Donald Trump Used to "Hate the Concept of Guns" - Has That Changed?Get the Full StoryIn the wake of the mass shooting in Las Vegas on Oct. 1, which left 59 people dead and more than 500 injured, the subject of gun control is once again at the forefront of conversation. But while President Donald Trump has described the attack as "an act of pure evil" and has praised the Las Vegas Police Department for their response, he has so far steered clear of the issue of gun laws, saying the nation "will be talking about guns as time goes by."
Trump even claimed he would support a total ban on firearms if "you could take the guns away from the bad guys."
Trump has expressed strong opinions about firearms in the past - and long before he embarked on his political career. The comments and statements compiled below reveal how his position on the issue has changed over the years. This evolution shows a clear shift to the right as his political career took off - while he still occasionally strayed from dominant Republican positions - and a general concern with adhering to the National Rifle Association NRA 's guidelines.
Before His Presidential Bid
Trump does not appear to have grown up with a particular affection for guns. To this day, he is more known for golfing than for hunting. His adult sons, Donald Jr. and Eric, are known for being avid hunters with a predilection for big game, but they were initiated into hunting by their maternal grandfather. In a January 2016 interview Trump gave to Outdoor Life as a presidential candidate, he said he has gone hunting with his sons although lack of time has prevented him from devoting much time to it and that he would love to do so again if elected president. This has yet to happen.
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Trump's position on firearms before he became a presidential candidate in 2015 appeared to be relatively moderate by current Republican standards. He did not seem to be personally fond of guns, but viewed them as a necessary defense against criminals. In a 1989 interview on MSNBC, Trump admitted to owning "a couple" of guns and added, "Now, I hate the concept of guns. I'm not in favor of it, except for one thing: the bad guys are going to have them." Trump even claimed he would support a total ban on firearms if "you could take the guns away from the bad guys."
In 2000, Trump published a book titled The America We Deserve, in which he outlined his political positions. In one passage, Trump seemed to support banning military-style assault weapons and endorse mild forms of gun control: "I generally oppose gun control, but I support the ban on assault weapons and I support a slightly longer waiting period to purchase a gun," he wrote. "With today's technology, we should be able to tell within 72 hours if a potential gun owner has a record."
In December 2012, Trump tweeted about Barack Obama's speech in reaction to the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School that killed 20 children and six adults: "President Obama spoke for me and every American in his remarks in #Newtown Connecticut." Obama's speech stopped short of directly calling for a revision of gun control laws, but made clear that the then-president believed certain changes needed to be made: "We can't tolerate this anymore," Obama said. "These tragedies must end. And to end them, we must change. We will be told that the causes of such violence are complex, and that is true. No single law, no set of laws can eliminate evil from the world or prevent every senseless act of violence in our society, but that can't be an excuse for inaction. Surely we can do better than this." By this point, Trump had been regularly expressing hostility for the sitting president, namely by questioning the authenticity of Obama's birth certificate, which makes his agreement with Obama on this issue at the time noteworthy.
President Obama spoke for me and every American in his remarks in #Newtown Connecticut.
- Donald J. Trump realDonaldTrump December 17, 2012
In 2013, Trump told radio host Howard Stern that laws needed to focus on purchasers' mental issues and past, implying he favored more extensive background checks.
During His 2015-2016 Presidential Campaign
Trump's positions on firearm policies appeared to begin to shift a few months before he announced his presidential bid in June 2015, though his framing of those positions echoed his long-held view of a "bad guys vs. good guys" conversation around guns in America. In the wake of the shooting at Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris in January 2015, Trump posted several tweets suggesting that France's strict gun laws had made it easier for the shooters to take down their victims: "If the people so violently shot down in Paris had guns, at least they would have had a fighting chance." Less than two weeks after the attacks, Trump also mocked the magazine for being "broke" and unsuccessful. This constitutes one of the many times Trump has echoed NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre's declaration after Sandy Hook that "the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun."
