He has broken his promises on background checks and red-flag laws.
A year after a mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, Donald Trump has abandoned the promises he made in its aftermath to address gun violence.
On Aug. 3, 2019, a right-wing extremist shot and killed 23 and injured 22 others at an El Paso Walmart, allegedly motivated by anti-immigrant and anti-Mexican hatred. A day later, a mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio, left nine more dead. Two days later, Trump vowed action.
"In the two decades since Columbine, our nation has watched with rising horror and dread as one mass shooting has followed another — over and over again, decade after decade," he said in a White House address.
"We must seek real, bipartisan solutions," Trump said. "We have to do that in a bipartisan manner. That will truly make America safer and better for all."
In the same speech, Trump backed federal action to address gun violence, expressly endorsing "red flag laws, also known as extreme risk protection orders" to temporarily remove weapons from those deemed a threat to themselves or others. "If we are able to pass great legislation after all of these years, we will ensure that those who were attacked will not have died in vain," he concluded.
That same day, Trump tweeted, "We cannot let those killed in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, die in vain. Likewise for those so seriously wounded. We can never forget them, and those many who came before them." He demanded: "Republicans and Democrats must come together and get strong background checks."
Over the next few days, Trump also repeatedly called for new laws to close background check loopholes. "Serious discussions are taking place between House and Senate leadership on meaningful Background Checks. I have also been speaking to the NRA, and others, so that their very strong views can be fully represented and respected," he tweeted on Aug. 9. "Guns should not be placed in the hands of mentally ill or deranged people. I am the biggest Second Amendment person there is, but we all must work together for the good and safety of our Country. Common sense things can be done that are good for everyone!"
But the National Rifle Association was not on board and reportedly told Trump to "stop the games." Trump quickly backed down, soon dropping the subject entirely. The pro-gun group endorsed Trump's reelection last month.
Since that time, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has refused to allow a vote on the bipartisan universal background check legislation that passed the House of Representatives last year. And in the year since El Paso, the Senate has not passed other major gun safety legislation either — even as coronavirus quarantines put many abuse victims in lockdown with their abusers and domestic abuse advocates urged immediate action.
Igor Volsky, co-founder and executive director of Guns Down America, observed in an interview on Monday that, since the El Paso shootings, there have been at least 175 more instances of gun violence in or around Walmart stores in the United States, according to the Gun Violence Archive. These have resulted in 47 deaths and 75 injuries.
With the administration and Senate refusing to act, Volsky said it is up to businesses to step up and act to stop gun violence in their communities.
"Over the last several years, major corporations have recognized that they have a responsibility to keep their customers and employees safe from gun violence. In the absence of political leadership, major American companies, which experience the consequences of our nation's lax gun laws on a daily basis, must lead our nation in helping build safer communities with fewer guns."
In an email, John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety, noted that in the year since the El Paso and Dayton shootings, "nearly 40,000 people have been killed by gun violence in America — and twice that many have been wounded — but Senate Republicans have still failed to act. This November, we will hold Trump and his allies accountable for their utter failure to keep us safe."
Shela Blanchard, a Moms Demand Action volunteer whose niece Monica was killed in the Dayton shooting, slammed the Senate for its failure to legislate.
"Sometimes I don't understand why they can't feel the pain we feel — because if they did, just for 60 seconds, there wouldn't be any gun safety bills dying on their desks while people continue to die in the streets. But if they won't act, then I can promise one thing: We won't stop fighting until we find leaders who will," she wrote in an email.
Christian Heyne, vice president of policy at the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, lamented that Trump and the Senate "have still failed at every turn to pass any legislation to meaningfully address gun violence in this country" in the past year.
"Regardless of two bipartisan bills the House of Representatives sent to the Senate in February 2019 and repeated national calls for meaningful action, the nation is less safe today because of the willful inaction from the White House and the Senate Majority Leader," he wrote in an email. "Nothing has resulted from Sen. McConnell's call for the Senate to engage in 'bipartisan discussions' to look for policies to prevent gun violence after the horrific events last August 3rd, showing yet again that his words are as hollow as thoughts and prayers are effective in stopping violence. We need these laws to help disarm hate and prevent tragedies like those in El Paso."
In a presidential proclamation on Saturday, Trump pledged to continue to ensure that gun rights are "never infringed upon."
"Since my first day in office, I have made clear that my Administration will always protect and defend the Second Amendment. We will continue to oppose those individuals and policies that attempt to tread on this essential and cherished liberty," he wrote.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.