Skip to Content

Trump Twists Facts on Gun Control: Fact Check

President Donald Trump is twisting the facts in regards to gun control.

Speaking Wednesday, Trump defended his past incendiary rhetoric on race in the wake of weekend mass shootings in Texas and Ohio and suggested that legislation addressing background checks was imminent. That's not the case.

A look at the political rhetoric and reality:

TRUMP, commenting on prospects for gun control legislation: "There's a great appetite — and I mean a very strong appetite — for background checks. And I think we can bring up background checks like we've never had before. I think both Republican and Democrat are getting close to a bill on — they're doing something on background checks." — remarks to reporters Wednesday before departing for Ohio and Texas.

THE FACTS: He's overstating the level of political will for gun control measures.

Passage of a background checks bill in the Senate remains unlikely. Support for a bipartisan background checks measure co-sponsored by Republican Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia reached a high point with a 2013 vote after the Sandy Hook shooting but it fell short of the 60 votes needed to advance. Both senators spoke to Trump on Monday.

Two other gun bills have passed the House this year but languished in the Republican-controlled Senate. One of them would require federal background checks for all firearms sales and transfers, including those online or at gun shows. The second bill allows an expanded 10-day review for gun purchases.

With gun control legislation stalled, some senators have pushed for a bipartisan proposal to create a federal grant program to encourage states to adopt "red flag" laws to take guns away from people believed to be a danger to themselves or others. But it remains to be seen if such a law could pass Congress.

___

TRUMP, on gun restrictions: "We have done much more than most administrations. ...We've done, actually, a lot." — remarks Sunday to reporters.

THE FACTS: Trump's record on gun control is not groundbreaking.

Congress has proven unable to pass substantial gun violence legislation, despite the frequency of mass shootings, in large part because of resistance from Republicans, particularly in the GOP-controlled Senate. That political dynamic seems difficult to change.

It's true that after other mass shootings Trump called for strengthening the federal background check system, and in 2018 he signed legislation to increase federal agency data sharing. In December 2018, the Trump administration also banned bump stocks, the attachments that allow semi-automatic weapons to fire like machine guns and were used during the October 2017 shooting massacre in Las Vegas.

But he has also rolled back restrictions, reneged on pledges and resisted Democratic calls to toughen other gun control laws.

Within weeks of taking office, Trump scrapped a federal rule imposed by Obama that could have made it harder for some mentally ill people to own guns. Under the rule, the Social Security Administration was supposed to provide information to the gun-buying background check system on recipients with a mental disorder so severe they cannot work or handle their own benefit checks. The rule didn't make certain people ineligible to buy a firearm, but was designed to ensure the background check system was comprehensive.

In February, the House approved bipartisan legislation to require federal background checks for all gun sales and transfers and approved legislation to allow a review period of up to 10 days for background checks on firearms purchases. The White House threatened a presidential veto if those measures passed Congress.

At a February meeting with survivors and family members of the 2018 Parkland, Florida, school shooting in which 17 people died, Trump promised to be "very strong on background checks." Trump claimed he would stand up to the gun lobby and finally get results in quelling gun violence. But he later retreated, expressing support for modest changes to the federal background check system and for arming teachers.

Some Democrats have called forstronger measures such as renewing a federal ban on assault weapons, which was put in place during the Clinton administration before it expired under President George W. Bush. Trump has shown no interest in embracing that issue.

___

TRUMP: "We must reform our mental health laws to better identify mentally disturbed individuals who may commit acts of violence and make sure those people not only get treatment, but, when necessary, involuntary confinement." — remarks Monday.

THE FACTS: His words don't match his past actions.

Trump's budgets would have slashed the federal-state Medicaid program, which provides health insurance for more than 70 million low-income and disabled people and is also the major source of public funds for mental health treatment.

Such proposals failed to advance in Congress, even when both chambers were under Republican control.

The president's 2020 budget does call for some spending increases on smaller mental health programs, including an increase of $15 million, for a total of $107 million, to expand school-based programs. The Parkland shootings last year at a Florida high school heightened sensitivity to the mental health needs of students.

But such increases for specific programs pale in comparison with the impact of Medicaid cuts. This year Trump again proposed to turn the program over to the states, limiting future federal financing. That would have led to a cut of about $1.4 trillion over 10 years from currently projected levels of federal spending.

The administration says that's not really a cut, since spending would have continued to grow, just more slowly. But limits on federal financing would have forced states to confront hard choices over competing priorities like mental health or addiction treatment, nursing home costs or prenatal care for low-income women.

As a candidate, Trump had originally promised that he would not cut Medicaid.

More must-read stories from Fortune:

—Why the U.S. labeled China a currency manipulator

—How Trump’s plan to import Canadian drugs would work

What you need to know about 8chan, the controversial site tied to the El Paso shooting

—After the El Paso shooting, a call for stronger protections for Mexicans in America

—Listen to our audio briefing, Fortune 500 Daily

Get up to speed on your morning commute with Fortune’s CEO Daily newsletter.