President Donald Trump said last week he believes he has influence to rally Republicans around stronger federal background check laws as Congress and the White House work on a response to last weekend’s mass shootings in Texas and Ohio.
At the same time, Trump said he had assured the National Rifle Association that its gun-rights views would be “fully represented and respected.” He said he was hopeful the NRA would not be an obstacle to strengthening the nation’s gun laws.
Trump has promised to lead on tougher gun control measures before, including after the 2018 Parkland, Florida, school shooting, but little has come of it. His comments in the wake of the twin massacres marked his most optimistic and supportive words in favor of more stringent gun laws, though he left the details vague and it remained to be seen how much political capital Trump would throw behind marshaling Republicans on the issue.
He said Friday he now is looking for “very meaningful background checks” but is not considering a resurrection of an assault weapons ban. He said he also believes lawmakers will support “red flag” laws that allow guns to be removed from those who may be a danger to themselves and others.
“I see a better feeling right now toward getting something meaningful done,” Trump told reporters when asked why the political environment was different now. “I have a greater influence now over the Senate and the House,” he said at the White House.
“The Republicans are going to be great and lead the charge along with the Democrats,” he declared, saying he’d spoken with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell whom he proclaimed to be “totally onboard.”
But McConnell, thus far, has only committed to a discussion of the issue. Republicans have long opposed expanding background checks — a bill passed by the Democratic-led House is stalled in McConnell’s Senate — but they face new pressure after the shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, that left 31 people dead.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer tweeted in response Friday that McConnell must bring up the House-passed legislation, which Trump had previously threatened to veto. “To get anything meaningful done to address gun violence, we need his commitment to hold a Senate vote on the House-passed background checks legislation,” Schumer said.
As for the NRA, which has contributed millions to help Trump and other Republicans, the gun lobby’s chief executive, Wayne LaPierre, said this week that some federal gun control proposals “would make millions of law-abiding Americans less safe and less able to defend themselves and their loved ones.”