Trump tells NRA chief that universal background checks are off the table – By Tom Hamburger, Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) / Aug 20 2019
President Trump talked Tuesday with National Rifle Association chief executive Wayne LaPierre and assured him that universal background checks were off the table, according to several people familiar with the call.
© Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP National Rifle Associations chief executive Wayne LaPierre meets with President Trump in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington on Feb. 1, 2017. Trump spoke with LaPierre on Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2019, and assured him that there would be no universal background checks for gun purchases in the wake of recent mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton, Ohio.
Trump told LaPierre that the White House remained interested in proposals that would address weapons getting into the hands of the mentally ill, including the possibility of backing so-called “red flag” laws that would allow the police to temporarily confiscate guns from people who have been shown to be a danger to themselves or others.
Nonetheless, the president’s conversation with LaPierre further reduced hopes that major new gun-safety measures will be enacted after the latest round of mass shootings.
“I know the gun lobby is putting the full court press on everyone surrounding the president,” said Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) who said he was hoping for a process to be set up this week to move forward on a bipartisan backgrounds check bill. “I have not received any different signal than I got last week,” he said.
But while the president was at Bedminster, N.J., last week, NRA officials repeatedly talked to him, according to people familiar with those conversations. It seems the conversations were effective, which may further fuel public anger on the topic.
“Every time he raises expectations, then he clearly and publicly walks away from the commitments he made, it makes the lives of Republicans more miserable,” Murphy said.
A spokesman for another Democratic senator advocating background checks, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said he has not been told to stand down by the White House.
In the days after the shootings in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Trump inspired hope among gun-control advocates noting “there is a great appetite” for tightening background checks on people who buy firearms.
Federal legislation mandating background checks has been opposed by the NRA in the past. After the latest shootings, officials across the country called for expanding background checks to cover all gun buyers, including those making purchases at gun shows. With the NRA in some dissaray following complaints of mismanagement, there was some hope in the gun-control community that Trump might defy the politically powerful organization.
After hearing from NRA leaders over the past week, the president stopped talking about instituting such checks, emphasizing instead the need to keep guns away from people who are mentally disturbed. He noted in recent days that the country already has “very strong background checks,” a position that aligns with that of the NRA leadership.
For his part, LaPierre seemed pleased with his conversation with Trump, tweeting about it late Tuesday.
“I spoke to the president today,” he wrote. “We discussed the best ways to prevent these types of tragedies. President Trump is a strong 2A President and supports our Right to Keep and Bear Arms!”