5 May 2018

Trump makes u-turn on gun control in lead up to election

5:19 pm on 5 May 2018

US President Donald Trump has vowed not to tighten firearms laws in the lead up to this year's midterm elections, despite suggesting after a Florida school shooting that he would take on the powerful gun-rights' advocates.

US President Donald Trump

US President Donald Trump Photo: AFP

At the National Rifle Association's (NRA) annual convention in Dallas, Trump called again for arming teachers and increasing school security to head off future mass shootings like the one in Parkland, Florida in February that killed 17 people. Such measures are supported by the NRA.

With Republican control of the US Congress up for grabs in November's midterm elections, Trump used the NRA platform to return to rhetoric he used in 2016 to excite pro-gun voters, warning that Democrats are determined to take away Americans' guns.

Trump made no mention of gun-control proposals he tentatively floated in the past, such as raising the age limit for buying rifles. The NRA opposes that and other limits on gun sales as a violation of the right to gun ownership under the Second Amendment to the US Constitution.

Democratic lawmakers generally support tighter gun laws, but specific proposals that they favour, such as universal background checks and a ban on military-style assault rifles, would not alter the Second Amendment.

"Your Second Amendment rights are under siege. But they will never, ever be under siege as long as I'm your president," Trump said.

"The one thing that stands between Americans and the elimination of our Second Amendment rights has been conservatives in Congress."

As Trump spoke, shares rose in major gun makers Sturm Ruger & Co and American Outdoor Brands, maker of Smith & Wesson firearms. The shares have climbed since Parkland, which prompted concerns of tighter gun controls.

Semi-automatic AR-15's on sale at a US store.

Semi-automatic AR-15's on sale at a US store. Photo: AFP

The Parkland massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on 14 February seemed to have marked a turning point in America's long-running gun debate, sparking a youth-led movement for tighter gun controls.

Days after the shooting, Trump promised action on gun.

"We have to fight them every once in a while," he said.

Since then, no major new federal gun controls have been imposed, although the administration is pursuing a proposed regulatory ban on "bump stocks," which enable a semi-automatic rifle to fire a steady stream of bullets. The devices were used in an October 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas that killed 59 people.

"I'm not happy with the bump stock issue, but overall I'm very happy with him. Best president yet," said Florida accountant Richard Brinkman, 62, who watched Trump's speech.

"Our hearts break for every American who has suffered the horrors of this school shooting," Trump said of the Parkland shooting.

Since Parkland, Trump has largely moved his rhetoric back in line with the NRA, which spent $55 million to support him and other Republican candidates in the 2016 elections, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a campaign finance watchdog.

- Reuters

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