President Donald Trump holds his notes while hosting a listening...

President Donald Trump holds his notes while hosting a listening session with student survivors of mass shootings, their parents and teachers in the State Dining Room at the White House on Feb. 21, 2018. Credit: Getty Images North America / Chip Somodevilla

A close-up photo showed President Donald Trump holding a handwritten cue card as he communed Wednesday with school-shooting survivors.

The card reminded him to say, “I hear you.”

Television requires preparation, but the presence of the card doesn’t matter in the bigger arena. In the end, the optics of his White House meeting with the bereaved turn out to be a positive for him politically.

As a searing piece of reality television, this emotionally-charged event featured Trump sitting respectfully alongside his guests. Photos of their brief prayer together got wide distribution. Videos showed him warmly shaking hands.

Trump listened. But he did not stay silent. “A gun-free zone to a maniac — because they’re all cowards — a gun-free zone is ‘Let’s go in and let’s attack because bullets aren’t coming back at us,’” he said at one point.

“We’re fighting hard for you. We will not stop. We will not stop,” he said. “We’re going to pick out the strongest ideas.” America could see Trump in the seat of authority, vowing to decide on the best course of action.

In terms of any relevant federal action on guns in schools, the jury remains out, as the president suggested.

Five months after the perpetrator of the Las Vegas massacre used a bump-stock to effectively turn his automatic weapon into a machine gun, the president urges their banning in the wake of the Florida catastrophe.

He spoke of improving the way background checks are conducted.

Substance aside, this White House conference gave the president a platform from which to recite his familiar theme that his predecessors had not uprooted a threat and he would change that.

Trump fans could credibly perceive the event as a display of democracy — meeting face-to-face with the people affected and soliciting their ideas.

Detractors and fans alike might just as arguably evoke the sense of a beneficent ruler granting an audience to bereaved subjects.

These visuals would prove useful to Trump. The next day, the message got more complicated as presidential ally Wayne LaPierre, leader of the National Rifle Association, slammed gun-control backers at the annual conservative conference CPAC.

Democratic politicians and national news media “hate the NRA, they hate the Second Amendment, they hate individual freedom,” he told his audience.

“They care more about control, and more of it. Their goal is to eliminate the Second Amendment and our firearms freedoms so that they can eradicate all individual freedoms.”

Logically, this prompts the question of whether the only choice is between the status quo and crushing the whole Bill of Rights.

Trump soon after tweeted that “great patriots” like LaPierre and his chief lobbyist Chris Cox “love our Country and will do the right thing,” whatever that means.

So far Trump’s messaging has had at least some impact.

On Gun Broker, a firearms auction platform, bump stock prices spiked this week, according to Bloomberg News. One listing, with a $399.99 price tag, said: “Get them while you can guys.”

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