Trump urges bump stock ban before meetings on mass shootings

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report with Bret Baier," February 20, 2018. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: This week I will be holding a number of discussions with students, local leaders, and law enforcement to develop concrete steps that we can take to secure our schools, safeguard our students, and protect our communities.

Just a few moments ago I signed a memorandum directing the attorney general to propose regulations to ban all devices that turn legal weapons into machine guns.

We cannot merely take actions that make us feel like we are making a difference. We must actually make a difference.


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: President Trump today calling for a change in the rule on bump stocks. These are the additions to guns used in the Las Vegas shooting, not in the Florida shooting, to make it essentially, as the president said, a machine gun, an automatic weapon. The Justice Department -- there you see a picture of that. The Justice Department releasing a statement, "The department understands this is a priority for the president and has acted quickly to move through the rule making process. We look forward to the results of that process as soon as its duly completed." We're understanding it's coming to an end.

This as the Washington Post and ABC has a new poll out after the school shooting in Florida that says doing enough to prevent mass shootings, Congress at 19 percent, the president avenue 29 percent. Clearly at least in the polls there is a lot of momentum to do more.

Let's bring in our panel: Steve Hayes, editor in chief for The Weekly Standard; Charles Lane, opinion writer for The Washington Post; and Charles Hurt, opinion editor for The Washington Times. OK, it came as a bit of surprise today, didn't see it coming, the bump stock announcement. This rule, what do you think it means and what does it portend to the meetings ahead for this week?

STEVE HAYES, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: I think it's hard to tell exactly what it means and where this broader debate is going. If you look back before the new year, Republicans in Congress had considered taking some measures like this legislatively and then opted not to. So I think the fact that the president stepped up suggests that there is consensus on the Republican side or at least strong agreement on the Republican side that this is something that ought to be looked at.

I think in terms of the broader debate, Democrats are, as they often do, complain about the NRA, complain about Republicans. The media is obsessed with the argument that Republicans are controlled by the NRA. But really the problem I think suggests if you're talking about an assault weapon ban or some of the more far-reaching efforts being discussed, the problem is really on the Democratic side. If you look back at the 2013 vote on the assault weapons ban, you had 15 Democrats who voted, including some blue state Democrats, who voted against the assault weapons ban. It was a 60-40 vote in a Senate that was controlled by Democrats.

So Democrats at this point are the ones who are going to have to -- if they want to start to win politically on this issue, they're going to have to start primarying Democrats who are voting with Republicans.

BAIER: And the reason this is a rule and not Congress is because Congress didn't take it up. Congress didn't move forward. There was not -- even though a lot of people said after the Las Vegas shooting this is the one to do around the edges, it's the president who is moving this ball.

CHARLES LANE, WASHINGTON POST: Yes, and I think to your original question, what does it mean, it raises the question of how substantial a rule it's really going to end up being because under the Obama administration it was thought within the ATF that there wasn't enough statutory authority to enact it by regulation which now President Trump is going to attempt to do. And that tells me that somewhere down the line somebody is going to sue over this if it's not actually enacted into law.

So Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, is calling for a statute, and I frankly don't understand why there shouldn't be a statute, unless maybe the only thing that's going on here is President Trump is feeling under pressure under gun control and he's got to do something really quickly.

I think Steve makes a very astute point, though, about the Democrats. There is a dilemma for them politically. Right now there is a special election going on in western Pennsylvania, Trump country. And the Democratic candidate for that seat is running as a pro-gun western Pennsylvania Democrat. And in some of these red states, the Senate candidates on the Democratic side are torn as well. That is one of the reasons I'm very skeptical substantial gun-control will come out of this.

BAIER: Charlie?

CHARLES HURT, WASHINGTON TIMES: That's always been the problem with the accusation that these people are beholden to the NRA. The truth of the matter is it's not that the politicians are beholden to the NRA. It's that they are beholden to voters who like their gun rights and don't want them messed with.

Of course what is going on right now, any bump stocks that were on shelves after the Las Vegas shooting are flying off the shelves right now. One of the things I think a lot of people miss about what people love about guns, they love their brilliant mechanic ingenuity that goes into them. They are very complex, beautiful, graceful machines. And that's how the bump stock came around. And so, as you point out, the questions will be how broad is this, because whoever came up with the bump stock can easily come up with something else that does the same thing.

LANE: I think what that guy in Las Vegas loved about it was how it enabled him to kill 58 people. And I think we are now reaching the point, I think what may be changing in the Democratic Party, too, is that this is -- there is a level of outrage now. These slaughters and massacres, if nothing else it's a national embarrassment. And I think the fact that President Trump felt pressure to move shows that the beauty of the gun and the Second Amendment right is starting to lose its hold a little bit at the margins.

HURT: But the fact that it was an easy thing -- it wasn't a big gun company that came up with the bump stock. It was people who were fiddling with guns, home modelists and stuff like that. And that point is if people know how to do this sort of thing, other people can recreate it.

BAIER: Let's look at the bigger picture here. And this week he is going to meet with several different groups on the issue of gun control broadly and also stopping school shootings and increasing security at schools. Here is a Republican from Florida and Sarah Sanders today on the background check issue.


REP. CARLOS CURBELO, R-FLA.: We need to strengthen Second Amendment rights for responsible gun owners, but we clearly have to do more to make sure guns stay out of the hands of those who want to harm innocent people.

SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president has expressed his support for efforts to improve the federal background check system, and in the coming days we will continue to explore ways to ensure the safety and security in our schools.

CURBELO: There is a growing interest. A lot of Republicans are saying yes, some of these changes are really common sense.


BAIER: I guess it's just a different tone. You haven't heard this kind of tone I don't think ever.

HAYES: No, I think there is a new tone. But that's pretty broad, what they are saying. We are going to take a look at background checks. We have heard that before. We have heard that after every one of these, we're going to take a look at back. The question will be when you lay out the details of what the changes will be, if we ever get to that point, is it something that Republicans will embrace at that point? As Charlie argues, is it something gun owners across the country will embrace?

HURT: The other thing is I don't think anybody would disagree with the fact that we need to do more about making sure that people who shouldn't have guns are not allowed to get guns. The guy, whether it's the guy in Las Vegas or this guy in Florida, you have the police coming to his house 39 times in one single year. And you can't tell me that there isn't enough there -- if they report about him shooting from his neighbor's chickens. Where I am from, that's a felony. You are shooting on someone else's property at livestock or anything like that, that is felony. He should not have been able to have a gun if that crime had been pursued.

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