Fake news? Or is there actual merit to the claim that Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) believes he will be able to work together with the Trump administration to pass gun control reform?
Well, first, the source. In a lengthy story, titled, “Trump vs. Congress: Now What?” published by The New York Times Magazine, journalist Robert Draper wrote the following with respect to a discussion between Manchin and Trump:
Later that month, Manchin went on “Morning Joe” — the one show on MSNBC that Trump has been known to watch — to discuss, on the occasion of the fourth anniversary of the Newtown school massacre, the need to expand background checks on gun purchases. Within an hour after Manchin was offscreen, his cellphone rang. It was Trump. Manchin was not completely forthcoming about the conversation, but he did tell me that he envisioned “a complete opportunity” for new gun-safety legislation. Unlike with Obama, he said, “no one thinks President Trump would do anything that would take away your gun rights.”
One will recall the 2A-tune candidate Trump sang on the campaign trail before he took the oval office.
“I will not let you down. Remember that. I will not let you down,” said Trump, last May at the NRA Leadership Forum after officially receiving the gun lobby’s endorsement for president.
“The only way to save our Second Amendment is to vote for a person that you all know named Donald Trump,” he continued. “I will never let you down. I will protect our Second Amendment.”
Hmmm. Would cutting a deal with Joe Manchin on, say, universal background checks be letting us down?
I’d say so. You’ll recall that Manchin, along with his buddy Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA), tried to push through a comprehensive background check bill known as the Manchin-Toomey amendment following the killings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
That amendment, which would have criminalized private transfers between law-abiding citizens, failed to clear the Senate in 2013.
The question is whether Manchin would want to revive the bill with Trump in office? He had flirted with the idea of reintroducing it in 2015 under Obama, but the votes just weren’t there to guarantee the results. Remember, a 60 vote threshold is necessary to overcome a filibuster.
“We want to make sure we have the votes. Pat’s going to have to, and I’ll work with him, to get some of our colleagues on the Republican side,” Manchin said in an interview with The Washington Post in 2015.
Of all the gun control bills proposed while Obama was in office, e.g. a prohibition on “assault weapons,” a prohibition on “high capacity magazines,” the one that had the most support in Congress and amongst the public was universal background checks. Polls consistently show that a majority of the (uninformed) public supports requiring background checks on all firearm transfers, including those made online and at gun shows between private buyers and sellers.
It is the lowest hanging fruit for gun-grabbers. If Trump gave up any ground on the 2A front, one would have to think that this would be it. Of course, he’d certainly feel the wrath of the NRA and its millions of members and affiliates who support the organization.
But right now there is not enough evidence to suggest that there is any merit to the claim that Trump is in active negotiations with Manchin to push through gun control. One report in the NY Times just doesn’t suffice.
That said, let’s keep our eyes open. Trump certainly isn’t a gun guy. He is, however, a dealmaker.