By Jeff Knox
(November 17, 2016) Just days before the Presidential Election, Donald Trump’s campaign announced the formation of a Second Amendment coalition. The announcement said the coalition would be chaired by Trump’s son Donald Jr., along with NRA-ILA’s Chris Cox, and 62 other “co-chairs” who will supposedly advise the president throughout his term in office. The list of co-chairs includes several current members of Congress, a former governor of Virginia, several members of the industry – including renegade motorcycle builder turned reality TV star turned gun maker, Jesse James – along with several NRA directors and supporters, and a whole bunch of people I’ve never heard of.
Just how much attention the Trump administration will pay to any advice from the coalition is yet to be determined – like everything else about the new president’s administration – but at least some of the people listed as co-chairs of the coalition seem serious about having their ideas heard and their agendas implemented. Others on the list disavowed any knowledge of the coalition or their being included in it. So far there has been no indication that the members of the coalition have any plans to meet or communicate in any formal way with each other or the administration. That’s not very promising. Also on the “not promising” side, is the lack of inclusion of leaders of other gun rights organizations or state-level grassroots groups.
NRA has definitely earned their seat at the table in the Trump administration. They spent heavily and worked hard to get him elected, and to ensure that he had pro-rights majorities in both the House and Senate, and they deserve recognition and appreciation for those efforts. But the NRA wasn’t the only rights organization working for Trump and/or against Hillary, and those others deserve some recognition as well.
Many within the rights community have been offering up suggestions of things President Trump should do in his first days in office, and Mr. Trump himself has publicly stated support for several of these, including making it easier for service members to carry on military installations, repealing a number of executive orders and actions of Obama and his predecessors, and supporting national reciprocity legislation that would force states to honor carry licenses from other states. Other proposals that are high on rights advocates lists include removing the “sporting purpose” tests from both the Gun Control Act and the National Firearms Act, removing silencers and short-barreled rifles from the restrictions of the National Firearms Act, and removing bans on interstate sale of handguns by licensed dealers.
All of these, along with many other suggestions that are floating around out there, should be very doable, either through congressional action, or executive order, but rights advocates shouldn’t start counting their chickens just yet. The first days, weeks, and months of a new president are hectic to say the least, with much to learn and many demands on time, energy, and political capital. President Trump will be under more pressure and scrutiny than any president before him, and his learning curve will undoubtedly be much steeper due to his limited government experience. Much will depend on who he chooses as his top advisers and assistants. As with any high-level executive, Trump will depend on the folks around him to handle most of the day-to-day operation of the administration, while he focuses on bigger picture issues.
While it’s important for rights advocates to keep reminding Mr. Trump who brought him to the dance, and what we desire, it is probably even more important to keep pressure on our members of Congress to be sure that they are moving in the right direction, bringing forward liberty-enhancing proposals, and backing up President Trump in efforts to protect Second Amendment rights.
Obamacare, immigration, the economy, and foreign relations are all big issues that are doubtlessly going to be at the forefront of the Trump administration’s agenda. It would be easy for him, and the Congress to focus on those pressing issues, and push rights matters to the back burner. It’s up to all of us to make sure that doesn’t happen. We have to keep sending emails and making calls to be sure that we are the squeaky wheel that gets the grease. Follow up your email messages with phone calls to local district offices for your elected representatives. Tell them you voted for them and for Donald Trump, and tell them you want action on restoration of gun rights in America.
No one ever knows how good or bad a president might be until they get into office and prove their metal. That will be true of Donald Trump as well. We do know however, that many of our members of Congress will use any excuse to avoid taking hard votes on controversial issues. Make it clear to them that protecting Americans’ rights is not controversial, it’s their job.