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Trump floats new gun measures; owners talk ‘betrayal’

Profile image for Richard Lardner and Nicholas Piccardi
Richard Lardner and Nicholas Piccardi, Associated Press

DENVER -- When President Donald Trump raised the idea of banning "bump stocks" and curbing young people's access to guns, gun owners and advocates who helped his political rise talked about disloyalty and desertion.

Trump's flirtation with modest gun control measures drew swift condemnation from gun groups, hunters and sportsmen who banked on the president to be a stalwart opponent to any new restrictions.

He's pledging to make schools safer and reduce gun violence after the Florida school shooting. But gun advocates see a weakening resolve from the man they voted for in droves and spent millions to elect.

"Out in the firearms community there is a great feeling of betrayal and abandonment because of the support he was given in his campaign for president," Tony Fabian, president of the Colorado Sports Shooting Association, said Friday.

The comments highlight how little room Trump and his party have to maneuver without angering and activating a politically powerful constituency.

Trump has not made a formal proposal, and he spent much of the week endorsing the notion of arming teachers and school officials, an approach the gun lobby supports.

The confrontation is set to test whether Trump is willing to risk his political capital to take on a core group few Republicans have challenged.

"The president has a unique ability right now to maybe really do something about these school shootings," said Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Fla. "Nobody is more popular in my district -- and I know in a lot of other people's districts -- than Donald Trump. He's more popular than the NRA. ... So it's up to him whether or not anything happens with guns."

After 17 people were killed by a teenager at the Florida school, Trump said that assault rifles should be kept out of the hands of anyone under 21. He endorsed more stringent background checks for gun buyers, and ordered his Justice Department to work toward banning rapid-fire "bump stock" devices.

Paul Paradis, who owns a gun store in Colorado Springs, was enthusiastic about letting teachers carry firearms on campus. But he was incredulous about the notion of outlawing bump stocks and increasing the age requirement for buying a long gun.

"Trump can propose anything he wants but it's got to get through two houses of Congress and the Supreme Court," Paradis said.