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Trump waffles on new gun background checks after 'great talk’ with NRA chief

2019-08-23

President Donald Trump speaks at the National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action Leadership Forum in Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Friday, April 26, 2019. (Michael Conroy/AP)

President Trump is holstering plans to tighten gun regulations after having a “great talk” with the head of the National Rifle Association.

Trump carefully said he was only considering closing “loopholes” that could allow mentally ill people to buy guns, not universal background checks for all gun purchases.

“We have background checks but there are loopholes in the background checks," Trump told reporters Wednesday. “And that’s what I spoke to the NRA about."

The president denied that he had promised NRA chief Wayne LaPierre that he would completely give up a push for new background check laws after the mass shootings earlier this month that killed 31 people in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio.

Trump spouted the gun-rights group’s mantra that guns are not the problem, but denied he is a mouthpiece for the NRA.

“These are Trump talking points,” he said. “I don’t want to take away people’s Second Amendment rights.”

He suggested that Congressional Democrats would likely make any change difficult by proposing tougher new regulations.

The remarks amount to a major shift in Trump’s rhetoric on guns since the twin mass shootings just 13 hours apart.

In the days after the carnage, Trump insisted that he was planning a major push to crack down on guns. But he has since toned down the rhetoric dramatically, much as he did after the school shooting in Parkland, Texas.

He already ruled out any new push to ban assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines, like the ones used by the El Paso and Dayton shooters.

LaPierre sounded pleased by his conversation with Trump, suggesting that any new measures would be less than stringent.

“(Trump) is a strong (Second Amendment) President and supports our Right to Keep and Bear Arms,” LaPierre wrote on the NRA Twitter account.

The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives passed a bill mandating background checks for all gun purchases last winter.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has refused to allow a vote in the Senate. He has also ignored a bipartisan Senate compromise that would close several loopholes for gun-buyers.

After the shootings, McConnell said he agreed with Trump’s then-position that lawmakers should tighten background checks. But he refused to bring lawmakers back early from their August break to handle the issue.

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Donald Trump in the White House

Trump claimed that the White House is talking to Democrats in Congress about the issue. But they say the discussions are virtually moribund and in any case he should be talking to Republicans who are the main stumbling block to passing tighter gun rules.