Donald Trump’s mandatory minimums position is drawn from an experimental 1990s program called Project Exile, requiring a five-year minimum sentence for anyone found illegally in possession of a firearm.
Donald Trump, once an advocate of control over the sale of some types of firearms, has come out forcefully in favor of a laissez faire approach to gun control, declaring there should be a “national right to carry” concealed weapons across the US.
The Republican presidential frontrunner’s gun policy, which also argues against expansions of background checks for gun owners – and chimes with the campaign aims of the National Rifle Association – is only the second policy announcement since announcing his campaign in June.
The policy paper released on Friday also included support for mandatory minimum prison sentences for violent crimes, drawing from a Virginia-based experimental program from the 1990s named Project Exile which Trump suggested be implemented across the country. The program would push for anyone found to be illegally in possession of a firearm to be sentenced to a minimum of five years in federal prison.
Trump said the program, criticized by Barack Obama’s administration, was in fact a success, decreasing murders committed with firearms and clearing felons from the streets, adding: “We need to bring back and expand programs like Project Exile and get gang members and drug dealers off the street.”
A 2003 study of Project Exile by professors Steven Raphael of the University of California, Berkeley and Jens Ludwig of the University of Chicago concluded that it had no impact whatsoever on the rate of violent crime.
Trump’s first policy paper, unveiled last month, enshrined the far-right anti-immigration platform that has fueled his campaign so far, which includes the proposal to construct a wall along the border with Mexico and enact mass deportations of the 11 million undocumented migrants currently in the country.
Those immigration positions have dragged rival Republican presidential candidates to the right, however his position on gun control appears broadly in line with the wider GOP field – and the demands made by NRA lobbyists. But the rest of the Republican field is uniformly opposed to any new gun laws, making Trump’s step of detailing his plans as a major policy initiative of his campaign uncharacteristic.
Most of the Republican contenders have touted their support for the second amendment before conservative audiences and at the NRA’s own forums, but have stopped short of making guns a focal point of their agendas. The legislation they have voted for or passed also do not go as far as the proposals outlined by Trump.
Four Republican senators running for president – Marco Rubio of Florida, Rand Paul of Kentucky, Ted Cruz of Texas and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina – all voted to block a bill that would expand background checks after the 2012 elementary school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. While the senators have each sponsored independent legislation to peel back certain gun restrictions, they have not spent much time pressing for the passage of those bills, nor have they pushed for a sweeping overhaul of concealed carry laws at the federal level.
Wisconsin governor Scott Walker signed two bills earlier this year that would loosen gun laws in his state: one eliminated a 48-hour waiting period for firearm purchases and another enabled off-duty or retired police officers to carry concealed weapons at public schools. Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal has signed several bills to further protect gun rights, but even he expressed support for better mental health reporting to the federal background checks system after a deadly shooting at a movie theater in Lafayette in July.