Home Opinion OPINION: SCOTUS gives Trump’s anti-gun-rights record an inconvenient election-year bump

OPINION: SCOTUS gives Trump’s anti-gun-rights record an inconvenient election-year bump

Thomas Knapp

On June 14, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned former U.S. president Donald Trump’s 2018 “bump stock ban.”

Like many SCOTUS rulings, this outcome turned on neither the plain text and meaning of the U.S. Constitution (under which the ban was clearly illegal) nor common sense (under which the ban was clearly idiotic — everyday objects as mundane as belt loops and rubber bands can be used as “bump stocks”).

Instead, the court ruled (in the negative) on the question of whether the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has the power to magically change the definition of the term “machine gun” on the whim of the president.

I’d rather SCOTUS had just upheld the plain text and unambiguous meaning of the Second Amendment (under which laws against “machine guns” are void whether the term includes “bump stocks” or not), but close enough for government work, I guess.

Perhaps the most useful outcome of the ruling is its tendency to highlight Donald Trump’s actual record on gun rights as he seeks a second term in the White House.

In February, Trump assured National Rifle Association members that he was “the best friend gun owners have ever had in the White House. … During my four years … there was great pressure on me having to do with guns. We did nothing. We didn’t yield. … Your Second Amendment will always be safe with me as your president.”

In the wake of the SCOTUS ruling, his campaign’s national press secretary, Karoline Leavitt asserted that “[t]he Court has spoken and their decision should be respected,” assuring the public that Trump “has been and always will be a fierce defender of Americans’ Second Amendment rights.”


But back in 2018, when he was still actually the president, Trump told the public at a news conference: “We’re knocking out bump stocks. I’ve told the NRA … bump stocks are gone.”

And back in 2018, then-president Trump, addressing lawmakers in support of “red flag” laws, came out against not just the Second Amendment but the Fifth Amendment as well: “I like taking the guns early …. Take the guns first, go through due process second.”

His 2018 actions speak louder than his 2024 words — and highlight the larger problem the Republican Party ran into when it gave its 2016 presidential nomination to a life-long progressive Democrat for president in an (unsuccessful) attempt to out-authoritarian the Democratic Party on immigration.

For all his self-promoting “outsider” guff, Trump’s a typical politician: On the campaign trail, he pretends to be whoever and whatever he thinks his supporters want him to be; once in office, he tends to revert to his true form.

Never trust a politician (any politician) to protect your rights (any of your rights). Thus endeth the lesson.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.