If the people so violently shot down in Paris had guns, at least they would have had a fighting chance.
- Donald J. Trump realDonaldTrump January 7, 2015
In September 2015, in the early stages of his electoral campaign, Trump published a memo on his campaign's website stating that the Second Amendment was "about self-defense, plain and simple." He wrote that the key to solving gun violence was to "get gang members and drug dealers off the streets" by cracking down on illegal gun ownership with a reference to the controversial Project Exile and praised the way guns allow law-abiding citizens to protect themselves, adding that he himself had a concealed carry permit. He also dismissed liberals' use of "scary-sounding phrases like 'assault weapons,' 'military-style weapons,' and 'high-capacity magazines'" as an attempt "to confuse people." He added that "law-abiding people should be allowed to own the firearm of their choice," thereby suggesting that he had changed his position on banning so-called assault weapons. Additionally, the memo mentioned the importance of fixing the mental healthcare system rather than gun laws.
In October 2015, Trump openly declared himself in favor of allowing Americans to purchase assault weapons, linking it to his previous belief that firearms constitute necessary protection against threats: "You have to be in favor because the bad guys are going to own them anyway," he told CNN. "What happens when the bad guys have the assault weapons and you don't in a confrontation?" He later confirmed his change of position again in March 2016, declaring, "I don't support it anymore. I do not support the ban on assault weapons."
In November 2015, in the wake of the terrorist attacks in Paris that killed 130 people, Trump made a public statement once again suggesting that the outcome would have been less tragic if gun laws were looser in France, echoing his tweets on the Charlie Hebdo shooting earlier that year: "When you look at Paris - you know, the toughest gun laws in the world, Paris - nobody had guns but the bad guys. You can say what you want, but if they had guns, if our people had guns, if they were allowed to carry, it would've been a much, much different situation."
In December 2015, Trump went against the dominant Republican stance when he declared that he would seriously consider banning people on the no-fly list from purchasing a firearm, despite being "very strong into the whole thing with Second Amendment." Most Republicans oppose this position, arguing that the no-fly list errs on the side of caution and includes many people who arguably do not represent a threat. Trump later reiterated his position in September 2016 during a presidential debate against Hillary Clinton.
After the Orlando nightclub shooting in June 2016, which killed 49 people, Trump - by then the presumptive Republican presidential nominee and officially endorsed by the NRA - made a speech in which he once again declared that, if someone other than the shooter had been armed that night, the killer could have been stopped. He echoed the "good guy with a gun" theory one more time: "And this son of a b tch starts shooting and one of the people in that room happened to have a gun , and goes boom. You know what? That would have been a beautiful, beautiful sight, folks."
He also claimed, "President Obama is trying to make terrorism into guns and it's not guns, folks. It is not guns; this is terrorism." However, after the NRA publicly pointed out that mixing guns and alcohol was not only a bad idea, but also illegal, Trump nuanced his intent in a tweet: "When I said that, if within the Orlando club, you had some people with guns, I was obviously talking about additional guards or employees."
When I said that if, within the Orlando club, you had some people with guns, I was obviously talking about additional guards or employees
- Donald J. Trump realDonaldTrump June 20, 2016
Gun Legislation Since Taking Office
Since being sworn into office in January 2017, Trump has taken little concrete action regarding gun regulations, except to lighten them. In February 2017, he quietly rolled back an Obama-era regulation that would have made it more difficult for people suffering from mental illness to purchase a firearm. The NRA applauded this decision.
In the wake of the Las Vegas shooting, he has avoided addressing gun control as a whole, but has declared himself open to the idea of banning "bump stocks," the device the shooter, Stephen Paddock, used to modify some of his firearms and make them comparable to fully automatic weapons. This ban has support from both Republicans and Democrats, as a bipartisan bill on the matter was issued on Oct. 10. Even the NRA has expressed support for stricter regulations on "bump stocks," although its leaders have stopped short of endorsing specific legislation.