On Wednesday, President Trump surprised Republican lawmakers and the NRA by making statements that he would support some forms of gun legislation. Late yesterday, the New York Times and other news sources reported that the President, after meeting with the NRA, was backing away from that position:
The top lobbyist for the National Rifle Association claimed late Thursday that President Trump had retreated from his surprising support a day earlier for gun control measures after a meeting with N.R.A. officials and Vice President Mike Pence in the Oval Office.
The lobbyist, Chris Cox, posted on Twitter just after 9 p.m. that he met with Mr. Trump and Mr. Pence, saying that “we all want safe schools, mental health reform and to keep guns away from dangerous people. POTUS & VPOTUS support the Second Amendment, support strong due process and don’t want gun control. #NRA #MAGA.”
Mr. Trump tweeted about an hour later, “Good (Great) meeting in the Oval Office tonight with the NRA!”
Even before the president changed his mind, it appears that many Republican senators, including West Virginia's Shelley Moore Capito, would not consider background checks:
Some who voted against legislation in 2013 that would have expanded background checks said Mr. Trump had said nothing that changed their minds. And several party newcomers, who were not present for the emotional debate prompted by the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., said they could not support such a bill.
“So far there’s been a lot of chopping, but I don’t see any chips flying, and I don’t think that’s going to change,” said Senator John Kennedy, a freshman Republican from Louisiana known for his colorful analogies.
Others were more to the point. “He has not changed my mind,” said Senator Shelley Moore Capito, Republican of West Virginia.
In case anyone doubts her anti-gun control credentials, she added that while she was not a senator at the time, she would also have been against the background checks bill that followed the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School:
“Had I been here, I would have voted no,” she said.
I closely follow both of West Virginia's senators online and the difference in the amount of media/online coverage, which reflects their activity, is significant. Seldom a day passes that Senator Manchin has not done or said something that draws media attention -- sometimes, lots of it. On the other hand, my daily Google news search of Senator Capito often yields the same results day after day. I've written previously that Capito generally shies away from controversy (see her reluctance to commit on the healthcare issue, for instance) and she often looks uncomfortable in the spotlight. Thus, her willingness to go on the record (and to a New York Times reporter, no less) is significant. Capito could have walked away from the reporter or given the kind of response she gave during the health care debate -- that she needed to see the actual proposal or that she was still researching it. Instead, she answered "no" and then she likely volunteered how she would have voted on the measures following the Sandy Hook shooting. Clearly, the senator wants it known that she is firmly opposed to any serious gun control legislation.
Last week I described how Senator Capito, by a wide margin, leads the West Virginia congressional delegation in contributions from the National Rifle Association. Compared to some other Republicans, however, Capito's take is not that large. It would appear that the NRA is getting their money's worth with Shelley.
Senator Capito, like Representative David McKinley, doesn't hold town halls. If she ever did, I think my question would be something like "Senator, you've stated that you're opposed to background checks and that you would have voted against the proposed gun legislation that followed the Sandy Hook shooting. What would have to happen in order for you to even consider background checks or other gun restrictions?"