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Trump Tweet Injects More Confusion into His Actual Gun Control Stance


This morning, President Donald Trump tweeted the following in response to Wednesday’s school shooting in Parkland, Florida, which left seventeen people dead:

Trump seems to be advocating a citizen alert system whereby people who think someone they know is getting squirrely should report that person’s behavior to the “authorities.” He doesn’t say which “authorities” should receive such reports. He doesn’t explain which law would grant the “authorities” power to act. We’ll explore that in a moment.

First, though, what’s confusing here is that almost exactly one year ago, Trump signed a bill wiping away regulations from the era of President Barack Obama which made it harder for people with mental illnesses to get guns. That bill, which was announced by being buried at the bottom of this press release, wiped away an Obama response to the Sandy Hook school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. The bill passed the House and the Senate along a mostly party-line vote.

Trump’s 2017 legislative act could itself be seen as a contradiction of an even earlier statement about the shootings of two journalists on live television in Roanoke, Virginia, in which Trump said the shooting “isn’t a gun problem, this is a mental problem,” according to an interview with CNN at the time. Back then, Trump said the Virginia shooter should have been “institutionalized” and that “people close to him should have seen” that violence would possibly erupt.
“I guarantee you there are a couple of people that knew this man that did the killing yesterday that probably said, ‘Wow he’s really got problems I mean he really should be institutionalized,'” Trump told CNN.

In the same interview, and with reference to the Virginia shooting, Trump told CNN that “so many things” can be done about mental health issues. Legislating something surrounding guns, apparently, isn’t one of them, as he said he was a “very strong Second Amendment” person and told CNN that changing the nation’s gun laws should not be a response to the Virginia shooting.

Trump’s statements on the Florida shooting are shaping up to be consistent, almost word-for-word, with his statements on the Virginia shooting. Legislatively, his critics could accuse him of saying one thing and legislating another, but that might be a result of miscommunication rather than a flat-out flip-flop by the president.

This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.

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Aaron Keller is an attorney licensed in two states. He holds a juris doctor degree from the University of New Hampshire School of Law and a broadcast journalism degree from Syracuse University. During law school, he completed legal residencies in the Office of the New Hampshire Attorney General and in a local prosecutor’s office. He was employed as a summer associate in the New Hampshire Department of Safety, which manages the state police, and further served as a summer law clerk for a New York trial judge. Before law school, Keller worked for television stations in New York and in the Midwest, mostly as an evening news anchor and investigative reporter. His original reporting on the Wisconsin murder of Teresa Halbach was years later featured in the Netflix film "Making A Murderer."