway.
In a strictly political sense, Mr. Trump has nothing to gain by giving in to the threats made by Pelosi and Schumer. So, what if there is no bill to sign? That might serve to energize Mr. Trump’s base. And if he wants four more years with his hand on the presidential tiller, he’ll just say no.
But as the American people well know by now, Donald J. Trump has a bit of a mercurial streak in temperament. He’s tough to predict, with a willingness to brave uncharted waters and defy convention at times while taking inexplicable actions at others.
Perhaps there has been no other test of Trump’s political moxie as critical to his political aspirations as this one. As such he would be wise to consider his position carefully from every angle and make a move only when he is convinced it is the right thing to do. Giving in to the Democrats on an issue as near and dear as the Second Amendment to the hearts of many a conservative may very well be a perilous step that could result in the president signing his own political death warrant.