President Donald Trump is already lowering expectations for how much Congress will actually accomplish in terms of gun reform following a series of mass shootings across the country.
In a pair of tweets Friday morning, Trump indicated some discussion on background checks may occur in the coming days, but also shored up his loyalty to the National Rifle Association (NRA) and his support for the Second Amendment.
“Serious discussions are taking place between House and Senate leadership on meaningful Background Checks. I have also been speaking to the NRA, and others, so that their very strong views can be fully represented and respected,” he wrote.
“Guns should not be placed in the hands of mentally ill or deranged people,” he continued. “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!”
….mentally ill or deranged people. 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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 9, 2019
The tweets suggest the president is prepared to bow to NRA pressure once more. Trump notably did not mention the “red flag” laws he supported in recent days, the one solution that enjoys bipartisan support on the Hill. These laws allow family members and police to inform judges of concerning behavior, in order to remove firearms from an individual who is perceived as a threat to themselves or others.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has said that both red flag laws and expanding background checks would be “front and center” of any ensuing reform debate, but McConnell himself has voted against background checks in the past.
The NRA strongly opposes background checks, and reached out to Trump to make its objections known this week. According to The Washington Post, NRA chief executive Wayne LaPierre “spoke with Trump on Tuesday after the president expressed support for a background check bill and told him it would not be popular among Trump’s supporters, according to officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to freely discuss internal talks.”
LaPierre also reportedly argued against the bill’s merits, according to the officials.
The president dismissed concerns that he would cave to the NRA on Friday, telling reporters that, while he had “a lot of respect for the people at the NRA” and had “already spoken to them on numerous occasions,” the country needed “intelligent background checks” that included incidents or details from people’s juvenile records.
“It isn’t a question of NRA, Republican or Democrat. I will tell you, I spoke to Mitch McConnell yesterday. He is totally on board,” Trump said.
But he added, “We’ll see where the NRA will be. We have to have meaningful background checks. In the case [of the two shooters over the weekend in El Paso and Dayton, Ohio], it is possible they wouldn’t have been caught.”
McConnell, for his part, does not seem concerned about acting with urgency, saying he would support a debate on the topic once Congress reconvenes from the August recess in early September. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) had previously recommended the Senate return early to take up bipartisan legislation passed by the House earlier this year.
Trump has long opposed any form of gun control, claiming that it “does not reduce crime.” He’s also specifically voiced his opposition to expanding background checks because he doesn’t believe the current background checks work.
His latest deferral to the NRA is not new either. Just four months ago, Trump spoke at the NRA convention and assured them he didn’t support any measure that took guns away from people, including bills House Democrats had passed:
In recent days, leading Democrats have proposed banning new guns and confiscating existing guns from law-abiding citizens. What they don’t tell you is the bad guys aren’t giving up their guns. And you’re not going to be giving up your guns either.
He told the group he would never let them down, “because as the famous saying goes, when guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns. Very simple.”