How President Trump's Views On Guns Have Shifted Over The Years

Oct 6, 2017
Originally published on October 6, 2017 7:24 pm
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President Trump says he is open to having a conversation about bump stocks. That's the accessory the Las Vegas gunman used to make his semi-automatic rifles fire in rapid bursts replicating an automatic weapon. The president's views on gun control have shifted over the years. But as NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith reports, he keeps returning to one basic idea.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: In 1999, Donald Trump was toying with the idea of running for president when he appeared on "Larry King Live" on CNN. Midway through the interview, King asked the businessman about his views on gun control.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: If you could take the guns away from the bad guys - and there are plenty of them out there - I'm all for it. But you can't. Now, if you have a law that says no guns, the people that are law-abiding are going to go by that law. But the bad guys aren't. So they're going to have all the guns, and the good guys aren't.

KEITH: This argument is one organizations like the NRA make regularly - that restrictions on guns only hurt the good guys. King later asked Trump about background checks with waiting periods for gun purchases.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "LARRY KING LIVE")

TRUMP: I favor you have to go through a process. But the fact is that the bad ones already have them. And they're not going to go through a process, either. They're not going to go through any process. Look, there's nothing I like better than nobody has them. But that's not going to happen, Larry.

KEITH: Eighteen years later, speaking at the National Rifle Association Leadership Forum, Trump was once again talking about bad guys not abiding by gun restrictions.

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TRUMP: When you ban guns, only the criminals will be armed.

KEITH: His earlier openness to gun regulations was completely erased.

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TRUMP: For too long, Washington has gone after law-abiding gun owners while making life easier for criminals, drug dealers, traffickers and gang members.

KEITH: Not long after the Larry King interview, in his book "The America We Deserve," published in 2000, Trump seemed to be charting a middle course between Republicans who he said walk the NRA line and Democrats who he claimed want to confiscate all guns. Quote, "I generally oppose gun control, but I support the ban on assault weapons, and I also support a slightly longer waiting period to purchase a gun," Trump wrote. But by 2016, as he was about to secure the GOP nomination, Trump was walking the NRA line.

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TRUMP: You know, they keep chipping away. They talk about the magazines. They talk about the bullets. We're going to - we're going to take care of it.

KEITH: This was Trump speaking in May 2016 to the NRA Institute for Legislative Action, the political arm of the National Rifle Association.

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TRUMP: The Second Amendment is on the ballot in November. The only way to save our Second Amendment is to vote for a person that you all know named Donald Trump, OK?

KEITH: By Election Day, the NRA had spent some $20 million in support of Trump and against his opponent, Hillary Clinton. Yesterday, the NRA released a statement urging a review of whether bump stock devices comply with federal law. Some Republicans in Congress had begun saying they should be banned. Last night, Trump was asked about it as reporters were ushered out of an unrelated photo op.

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TRUMP: We'll be looking into that over the next short period of time.

KEITH: What we can't know now is what Trump will decide when he looks into it. If his past views are a guide, he may conclude that a ban wouldn't stop bad guys from getting them anyway. Tamara Keith, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.