NEW YORK (AP) — Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump said Wednesday that he will be meeting with the National Rifle Association to discuss ways to block people on terrorism watch lists or no fly lists from buying guns as his party scrambles to respond in the aftermath of the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
Trump announced the meeting with a tweet, writing “I will be meeting with the NRA, who has endorsed me, about not allowing people on the terrorist watch list, or the no fly list, to buy guns.” He did not provide any details on the time or place of the meeting and his campaign did not immediately respond to requests for further information.
The NRA, one of the nation’s most powerful lobbying groups, responded in a statement.
“The NRA’s position on this issue has not changed. The NRA believes that terrorists should not be allowed to purchase or possess firearms, period,” said Chris Cox, the executive director of group’s Institute for Legislative Action, in the statement. “Anyone on a terror watch list who tries to buy a gun should be thoroughly investigated by the FBI and the sale delayed while the investigation is ongoing.
“At the same time, due process protections should be put in place that allow law-abiding Americans who are wrongly put on a watchlist to be removed,” Cox said.
Trump’s declaration comes days after a mass shooting in Orlando in which the gunman, Omar Mateen, invested twice by the FBI, had been on the government’s terrorist watch list for 10 months before being removed. The shooting, which left 49 dead, has renewed the debate over gun control regulations, with several leading Democrats — including Trump’s likely general election foe, Hillary Clinton — calling for people on the federal lists to be barred from purchasing firearms.
Mateen was added to a government watch list of individuals known or suspected of being involved in terrorist activities in 2013, when he was investigated for inflammatory statements to co-workers.
But Trump’s suggestion on stopping purchases by suspects on the terrorism watch list or no fly list wouldn’t have stopped Mateen from buying a gun since he’d been pulled from the watch list roughly two years ago, and there’s no mechanism in place to bar an individual who was previously on such a list from purchasing a firearm. Rep. Adam Schiff said this week that he wants to explore the potential for a system that would trigger an alert when someone who was previously on a terrorism watch list wants to buy a gun
Trump frequently declares that he is one of the nation’s biggest supporters of the 2nd Amendment, which guarantees the right to bear firearms, and he often warns his supporters that Clinton aims to take away their guns.
But his suggestion to prohibit those on the lists from getting the guns, though out of step with many leading Republicans, is not entirely new for the celebrity businessman. In an interview on ABC in November after a terror attack in Paris, George Stephanopoulus asked “Mr. Trump, yes or no, should someone on the terror watch list be allowed to buy a gun?”
Trump replied, “If somebody is on a watch list and an enemy of state and we know it’s an enemy of state, I would keep them away, absolutely.”
Speaking at a rally in Atlanta Wednesday afternoon, Trump made no mention of meeting with the NRA but talked about the benefits of armed citizens.
“I’m going to save your Second Amendment,” he told the crowd, arguing that, had the victims of the Orlando and Paris shootings had been armed, the carnage would have been minimized.
But the position he took Wednesday breaks from the NRA, which denounced any possible ban just the day before.
“Restrictions like bans on gun purchases by people on ‘watch lists’ are ineffective, unconstitutional, or both,” the NRA tweeted Tuesday. The NRA has maintained previously that it “does not want terrorists or dangerous people to have firearms,” claiming that “any suggestion otherwise is offensive and wrong.”
On Capitol Hill, Democrats are determined to force a tough election-year vote on Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s proposal that would let the government bar sales of guns and explosives to people it suspects of being terrorists, a measure opposed by the NRA.
Last December, a day after the San Bernadino shootings left 14 dead, Senate Republicans led the way in rejecting that proposal by Feinstein, D-Calif.
That same day, the Senate also fell short of the necessary votes for a rival plan by Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, that would let the government delay firearms sales to suspected terrorists for up to 72 hours. Under that proposal, the transaction could be halted permanently if federal officials could persuade a judge to do so during that waiting period.
The NRA has backed Cornyn’s plan. Some Democrats and gun-control advocates have criticized it for not going far enough.
Colvin reported from Atlanta. Additional reporting by Donna Cassata in Washington.