Former President Donald Trump is campaigning in South Carolina today and stopped in to visit our friends at Palmetto State Armory in Summerville. He picked up a Donald Trump edition pistol and announced, ‘I want to buy one!’ Of course, being under multiple federal indictments, he couldn’t pass the background check.
Trump could do worse than being seen at a gun store trying to shore up his support among gun owners. His time in office was a mixed bag for gun rights.
While he was supported by gun owners in the 2016 election and got significant backing from the NRA, later announcing that, “I like taking the guns early, like in this crazy man’s case that just took place in Florida … to go to court would have taken a long time…Take the guns first, go through due process second” didn’t make him any friends among gun rights supporters.
And then there was the bump stock debacle. He knew it was illegal. The ATF knew it was illegal. Diane Feinstein knew it was illegal. Everyone knew it was illegal (as court decisions have confirmed so far).
Given the climate at the time, following the Las Vegas shooting and with the realities in Congress at that moment, short-circuiting harder-to-challenge legislation by having the ATF issue a new ruling may have been the best option in terms of realpolitik. But that’s not how most gun owners remember it and the move left a bitter taste in a lot of gun owners’ mouths. That hasn’t lessened much in the intervening years.
But let’s not lose sight of what’s on the other side of the ledger. The Supreme Court appointments Trump made (with a lot of help from the Federalist Society, Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans) put the ideological infrastructure in place that gave us the landmark Bruen ruling. Not to mention the record number of appointments of federal judges that have transformed courts like the Ninth Circuit. Yes, Biden’s undoing some of that, but that’s how our politics work.
Those Trump judicial appointments laid the foundation for tearing down a huge portion of the gun control laws that are in place in America. It’s taken time since Bruen and will take years more, but it’s happening and the momentum (“assault weapons,” magazine capacity limits, adults under 21, waiting periods, bump stocks, cannabis users, and many, many more) is very much on the side of gun rights.
Trump campaigns in a gun store and is presented with a Glock semi-automatic handgun with his image on it. Ironic, being that under federal criminal indictment, it’s illegal for him to obtain, receive, or purchase a gun. pic.twitter.com/K3kfK3YZEV
— Mike Sington (@MikeSington) September 25, 2023
So all campaign rhetoric and photo ops aside, is Donald Trump a gun rights supporter? Not by most reasonable measures. But put up against the alternative at the time — Hillary Clinton — was he the best choice for those who care about the Second Amendment. There’s no question.
We live and vote in a Manichean world, not some kind of utopian ideal where you can cast your ballot for a candidate who’s objectively a good person, holds all the same values you do, supports the causes you care about and votes against all of the things you oppose. That candidate doesn’t exist. When you’re in the voting booth, you have to choose, more often than not, between the lesser of two evils. That’s the system we have to work with.
You may have to choke down some bile when you check that box, but you do the best you can with the choices you’re presented with. How else could someone like Donald Trump have been elected president in the first place?