POST TIME: 2 March, 2018 00:00 00 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 1 March, 2018 11:40:26 PM
Trump at odds with Republican lawmakers over gun reforms

Trump at odds with Republican lawmakers over gun reforms

US President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with bipartisan members of Congress on school and community safety in the Cabinet Room of the White House on Wednesday in Washington, DC. AFP Photo

US President Donald Trump has stunned lawmakers from both parties by telling them in a live broadcast not to be so "petrified" of the powerful gun lobby the National Rifle Association (NRA), reports BBC from Washington.

In a break from his party's stance on gun control, Mr Trump urged lawmakers to come up with a "strong" reform bill.

He suggested expanding background checks for gun buyers and raising the legal age to buy rifles to 21 from 18. His comments come in the wake of the deadly school shooting in Florida.

"I want you to come up with a strong bill - and really strong on background checks," Mr Trump told lawmakers at the White House on Wednesday, pushing them to work together on bipartisan legislation.

He said the NRA has "great power over you people", but that the lobby has "less power over me”. Mr Trump’s change of tack on gun control left Republicans “a bit unsettled”, CNN reported.

The Republican party supports the right of individuals to own guns, seeing most restrictions as an infringement of the second amendment to the US constitution, which governs the right to bear arms.

 “Take the guns first, go through due process second,” Mr Trump said, suggesting police officers be given the power to seize guns from anyone who could pose a threat, including the mentally ill, without a court order.

“We can’t wait and play games and nothing gets done,” he added.

He called for tighter restrictions on gun sales to young adults and for background checks to be expanded for all weapons purchases, including at gun shows and online.

The president repeatedly stated his support for increasing armed security at schools, arming teachers and reducing “gun-free zones”.

“It would be so beautiful to have one bill that everybody can support, as opposed to - you know - 15 bills, everybody’s got their own bill,” Mr Trump said.

He also warned lawmakers against proposing a bill that included concealed carry across the US, a provision that Republicans and the NRA have aimed to include in any gun legislation.

Mr Trump has already signed an order to ban bump-stock devices, which enable a rifle to shoot hundreds of rounds a minute.

His latest comments at the hour-long summit with Democrats and Republicans are at odds with a president who has been vocal about protecting the second amendment and has received campaign support from the NRA.

Many Republican lawmakers distanced themselves from Mr Trump’s comments.

“We’re not ditching any constitutional protections simply because the last person the president talked to today doesn’t like them,” said Republican Senator Ben Sasse, who was not at the meeting.

Florida Senator Marco Rubio said the proposed reforms might not have prevented the school attack in his state in which 17 people were killed, which was not “conducted by someone who bought a gun at a gun show or parking lot”.

John Cornyn, the top Senate Republican who sat next to the president at the meeting, said he thought it was “fascinating television” but that it was “surreal to actually be there”.

Mr Trump’s statements on gun control have changed before.

In the 1990s and early 2000s he expressed support for a ban on some automatic weapons. But as he approached the nomination of the Republican Party as its candidate for presidency, he fell more within the fold of the party’s views.

Mr Trump was also endorsed by the NRA in his 2016 presidential campaign.

The man who suggested that if his opponent had been elected “you’d be handing in your rifles” endorsed taking guns away from people of questionable mental fitness and worrying about due process later.