Before finishing second to Texan Ted Cruz in Wisconsin’s April 2016 Republican presidential primary, Donald Trump of New York retweeted a supporter’s message stating: "Challenge to all WI gun owners. Vote @realDonaldTrump.The only candidate that will protect your rights!"
That was an opinion; we can't check it. But the declaration didn’t impress Josh Perry, an aide to Sen. Cruz, who responded the day after the primary with tweets characterizing Trump as a flip-flopper on restricting assault weapons.
Cue the Flip-O-Meter. Has Trump flip-flopped on banning assault weapons?
"Remember when you advocated for stripping away my #2A rights?" Perry tweeted about Trump April 6, 2016, referring to the Second Amendment to the Constitution, which says: "A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed."
Cruz’s aide earlier posted a tweet saying Trump had said: "I support the ban on assault weapons" and "a slightly longer waiting period to purchase a gun."
Asked to elaborate, Perry told us in a Twitter message that he’d drawn Trump’s comments from the businessman’s 2000 book, "The America We Deserve," in which Trump wrote: "I generally oppose gun control, but I support the ban on assault weapons and I support a slightly longer waiting period to purchase a gun."
The book came out as Trump mulled a possible run for president as a third-party hopeful. At the time, a 1994 congressionally-approved ban on the sale of semi-automatic weapons was due to lapse in 2004. Democratic attempts to resurrect the restrictions have not gained traction.
Perry also pointed out a January 2016 news post on TheIntercept.com, which says it’s "dedicated to producing fearless, adversarial journalism." The post contrasted Trump’s support in 2000 for the assault-weapon ban and longer waiting periods with recent Trump proposals presented on his campaign website, including calls for law-abiding Americans to own the "firearm of their choice" and for state-issued concealed-carry permits allowing residents to carry handguns to be valid in every state. On his site, Trump also says members of the military should be able to freely carry weapons on bases and in recruiting stations.
Trump also brings up assault-weapon restrictions, but not in a supportive way, saying: "Gun and magazine bans are a total failure. That’s been proven every time it’s been tried. Opponents of gun rights try to come up with scary sounding phrases like ‘assault weapons,’ ‘military-style weapons’ and ‘high-capacity magazines’ to confuse people. What they’re really talking about are popular semi-automatic rifles and standard magazines that are owned by tens of millions of Americans."
That policy position showed up on the site in September 2015, according to an ABC News story at the time, which said: "The position on assault weapons represents a departure for Trump from a stance he held about 15 years ago."
Trump’s site includes a section on the criminal background checks that residents who purchase guns at stores must complete. In the section, Trump advocates mental health records getting tied into the system. He’s silent on favoring or opposing slightly longer waiting periods before purchases are allowed though he indicates he doesn’t like the background-check system, saying: "When the system was created, gun owners were promised that it would be instant, accurate and fair. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case today."
In 2016, TheIntercept.com reported, Trump "has vowed to undo President" Barack "Obama’s modest gun executive orders," per Trump’s remarks at a January 2016 New Hampshire stop, and also called for the elimination of school "gun-free zones." In Vermont in January, Trump said: "I will get rid of gun-free zones on schools, and — you have to — and on military bases. My first day, it gets signed, okay? My first day. There's no more gun-free zones." At the time, a Washington Post news story noted Trump had repeatedly said gun-free zones are a magnet for mentally ill shooters and that mass shootings in Paris and California could have been prevented if more citizens were armed to protect themselves and others.
We used the text-search feature offered by Google Books to confirm Trump’s gun statements in his 2000 book. In the book’s brief section on guns, Trump said: "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."
Next, Trump wrote, "I generally oppose gun control, but I support the ban on assault weapons and I support a slightly longer waiting period to purchase a gun. With today’s Internet technology we should be able to tell within 72 hours if a potential gun owner has a record."
In a March 2016 debate, Trump was asked to speak to his published support for an assault-weapon ban. He replied: "I don’t support it anymore. I do not support the ban on assault" weapons, he said.
We asked Trump’s campaign if he’d flip-flopped and didn’t immediately hear back.
Trump supported the assault-weapon ban in 2000. He opposes restrictions now.
We rate this a FULL FLOP.
FULL FLOP-- A major reversal of position; a complete flip-flop.
Book, "The America We Deserve," Donald Trump, Macmillan, January 2000 (accessed on Google Books)
Article, The Obameter, "Obama omits assault weapons ban from his 2016 gun violence reduction plan," PolitiFact, Jan. 11, 2016
Web page, "PROTECTING OUR SECOND AMENDMENT RIGHTS WILL MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN," Donald J. Trump campaign, undated (accessed April 6, 2016)
News story, "Trump Reverses Stance on Assault Weapons in New Policy Paper,", ABC News, Sept. 18, 2015
News blog post, "Trump flips on assault weapon ban," Politico, March 3, 2016
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