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You just can’t make this stuff up. After decades of Republicans and the National Rifle Association continuously warning Americans that Democrats — or their presidents — were “coming for your guns,” guess who actually says he’s going to do that? Yep, the NRA’s good buddy Donald Trump, who also happens to be, as the president of the United States, the top dog in the Republican Party.

The irony is so thick you could cut it with a knife. Being in Montana, I’m quite sure I wasn’t the only one who had friends who voted for Trump based on their singular fear that Hillary Clinton was going to institute radical gun control measures. After all, that was one of the big, empty threats thrown around during the campaign and undoubtedly had the desired effect in rural states like Montana, where gun ownership is common and distrust of the federal government is a festering wound continually picked at by politicians of all stripes.

But as it turns out, Trump has already announced he will unilaterally move to ban bump stocks using executive power. The device allows semi-automatic rifles to fire much more rapidly and was used to devastating effect by the shooter in the Las Vegas concert massacre last year. That the NRA opposed a ban as an erosion of Second Amendment rights was specious, but the last thing they expected was to have their own man in the White House not just leading the charge, but using his position to accomplish the ban without congressional consent.

Before they could recover from that shock, however, during a meeting with members of Congress Trump announced: “Take the guns first, go through due process second.” When a shocked Vice-President Mike Pence responded that they should “allow due process so no one’s rights are trampled,” Trump shot back with “or, Mike, take the firearms first, and then go to court."

Trump obviously has no idea how the law works in the nation he claims to lead — including the foundational “presumption of innocence” that guarantees those accused of crimes are “innocent unless proven guilty” with the onus of proving guilt on the prosecution, not the defense.

After a White House meeting with Trump, the NRA’s top lobbyist implied that the organization had the president back on its side. That’s not particularly surprising considering the NRA spent about $30 million to get Trump elected after he promised at their convention: “To the NRA, I can proudly say I will never, ever let you down.”

The affair has started a firestorm among conservative groups. As Joe Biggs, an NRA member who runs a conservative news site, told reporters: “You spend your whole life on the right and you always think that Democrats are going to be the ones who take your guns. And then you hear President Trump say: ‘Oh we’re gonna take your guns and go through due process later.’” Even Fox News’ Tucker Carlson was in shock, saying: “Imagine if Barack Obama had said that…Congress would be talking impeachment right now.”

But this is President Trump and as Dave Kopel, one of the NRA’s “benefactor” contributors, told reporters from the Guardian: “It is not exactly shocking when he betrays the people who elected him. Every word of it was a betrayal.”

In politics, as in most of life, one’s credibility is based on keeping their word — especially in Montana. Unfortunately, that simply is not the case with Trump, which is reflected in the on-going chaos enveloping the White House, the Republican majorities in Congress and our increasingly skeptical citizenry.

George Ochenski writes from Helena. His column appears each Monday on the Missoulian's Opinion page. He can be reached by email at

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