Donald Trump Just Created an Amazing Opportunity in the Fight for Sane Gun Laws

I can’t stop thinking about this morning’s tweet from Donald Trump:

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Note that Trump is not going to his party’s leadership to argue this, or to Congressional Republicans. Nope! He’s going, instead, to the NRA. Presumably because the NRA are the real bosses, the real leaders, the people who can create real change within the party. Trump understands that if the NRA were to tell Republicans to stop fighting the terrorist watchlist law, they’d stop fighting immediately. So, in true Art of the Deal fashion, Trump’s going to the place where his words will have the most impact.

But let’s take a moment to reflect on how truly horrific this whole scenario truly is. Donald Trump is the voice of reason here. He is fighting for a law that will allow the government to keep guns out of the hands of suspected terrorists.  And his own party is not supporting him on this. So he’s going to the gun lobby—an organization that is funded in large part by gun manufacturers, and which dumps millions of dollars in the pockets of elected officials—to beg them to allow this to happen. Trump often says democracy is broken, and he’s absolutely right in this case. But the problem is that he’s part of the broken system.

Of course, it should be noted that Trump posted his little tweet before Senate Democrats began their filibuster for gun responsibility, which is making every Republican, Trump included, look like weak-kneed gun-worshippers. Democrats aren’t taking their argument to the NRA, an organization which has no power to make laws. They’re taking their argument to the American people because they’ve had enough. This is how democracy is supposed to work.

No matter how the Democratic filibuster ends, this is a watershed moment in the fight against gun violence in America. Trump has, possibly accidentally, proven how ghastly the Republican defense of the NRA agenda truly is. He’s pointed out the lobbying organization behind the curtain and identified them as the people in charge.

And Trump’s broken ranks on the conservative lockstep that for so many years made it impossible to pass anything resembling a sane gun responsibility law. Now that Trump’s admitted it’s nuts for us to allow people suspected of terrorism to buy guns, he’s opened up the door for Democrats to point out all the other insanity on the conservative NRA agenda—the fact that assault weapons can be purchased in less than ten minutes, the fact that it’s illegal for government agencies to even collect data on gun violence.

Once you acknowledge one fatal error in your ideology, it becomes much easier for your opponents to make a rhetorical argument against everything else. This is why Republicans have gone over the edge of reason for guns in the last few decades—because the NRA understands that one single crack in their facade could create a tsunami of public opinion against them.

Civic Ventures President Zach Silk wrote a terrific essay earlier today about how you can and should get involved in the fight against gun violence. Now that Trump has opened the door for argument—even just a hair—it’s important that average Americans, the millions of us who are outraged at all the avoidable mass shootings and killings and suicides and accidental deaths, take advantage of this opportunity. It’s time for everyone to get involved in this fight.

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Paul Constant
Paul Constant has written about politics, books, and film for Newsweek, The Progressive, the Utne Reader, and alternative weeklies around the country.