Are universal background checks off the table as a possible legislative action in the wake of a pair of shootings in less than 24 hours that left 31 people dead?
Or are reports that President Donald Trump has assured National Rifle Association chief Wayne LaPierre universal background checks are dead just another attempt to demonize the pro-Second Amendment group for its influence?
Citing the now standard anonymous source who was reportedly briefed on a phone call from Trump to LaPierre, The Atlantic reported that the president told LaPierre background checks were off the table.
“He was cementing his stance that we already have background checks and that he’s not waffling on this anymore,” the source said. “He doesn’t want to pursue it.”
Instead, Trump reportedly wants to look at “increasing funding” for mental-health care and start prosecuting “gun crime” through federal firearms charges from the Justice Department, according to the news magazine.
LaPierre, who survived a recent leadership challenge at the NRA, which has been consumed with internal strife, posted a tweet after the call, but did not disclose the substance of what was discussed.
Based on the tweet, LaPierre seemed pleased with the discussion.
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
— NRA (@NRA) August 20, 2019
Fox News reported that the White House pushed back late Tuesday on the claim that Trump had offered the assurance being reported.
A White House official told Fox News “meaningful” new background checks remain a legislative option, and denied the president said he supported universal background checks.
Earlier this month, Trump tweeted about the need for bipartisan support for “strong background checks.”
“We cannot let those killed in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, die in vain. Likewise for those so seriously wounded. We can never forget them, and those many who came before them. Republicans and Democrats must come together and get strong background checks, perhaps marrying this legislation with desperately needed immigration reform. We must have something good, if not GREAT, come out of these two tragic events!” the president said in a pair of tweets.
….this legislation with desperately needed immigration reform. We must have something good, if not GREAT, come out of these two tragic events!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 5, 2019
The president has been clear on his position about guns getting into the wrong hands.
“We don’t want insane people, mentally ill people, bad people, dangerous people — we don’t want guns in the hands of the wrong people,” Trump told reporters Aug. 9, from the South Lawn.
The Atlantic noted that chatter in the White House’s Office of Legal Counsel looking into executive action on background checks has died down in the weeks following the El Paso and Dayton shootings.
The article also cited Trump’s remarks to reporters Sunday on a New Jersey tarmac before departing for Washington that suggest a shift in position.
“People don’t realize, we have very strong background checks right now,” he said. “You go in to buy a gun, you have to sign up. There are a lot of background checks that have been approved over the years, so I’ll have to see what it is.”
One thing is certain, with an election coming up and the Washington Post citing an unnamed source to report that LaPierre warned the president earlier this month supporting tougher background checks would not be popular with his voter base, Trump is treading carefully.
Speaking to reporters Tuesday in the Oval Office, Trump said, “A lot of the people that put me where I am are strong believers in the Second Amendment.”
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