Donald Trump has sparked fury among gun owners and conservatives after repeatedly backing proposals to tighten gun control laws.
The US President called for a “beautiful” bill that would expand background checks on gun buyers, prevent mentally ill people from accessing firearms, and restrict teenagers from buying assault weapons.
The 71-year-old’s comments in the hour-long televised meeting with politicians put him at odds with the National Rifle Association (NRA), the gun lobbying organization which made record contributions to his 2016 presidential campaign.
Michael Hammond, lawyer for Gun Owners of America, another gun group with more than a million members, accused Mr Trump of becoming the “gun-grabber-in-chief”.
“If he succeeds in doing everything he talked about in the meeting, he will far surpass Barack Obama as an enemy of the Second Amendment,” he said.
After the meeting, far-right news outlet Breitbart ran a headline reading: “Trump the Gun Grabber: Cedes Dems’ Wish List— Bump Stocks, Buying Age, ‘Assault Weapons,’ Background Checks.”
Many conservatives also took to social media to express their outrage.
If the President @realDonaldTrump dives on the 2nd Am he won’t have to worry abt who runs his 2020 campaign.
— Laura Ingraham (@IngrahamAngle) March 1, 2018
Democrat Joe Manchin and Republican Pat Toomey, who were both at the White House meeting, now plan to reintroduce a failed 2013 bill that would impose background checks for all commercial gun purchases.
Mr Trump accused Mr Toomey of being “afraid of the NRA” after the senator told the President his bill did not include a ban on 18- to 21-year-olds buying assault weapons.
“Some of you people are petrified of the NRA. You can’t be petrified,” he added.
The President also rejected a proposed law change being pushed by House Republicans that would see a person with permission to carry concealed weapons in one state allowed to do so in any other.
“If you add concealed carry to this, you’ll never get it passed,” Mr Trump told Republican Steve Scalise, who was shot last summer by a gunman targeting politicians while they were playing baseball.
Mr Trump even interrupted his Vice-President, Mike Pence, telling him that in some cases law enforcement should be allowed to “take the guns early”, before receiving permission to do so from a court.
Ben Sasse, a Republican senator for Nebraska, condemned the President’s change of heart on gun control, which comes in the wake of the school shooting in Florida that left 17 people dead.
“Strong leaders do not automatically agree with the last thing that was said to them,” he said. “We have the second amendment and due process of law for a reason.
“We’re not ditching any constitutional protections simply because the last person the President talked to today doesn’t like them.”
However, most Republican lawmakers who oppose additional gun control remained silent over the President’s comments.
Jennifer Baker, a spokesperson for the NRA, said in a statement: “While today’s meeting made for great TV, the gun-control proposals discussed would make for bad policy that would not keep our children safe.
“Instead of punishing law-abiding gun owners for the acts of a deranged lunatic our leaders should pass meaningful reforms that would actually prevent future tragedies.”
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