Trump says he's talking to congressional leaders about 'meaningful' gun background checks

Key Points
  • President Trump says he is having "serious discussions" with congressional leaders about "meaningful" background checks.
  • The president says he has also talked to the influential gun rights group the National Rifle Association.
  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is pushing Trump to bring the Senate back from its August recess to pass a House-approved universal background check bill.
President Donald Trump speaks to members of the press before departing from the White House en route to Dayton, Ohio and El Paso, Texas on August 7, 2019 in Washington, DC.
Zach Gibson | Getty Images

President Donald Trump said Friday he is talking to congressional leaders about "meaningful" background checks in the wake of two shooting massacres that rocked the country.

In a pair of tweets, the president acknowledged he has spoken not only to top lawmakers but also the influential National Rifle Association "so that their very strong views can be fully represented and respected." While Trump did not say what specific measures he would support, the president said he wants to keep guns away from "mentally ill or deranged people."

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"I am the biggest Second Amendment person there is, but we all must work together for the good and safety of our Country. Common sense things can be done that are good for everyone!" he tweeted.

Speaking to reporters later Friday as he left the White House for fundraising events in the Hamptons, Trump said he wants "intelligent background checks." He added that he spoke to Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who is "totally on board." Trump said "we have tremendous support for really common sense, sensible, important background checks."

Pressure on Congress to pass gun control measures has mounted following mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayon, Ohio, that killed 31 people. Calls for tighter restrictions on guns rise after U.S. shooting massacres but rarely lead to legal changes in Washington.

On Thursday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wrote a letter to Trump pushing him to bring the Senate back from its August recess to pass House-approved universal background check legislation. In February, the chamber passed the measure, which would require background checks for all firearms sales, including those on the internet and at gun shows.

In a joint statement Thursday night, Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said they separately spoke to the president about gun control. The two Democrats said he assured them he would review the House background check plan.

In a Kentucky radio interview Thursday, McConnell said he would not bring his chamber back from its August recess. However, he said he would have a conversation around background checks, so-called red flag laws or a possible assault weapons ban when Congress returned.

Earlier this week, Trump indicated support for red flag laws — which would take guns away from people believed to pose dangers to themselves or others. Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., are working on a proposal to create a federal grant program to encourage states to pass red flag laws.

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The NRA, which spent $30 million in support of Trump's election in 2016, has opposed universal background checks, assault weapons bans and some forms of red flag laws. In a statement Thursday, NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre said the group would oppose legislation that "unfairly infringes upon the rights of law-abiding citizens."

On Friday, Trump told reporters that the NRA "supported me very early, and that's a great decision they made." He cited his choice of two Supreme Court justices, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.

Asked about the NRA's support for potential gun safety measures, the president said the group "will either be there or maybe ne a little bit more neutral."

Universal background checks have overwhelming public support. A vast majority — 94% — of American voters support them for all gun buyers, according to a Quinnipiac University poll in May. That includes more than 90% of both Republicans and gun owners.

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