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Opinion

Opinion: President Trump, America is still waiting for your improvements to gun laws

President Trump at Cincinnati rally
President Trump speaks during a campaign rally; word is internal White House discussions over toughening gun laws hinge on reelection politics, not public safety.
(Associated Press)

Two weeks after Donald Trump took the oath of office in January 2017, Briddell Barber, 27, allegedly became upset that another man was driving his girlfriend home from a Super Bowl watching party at a nightclub in Yazoo City, Miss., so he opened fire, killing four men outside the bar.

It was the first mass killing — defined as an incident in which at least four people were killed — in the U.S. under the Trump administration, an event for which, of course, the president bears no responsibility.

Previous presidents similarly have not been responsible for acts of mass gun violence that occurred during their time in office. But they, and the National Rifle Assn.- fearing Congress, do bear a collective responsibility for doing so little to confront gun violence in the U.S.

And it is a massive issue. Since Trump’s inauguration, 945 people have been killed and 3,713 wounded in 817 mass shooting incidents, in which at least four people were wounded or killed (a larger set than mass killings), according to data compiled by the Gun Violence Archive.

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And that atrocious level of gun violence is only a fraction of what we keep doing to ourselves in ones and twos and threes.

Since Jan. 1, 2017, at least 41,364 people have been killed and 81,145 people have been wounded by guns. And that doesn’t include suicides involving firearms, which far exceed the willful and accidental carnage.

In the aftermath of the mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton, Ohio, last month, Trump expressed willingness to bend a bit on his staunch opposition to gun control. Maybe enact some red flag laws, he said. Maybe do something about tightening the background check requirements.

So far, nothing but meetings and the usual leaks about internal discussions. I wrote 10 days ago that it has become clear that the president is afraid of the NRA and the possibility that if he does anything reasonable about reducing access to firearms by folks who shouldn’t have them, he’ll lose the support of the gun lobby and its most loyal followers.

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In fact, Politico has parsed the internal power struggle in the Trump White House over what the next step ought to be, or even if there should be one. One faction says even a slight expansion of background checks and red flag laws could cost Trump votes in crucial states like Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, which he barely won in 2016.

Another faction says backing modest improvements could help Trump retain some moderate suburban voters while declaring a win — gaining traction on a subject that bedeviled President Obama and other predecessors.

Note that none of those discussions involves the health and safety of the American people.

Because, we, the people, are an afterthought when it comes to politicians setting gun policy, something we all ought to remember in the voting booth.


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