NRA members have branded Donald Trump’s plans for stricter gun control legislation “stupid” and a “betrayal” after the president suggested reforms on Wednesday.
In an open meeting with congressional Democrats and Republicans, Trump embraced raising the age limit on purchasing certain weapons and suggested that law enforcement should be allowed to confiscate people’s guns before going through due process in a court.
Donald Trump stuns allies by signalling backing for tighter gun control
Joe Biggs, an Austin, Texas-based NRA member and chief executive of Rogue Right, a conservative news website, was among those unimpressed by the proposal.
“That’s the stupidest fucking thing I’ve ever heard in my life. Hopefully he was just having a momentary brain fart, a lapse of judgment,” Biggs said.
He added: “Hopefully someone pulled him into the back and said: ‘You’ve just lost half your base by saying something that stupid.’”
During the meeting Trump called for a “beautiful” bill which would expand background checks on gun purchases and restrict young people from purchasing certain weapons. But it was his suggestion that in some cases law enforcement should be allowed to “take the guns first, go through due process second” – that most alarmed gun owners on the right.
“You spend your whole life on the right and you always think that Democrats are going to be the ones who take your guns,” Biggs said.
“And then you hear President Trump say: ‘Oh we’re gonna take your guns and go through due process later.’” Biggs said he would vote for another candidate in the 2020 presidential election if Trump pushed through his reforms.
Dave Kopel, a benefactor member of the NRA – the highest level of membership – was also scathing .
He referred to past allegations of romantic infidelity and nefarious business practices against Trump.
“It is not exactly shocking when he betrays the people who elected him,” he said.
Kopel is a research director at the Independence Institute, a libertarian thinktank based in Denver, Colorado.
While he said he could not speak for all 5 million NRA members, he surmised that “the vast majority will be appalled”.
“Every word of it was a betrayal,” he said.
The NRA leadership, which has generally supported Trump, and spent more than $30m helping get him elected, tentatively pushed back against the president on Wednesday night.
“I thought it made for really good TV but I thought some of what was discussed is going to make for really bad policy,” the NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch told Fox News.
“We’re talking about punishing innocent Americans and stripping from them constitutional rights without due process,” Loesch said.
“The NRA is going to protect due process for innocent Americans and that is an approach that we’re going to hold to. Due process must be respected.”
Robert McBride, a member of the NRA from Roscoe, Texas, said he was also troubled by Trump’s idea to take away guns before a court ruling. McBride said the plan would violate the fifth and 14th amendments to the constitution, which safeguard “life, liberty or property”.
“Without those two amendments the government could just lock you up and throw away the key because some bureaucrat had a bad day or did not like the way you spoke to him,” McBride said.
He was skeptical of Trump’s advocating higher age restrictions for buying some guns.
“Twenty-one is not a magic age and if that’s the bar for obtaining your second amendment right here in America then that should also be the bar for being put on trial as an adult, going to prison as an adult, enlisting in our armed services and voting in our elections.”