Greenville, S.C. — Donald Trump is skipping a scheduled appearance at the Heritage Foundation's Presidential Forum this weekend because of a "significant business transaction," but his deal-making didn’t stop him from releasing an unexpected policy proposal on the Second Amendment on Friday afternoon.
In the new proposal, Trump advocates for the elimination of all gun and magazine bans, the creation of national concealed carry permits and the toughening of sentencing laws for felonies committed with firearms.
Writing that it is “imperative” to preserve Second Amendment rights, Trump’s plan pushes for rules that "empower law-abiding gun owners to defend themselves."
"Our personal protection is ultimately up to us. That’s why I’m a gun owner, that’s why I have a concealed carry permit and that’s why tens of millions of Americans have concealed carry permits as well," he writes.
The fact that Trump has a concealed carry permit is not new, but other details about his gun ownership practices remain unclear. In the past, Trump has demurred when asked specifics about his personal gun ownership. (Conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt asked Trump earlier in the month about what kind of gun he has. Trump responded “I’d rather not say.”)
Trump’s policy paper calls gun and magazine bans “a total failure” and attacks attempts to expand background check programs as misguided because "very few criminals are stupid enough to try and pass a background check – they get their guns from friends/family members or by stealing them.”
Trump’s aggressive rejection of gun regulations is a reversal for the Republican presidential candidate, who wrote in his 2000 book “The America We Deserve” that he supported an assault weapons ban and longer waiting periods for gun buyers.
In his new proposal, Trump also writes that he would seek to expand programs that target drug dealers, gang members, and violent criminals. His prescription includes emulation of Project Exile-like programs - of the ilk that was started in Richmond, Virginia. The overarching headline of this legislation, as MSNBC’s John Flowers points out, was that an illegal gun earns you five years in prison.
The real estate mogul also writes that the nation must “fix our broken mental health system,” although outside of “expanding treatment programs,” he offers few specifics on how to address mental health issues.
The release of the new plan caught observers by surprise. Trump had recently teased that a new policy proposal on his tax plan would be released in two to four weeks, but gun policy was not something talked about in depth prior to Friday’s release.
The timing of the proposal’s publication comes after the cancellation of Trump’s appearance at the Heritage Foundation’s Presidential Forum, where many of Trump’s GOP rivals were also set to address a crowd expected to be 10,000 strong.
News of the cancellation broke as Trump remains under fire for his response to a questioner at a town hall on Thursday night, who suggested to Trump that President Barack Obama is Muslim and was not born in the United States. The man also complained of Muslim “training camps” and asked “When can we get rid of them?”
Trump told the man “we are going to be looking at that and plenty of other things.” Trump’s campaign clarified after that “that” meant the training camps, but many, including Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, attacked Trump for not standing up to the premise of the man’s question.
"You had a chance here to show who you were,” Graham told NBC’s Andrea Mitchell. “You have to push back. We are trying to be the leader of a nation here.”
Trump is scheduled to appear at the Faith and Freedom Coalition gathering in Iowa Saturday, followed by a rally at a local high school homecoming in Urbandale, Iowa.