- President Donald Trump sent shockwaves through conservative circles when he suggested Wednesday that law enforcement should confiscate guns from potentially dangerous individuals without due process.
- “Take the guns first, go through due process second,” Trump said.
- Conservatives and liberals alike condemned the president’s proposal, which illustrates his inconsistent support for the fundamental right.
President Donald Trump sent shockwaves through conservative circles when he suggested Wednesday that law enforcement should confiscate guns from potentially dangerous individuals without due process.
During a White House gun control roundtable on Wednesday, Vice President Mike Pence brought up gun violence restraining orders, which would permit a family member or someone close to a potentially dangerous individual to petition a court to have the person’s weapons temporarily confiscated.
“Allow due process, so no one’s rights are trampled,” Pence said.
But the president had a different idea.
“Or, Mike, take the firearms first and then go to court,” he interrupted. “Because a lot of times, by the time you go to court, it takes so long to go to court, to get the due process procedures. I like taking the guns early.”
Trump concluded, “Take the guns first, go through due process second.”
Pres. Trump to VP Pence on gunviolence restraining orders: “I like taking the guns early…so we could do exactly what you’re saying, but take the gunsfirst, go through due process second.” https://t.co/KrUpCmBuuO pic.twitter.com/oU6nUbHyEr
— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) March 1, 2018
Conservative media outlets and commentators reacted quickly with shock and outrage.
Breitbart News, the far-right website formerly run by firebrand Steve Bannon, plastered a bright-red headline on their front page reading, “Trump the Gun Grabber: Cedes Dems’ Wish List- Bump Stocks, Buying Age, ‘Assault Weapons,’ Background Checks.”
Some Republican lawmakers have also since voiced their disagreement.
“I don’t ever believe there’s a time in this country where due process can be dismissed,” North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis, a Republican, told Business Insider. “Period.”
Sen. Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican, noted that delaying due process as the president suggested would mean no due process at all.
“Due process comes first or it isn’t due process. This is true no matter which party is writing the bills or in control of the White House,” he tweeted on Thursday.
Many on the left argued that if former President Barack Obama, or any Democrat, had suggested that the government take Americans’ guns away without due process, conservatives would “implode.”
“It doesn’t seem like an exaggeration to say that some Republican members of Congress would have called for Barack Obama’s impeachment if he had ever called for taking people’s guns away without due process,” The Washington Post’s James Hohmann wrote on Thursday.
A history of dismissing due process
Trump has long expressed inconsistent support for due process, a fundamental constitutional right protected in the the Fourth, Fifth, and 14th amendments.
He has repeatedly expressed his support for torture, the death penalty in cases in which the accused have not been convicted, and indefinite detention, among other policies that violate individual rights.
“He often jokes about killing drug dealers … He’ll say, ‘You know the Chinese and Filipinos don’t have a drug problem. They just kill them,'” a top administration official told Axios’s Jonathan Swan this week. Swan reported that Trump “has said he would love to have a law to execute all drug dealers here in America.”
But he has supported due process when it would benefit himself and his allies.
Just two weeks ago, Trump complained that his former top aide, Rob Porter, was unfairly forced to resign his White House position after both of his ex-wives accused him of domestic abuse, claims he suggested amounted to “a mere allegation.”
“Is there no such thing any longer as Due Process?” Trump tweeted.
Even some conservatives called out Trump’s inconsistency on this point.
“For Trump, due process is a problem when people think Rob Porter is guilty of beating his ex-wives, but not a problem when government seizes guns from citizens,” Ben Shapiro, a prominent conservative, tweeted.
Glenn Greenwald, a liberal journalist who writes for the Intercept, argued that American presidents have long cast aside due process, most obviously in their handling of the War on Terror.
“Yes, Trump’s comments on postponing due process are crazy, but so is a) imprisoning people on an island for 17 years with no trial, b) putting US citizens in military brigs as “enemy combatants” & c) executing them via drones with no charges: all staples of the War on Terror,” Greenwald wrote, referring to policies implemented both under Obama and President George W. Bush’s administrations.