Trump's stance on gun regulation has evolved after series of mass shootings

The Trump administration has taken steps to curb gun violence

ByABC News
February 22, 2018, 9:55 PM

— -- In the aftermath of the Florida school massacre, President Trump has told grieving family members and teen survivors that "we're going to settle this all together."

Up until now, the president's actions have appeared to be geared to a promise he made at the National Rifle Association annual meeting in April: "You came through big for me, and I am going to come through for you."

"The 8-year assault on your Second Amendment freedoms has come to a crashing end," he said. "You have a true friend and champion in the White House."

Investigators work at the scene of a mass shooting at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, Nov. 5, 2017.

Since then, a gunman shot 58 people dead in October at an outdoor music concert in Las Vegas; a shooter walked into a rural Texas church in November and gunned down 26 worshipers; and on Feb. 14, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz allegedly shot 17 people dead at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

Since being elected president, Trump signed a bill rolling back an Obama-era regulation that made it harder for people with mental illnesses to purchase a gun. The regulation, recommended by Barack Obama in a memo in 2013, had required the Social Security Administration to send records of beneficiaries with mental disabilities to the FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check system.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting survivor Samuel Zeif, left, speaks to President Trump during a listening session with high school students and teachers, at the White House in Washington, Feb. 21, 2018.
Tom Brenner/The New York Times via Redux

One of the first actions Trump took as president was to appoint Neil Gorsuch, a strong supporter of the Second Amendment, to the U.S. Supreme Court. While serving on the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Gorsuch wrote in an opinion that “the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to own firearms and may not be infringed lightly.”

People run from the Route 91 Harvest country music festival after gun fire was heard on Oct. 1, 2017, in Las Vegas.

But the Trump administration has taken steps to curb gun violence.

In July, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a memorandum to prioritize firearm prosecutions, saying the number of defendants charged with unlawful possession of firearms jumped nearly 23 percent in the second quarter of 2017 compared to the same time period a year earlier, from 2,149 to 2,637.

Since the Parkland shooting, Trump has:

-- Said he will push comprehensive background checks with an emphasis on mental health.

-- Promised to work on raising the minimum age to purchase a gun to 21.

-- And on Tuesday, signed a memorandum recommending that Sessions propose regulations that would ban bump stocks, a weapon accessory that enabled the gunman in the Las Vegas concert massacre to turn semiautomatic weapons into virtual machine guns.

"Later this week when the president meets with the nation's governors in our nation's capital, we'll make the safety of our nation's schools and our students our top national priority," Vice President Mike Pence said today at the Conservative Political Action Conference. "I can assure you of this: President Trump and our entire administration will continue to take strong action to make our schools safe and give law enforcement and our families tools they need to deal with those struggling with dangerous mental illness."

Just before Pence spoke, Wayne LaPierre, vice president and chief executive officer of the National Rifle Association, accused gun-control advocates of exploiting the tragedy in Parkland.

"Our American freedoms could be lost and our country will be changed forever," LaPierre said. "And the first to go will be the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution."

He said more gun control laws are not what the country needs.

President Donald Trump arrives onstage to deliver remarks at the National Rifle Association Leadership Forum at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, April 28, 2017.
Jonathan Ernst/Reuters, FILE

"The truth is, laws succeed only when people obey them," he said. "That's what the law-abiding majority in this country practices, but once again, so many existing laws were ignored."

Just before LaPierre spoke, Trump posted a tweet that indicates he doesn't want to offend the NRA while trying to find a compromise on gun control.

"What many people don't understand, or don't want to understand, is that Wayne, Chris [Cox, executive director of the NRA Institute for Legislative Action] and the folks who work so hard at the @NRA are Great People and Great American Patriots," Trump tweeted. "They love our Country and will do the right thing. MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!"