Updated: Wednesday, October 4, 2017, 11:24 AM
Stephen Bannon’s Breitbart News opposed President Donald Trump’s endorsement of Luther Strange in last month’s Senate primary in Alabama. The website has criticized Trump’s encouragement of congressional action that would allow hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants to remain in the United States legally, and it tore into his August decision to send more troops to Afghanistan.
Now, Bannon is warning the president of even more intense fury should Trump back new gun-control measures in response to Sunday’s mass shooting in Las Vegas. Here’s what Axios’s Jonathan Swan reported on Tuesday:
“I asked Steve Bannon whether he could imagine Trump pivoting to the left on guns after the Las Vegas massacre. ‘Impossible: will be the end of everything,’ Bannon texted. When asked whether Trump’s base would react worse to this than they would if he supported an immigration amnesty bill, Bannon replied: ‘as hard as it is to believe actually worse.'”
The message from Trump’s former chief strategist is clear: Mr. President, don’t even think about it.
Trump campaigned as a staunch defender of gun-ownership rights and has carried the same message into his presidency.
“You have a true friend and champion in the White House,” he said in an April address to the National Rifle Association. “No longer will federal agencies be coming after law-abiding gun owners. No longer will the government be trying to undermine your rights and your freedoms as Americans. Instead, we will work with you, by your side.”
Yet the idea that Trump could flip-flop is not unfounded. In fact, his strong pro-gun stance is, itself, a reversal.
“I support the ban on assault weapons, and I support a slightly longer waiting period to purchase a gun,” Trump wrote in his 2000 book, The America We Deserve. Though Trump also wrote that he “generally oppose[s] gun control,” his endorsement of a ban on so-called assault weapons — semiautomatic rifles of the sort used by Stephen Paddock in Las Vegas — would be anathema to the views of most NRA members.
“This is another issue where you see the extremes of the two existing major parties,” Trump added in the book. “Democrats want to confiscate all guns, which is a dumb idea because only the law-abiding citizens would turn in their guns, and the bad guys would be the only ones left armed. The Republicans walk the NRA line and refuse even limited restrictions.”
Here, the dealmaking instinct of the businessman-president shows through. Trump might feel a sense of loyalty to the NRA for its steady support, but the allure of striking a bargain on a historically intractable issue could be hard to resist. That seems to be part of the appeal of immigration legislation that would make the temporary deportation reprieve afforded to DACA recipients permanent. Were Trump to sign such a bill, he would accomplish something that Barack Obama could not.
Same goes for gun control.
Bannon knows Trump well enough to know the pull that a challenging deal exerts over the president. And Bannon is urging Trump to channel the motto of his detractors: resist.