The White House backpedaled on a controversial statement over due process President Trump made while discussing gun control last week. "I like taking guns early," Trump said, referring to getting guns out of the hands of dangerous individuals. "Take the guns first, go through due process second."
President Trump proposes taking guns away from owners before going to court.— MSNBC (@MSNBC) February 28, 2018
"By the time you go to court, it takes so long to go to court to get the due process procedures, I like taking the guns early." pic.twitter.com/ZtNNwyzTzA
The comment, made during a meeting with lawmakers last Wednesday, has drawn serious criticism from GOP lawmakers and supporters of the Second Amendment, which White House press secretary Sarah Sanders attempted to downplay during Monday's press conference.
"The president thinks we need to expedite the process. He wants to make sure that if somebody is potentially harmful to themselves or other people that we have the ability to expedite that process," said Sanders, adding "Still want to have due process, but we want to make sure it is not tied up for months and months and months, and someone that could potentially be dangerous is allowed to have a gun without us being able to expedite that process.”
REPORTER: "Does the president believe we should take guns from people who are dangerous before due process, as he said last week?"
SANDERS, DODGING: "The president thinks that we need to expedite the process." pic.twitter.com/V8Ulu0Ue0v
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) March 5, 2018
Trump's statement was prompted by a comment by Vice President Mike Pence during last week's meeting, when he brought up his support for a plan to leave the decision to disarm a "dangerous" person in the hands of a judge - however he specifically called to "allow due process, so that no one's rights are trampled."
Several senators blasted Trump's statement. "I don't ever believe there's a time in this country where due process can be dismissed," said Republican Sen. Thom Tillis (NC). "Period." Tillis suggested that because Trump is a legal novice he probably didn't mean exactly what he said.
"But I don't think that the president was — he's not a legal scholar — I don't think that he was saying that there's a place where you suspend the constitution and suspend due process. I just don't believe that," Tillis said. "I know you heard the words, I just don't believe in my heart of hearts that's exactly what he meant."
"We have the Second Amendment and due process of law for a reason," said Republican Senator Ben Sasse (NE). "We're not ditching any Constitutional protections simply because the last person the President talked to today doesn't like them."
Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) - who has pushed Trump to bring back the ban on assault-style weapons similar to the 1994-2004 law, said she wasn't clear on what Trump meant by due process.
"Not necessarily a process, but if a weapon is illegal, police are entitled to take that weapon," Feinstein told reporters - however she added that she supported the notion of circumventing due process. "I don't know what he meant by due process," said Feinstein. "I'm reluctant to criticize it because I don't know what he meant. But do I agree with the concept of taking a gun away before — if the law doesn't permit it — no."
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NRA spokeswoman Jennifer Baker released a statement after last Wednesday's meeting that said while the "meeting made for great tv, the gun-control proposals discussed would make for bad policy that would not keep our children safe."
The group did not make mention of Trump's comment on due process, however top NRA aide Chris Cox tweeted the next day that he had a "great meeting" with Trump and Pence where they both said they "support strong due process and don't want gun control."
Take a moment to appreciate the last week in guns:— Sahil Kapur (@sahilkapur) March 5, 2018
NRA spent ~9 years saying without evidence Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton were coming for your guns; then Donald Trump says on live TV take the guns without due process, and the NRA says he didn’t mean it.