Trump says he is seeking input from NRA as he seeks 'common-sense' gun legislation
WASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump on Friday said he is seeking "common sense" gun legislation, including stronger background checks, and acknowledged that he has been speaking to the National Rifle Association so that the organization's "very strong views" can be heard and respected.
His comments, in morning tweets, come as the White House and Senate Republican leadership are facing intense pressure to respond to last week's mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton, Ohio, that left 31 dead and prompted an outcry over government inaction.
"Serious discussions are taking place between House and Senate leadership on meaningful Background Checks," Trump said in his tweets. "I have also been speaking to the NRA, and others, so that their very strong views can be fully represented and respected."
"Guns should not be placed in the hands of mentally ill or deranged people," he added. "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!"
The Washington Post reported earlier this week that Trump had repeatedly told lawmakers and aides in private conversations that he is open to endorsing extensive background checks in the wake of two mass shootings, prompting a warning from the NRA and concerns among White House aides.
Trump, speaking to reporters Wednesday before visiting Dayton and El Paso said there "was great appetite for background checks."
His previous declarations of support for tougher gun controls, including after the deadly Parkland, Florida, shooting in February 2018, have foundered without a sustained push from the president or support from the NRA and Republican lawmakers.
Trump threatened earlier this year to veto House-passed bills strengthening background checks. And early in his tenure, at the NRA's urging, Trump signed legislation that repealed an Obama-era regulation designed to prevent certain mentally ill people from purchasing firearms.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Thursday he spoke to Trump about the Senate working on legislation to tighten gun laws after the August recess.
In his first interview since the weekend massacres, McConnell specifically mentioned expanding background checks on gun purchases and "red-flag" laws, which would allow authorities to confiscate a firearm from someone deemed a risk to themselves or the public.
"Those are two items that will be front and center as we see what we can come together on and pass," McConnell said on Kentucky radio station 840 WHAS.
At the same time, McConnell, who faces re-election next year, underscored the difficulty in reaching consensus on a divisive issue. Congress has not passed significant gun-control legislation since the 1990s.
In late February, the Democratic-led House approved the first major new firearms restrictions to advance in a generation. The proposed legislation would amend federal gun laws to require background checks for all gun sales and most gun transfers.
Federally licensed dealers are required to run background checks on people who buy guns, but private sellers who are not federally licensed are not. Under the bill, private parties would have to seek out a federal license to facilitate a gun deal.
The next day, the chamber passed a separate bill that would extend the time for the government to complete a background check on someone trying to buy a gun from a licensed dealer before the sale can go through.
Trump threatened to veto the two bills, saying they do not sufficiently protect the Second Amendment rights of gun owners.
Since the weekend shootings, however, Trump has expressed a new openness to considering background checks.
Democratic leaders have urged McConnell to call the Senate back from recess and take up the House-passed bills.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., sent a letter Thursday to Trump asking him to use his constitutional powers to force the Senate back into session to vote on the two bills.
"Mr. President, we have an opportunity to work in a bipartisan way to pass gun violence prevention background checks. However, Leader Mitch McConnell, describing himself as the 'grim reaper,' has been an obstacle to taking any action," Pelosi wrote.
During the radio interview Thursday, McConnell said the Senate should wait until after its scheduled return from recess to take address the issue.
"What we can't do is fail to pass something, you know, by just locking up and failing to pass -- that's unacceptable," McConnell said. "What I want to see here is an outcome, not a bunch of partisan back-and-forth, these shots across the bow."
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The Washington Post's Josh Dawsey, Seung Min Kim and Colby Itkowitz contributed to this report.