Dan Janison has been a reporter at Newsday since 1997.
Many opponents of added gun controls clearly have nowhere else to go in the presidential election. Given their revulsion for the policies of Hillary Clinton, their only choice seemed to be Donald Trump.
So Trump last month captured an unusually early endorsement from the National Rifle Association. At its meeting in Louisville, top NRA lobbyist Chris Cox told his audience: “If your preferred candidate dropped out of the race, get over it.”
Now Trump finds his overall response to the Orlando massacre, carried out with a legally purchased AR-15, facing disapproval from a majority of Americans, according to a CBS poll.More coverageThe 1600: Follow the race for the next presidentMore coverageThe 2016 campaign: Complete coverage
And now, this newly minted politician looks to score points by reiterating his wish to ban gun sales to people on federal terror watch lists, as mass killer Omar Mateen had been.
Not too long ago, he supported longer waiting periods for gun purchases and an outright ban on so-called assault weapons. Then he changed his stance.
He also contributed to Clinton’s campaigns not too long ago before changing that stance, too.
On Wednesday, Trump the politician tweeted that he will meet with the NRA to discuss barring gun sales to those on federal terror watch lists.
It may not be that big a development.
Trump held the same position after the fatal attack in San Bernadino. Notably, his then-rival and current backer Chris Christie opposed such federal legislation, saying, “I think these are state-by-state determinations.”
But even if there’s no danger of his Second Amendment fans gravitating to Clinton, Trump will still want to stroke them. This week he tossed out the usual line that the tragedy could have been curbed by having “some guns in that club the night that this took place.”
On Tuesday, the NRA’s Cox called watch list gun bans “ineffective, unconstitutional or both.” But Fox News reported that Cox “clarified” Wednesday that he “believes that terrorists should not be allowed to purchase or possess firearms.”
That is, the NRA is willing to let Trump keep up appearances. Trump would undoubtedly like to look like a pragmatic dealmaker and principled advocate at the same time. Having it both ways is the politician’s dream.
This time he’s leaning toward the Democratic side of the congressional aisle. Is that risky? Maybe not, given his already shaky relations with the House and Senate GOP.
More importantly to Trump, it puts him back driving the media spotlight — propagating news reports that begin with what he just said or tweeted.
Not that any of this changes much in Washington, where Republicans were already discussing a watch list ban.
Gun issues, like immigration battles, have dragged on forever, and it remains to be seen if the latest carnage changes anything. The only difference for the moment is election drama.