President Donald Trump has backed down from his apparent endorsement of modest gun control measures, but his flip-flopping has done little to allay the fears of some ardent backers of gun rights, who have vowed to make the NRA stronger than ever to combat what they see as an unprecedented “level of opposition.”
On Wednesday, Trump met with congressional Democrats and Republicans and appeared to back the idea of expanded background checks, age restrictions on buying certain weapons, and removing guns from the hands of the mentally ill.
But in a meeting with the NRA the next day, Trump seemed to backtrack, siding with the organization in what White House counselor Kellyanne Conway referred to as “broad agreement,” according to The New York Times.
Posting in TexasCHLForum.com, a message board, last week, NRA board member Charles Cotton expressed the near panic felt by many in the gun rights community at the prospect of even the tiniest rollback of their expansive freedom to carry whatever weapons they choose.
“We’ve never had this level of opposition before, not ever … It’s a campaign of lies and distortion, but it’s very well funded and they are playing on the sympathy factor of kids getting killed,” Cotton wrote in the run-up to the NRA’s meeting with Trump.
He was referring to the February mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School campus in Parkland, Florida, which resulted in the deaths of 17 students and teachers.
Cotton appeared outraged at the idea that bump stocks could be “taken away” and expressed concern that “the votes are probably there” in Congress to do so. Bump stocks are devices that, when attached to a firearm, are able to convert it to an automatic weapon.
He then issued a rallying cry to fellow gun lovers concerned over the prospect of laws that could put limits on the weapons they choose to carry.
“If you really want to make a difference, then start recruiting NRA members every single day. The NRA better be 15 million strong soon, or this is just going to get worse,” he wrote.
“The Parkland shooting was not the fault of the NRA or our 5+ million members. It was the fault of 1) the murderer; 2) the FBI; 3) cowardly Broward County Deputies, and 4) Broward County Sheriff [Israel],” Cotton added.
His comments reflect a widespread concern among NRA supporters, who view Trump’s inconsistency as a serious threat, especially as corporate pressure mounts against the organization and gun control advocates continue to push the administration to take action.
On ABC’s “This Week” Sunday, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) said failing to take action to stem the flood of guns in the United States — where the number of firearms roughly equals the number of people — could hurt the Republican Party in the 2018 midterm elections.
“If [Trump] and Republicans don’t start showing some moving in the wake of Parkland, there aren’t going to be as many Republicans around for him come 2019,” he said.