U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, an ardent gun-control supporter and critic of President Donald Trump, came away from Wednesday’s bipartisan White House meeting on guns and school safety sounding cautiously hopeful that some gun restrictions will advance.
Deutch, whose Palm Beach-Broward district includes Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, handed Trump a “Parkland Strong” bracelet that he’s been wearing since the Feb. 14 mass shooting there claimed 17 lives.
“You can get this done, Mr. President. And I want to give that to you,” Deutch said at the meeting.
Afterward, Deutch told The Palm Beach Post: “Look, I’m glad that the president seemed willing to go forward with universal background checks, raising the age (to buy a gun) to 21, a whole host of other measures that have bipartisan support. Now the question is, how do we ensure that the message in that room is not lost on members of Congress?”
Trump sounded supportive of a bill by Sens. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., and Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., to expand background checks for gun purchases.
“If we can start with universal background checks and move from there, that will be a huge step forward,” Deutch said.
During the meeting, Deutch spoke against Trump’s idea of having trained teachers armed with guns. Referring to the AR-15 gun used in Parkland and other mass shootings, Deutch told the meeting that “there’s no reason to continue to sell to people a weapon of war like this.”
Another member of Palm Beach County’s U.S. House delegation, Rep. Brian Mast, R-Palm City, also attended the meeting. Mast is one of the few Republicans to support a ban on “assault weapons,” which Mast said he wants Congress to define and then ban.
“You can lead on this in a way that nobody else can. Because for all of those Americans out there, that the Second Amendment is so critically important to them, they believe you that you’re not going to go into their home and take their firearms. So you have a credibility that nobody else can bring to this, and that’s why you can lead,” Mast told Trump at the meeting.
“Maybe you’ve heard my call,” Mast said, apparently referring to his New York Times op-ed supporting an assault weapons ban. “You act when you see an opportunity to save life.”
Said Trump: “Well, we have to. We all — I mean, yeah, I’m going to lead, but we’re all going to lead.”
The conversation then moved on to other topics.
At one point in the meeting Trump, asking Toomey why the background checks bill didn’t address raising the age to purchase guns from 18 to 21, suggested it was “because you’re afraid of the NRA, right?”
Deutch said he hopes the remark indicates Trump will give Republicans “cover” to vote for gun restrictions opposed by the National Rifle Association.