“We need intelligent background checks. This isn’t a question of NRA, Republican or Democrat,” he said on Aug. 9.
But now, as time has elapsed, and with Congress still away on its August recess, Trump on Tuesday appeared to back off on any new push background checks, again calling mental health the actual problem.
“We have strong background checks right now,” Trump said from the Oval Office. “But we have sort of missing areas and areas that don’t complete the whole circle. And we’re looking at different things and I have to tell you it’s a mental problem, I said it 100 times, it’s not the gun that pulls the trigger, it’s the person that pulls the trigger.”
Trump had a lengthy conversation Tuesday with LaPierre, chief executive for the National Rifle Association, multiple senior level sources confirm to ABC News. During their talk, the president told LaPierre he does not support universal background checks, however, that does not mean background check legislation is off the table.
LaPierre confirmed the conversation took place, but offered no specifics.
I spoke to the president today. We discussed the best ways to prevent these types of tragedies. @realDonaldTrump is a strong #2A President and supports our Right to Keep and Bear Arms! – Wayne LaPierre
White House officials have been speaking with Congress about legislative options, sources have told ABC News, and the administration has had conversations with the president’s reelection team about how any potential action would impact Trump’s support among his base.
“I’m saying Congress is going to be reporting back to me with ideas,” the president told reporters Sunday as he prepared to board Air Force One in Morristown, New Jersey.
“And they’ll come in from Democrats and Republicans. And I’ll look at it very strongly. But just remember, we already have a lot of background checks. OK?”
Congress passed legislation — FIX NICS — in the aftermath of the Sutherland Springs Church shooting in Texas in November 2017 that claimed 26 lives. The measure was aimed at penalizing government agencies for not reporting into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).
But whether there’s political support in Congress for stronger background checks is still in question. A bill proposed by Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin and GOP Sen. Pat Toomey would significantly extend background checks to include gun shows, and even internet sales.
Trump previously said background checks would keep guns out of the hands of “sick” and “deranged” people, although medical experts say mental illness is not the main reason shooters carry out mass murders, such as the El Paso and Dayton shootings.
These are people that have to be in institutions for help,” he said. “I’m not talking about as a form of a prison I’m saying for help.”