President Trump seems to have fully cooled on his initial calls for bipartisan background check legislation in response to two mass shootings earlier this month that left 32 people dead.
The Atlantic reported Tuesday evening that Trump spoke with NRA chief Wayne LaPierre earlier in the day to say that he won’t move forward with expanded background checks.
“He was cementing his stance that we already have background checks and that he’s not waffling on this anymore,” a source briefed on Trump’s call told the magazine.
LaPierre confirmed he spoke to the President, but didn’t provide more clarity on the contents of the call.
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
Trump made his position clear earlier Tuesday. Speaking to reporters in the Oval Office, Trump said “we have strong background checks right now.” He also harped on the popular conservative talking point that mass shootings are a result of mental health problems.
“I’ve said it 100 times, it’s not the gun that pulls the trigger, it’s the person that pulls the trigger. These are sick people, and it’s that kind of a problem,” he said. “And we’re looking at mental institutions, which we used to have, like for example where I come from in New York they closed up almost all of their mental institutions or many of them and those people just went onto the streets.”
He then bombarded Democrats for being “weak” on the 2nd Amendment before reiterating, perhaps pointedly, his stance on guns. He even acknowledged that his base supporters are not fans of any type of gun control legislation.
“The people that — a lot of the people that put me where I am, are strong believers in the 2nd Amendment, and I am also. And we have to be very careful about that,” he said. “You know, they call it the slippery slope. All of a sudden everything gets taken away, we’re not going to let that happen.”
Trump once again backs away from strong gun control measures pic.twitter.com/MXXkVJ6drZ
— TPM Livewire (@TPMLiveWire) August 20, 2019
In his initial response to the mass shootings earlier this month, Trump vowed that he’d work with congressional Democrats and Republicans to come up bipartisan legislation on “meaningful” background checks, including taking a look at red flag laws. But over the weekend, Trump appeared to cool on that stance, telling reporters Sunday that the U.S. already has background checks, verbiage he repeated Tuesday.
The about-face likely stems from Trump’s two-week long vacation, in which he reportedly met with multiple pro-gun advocates, including National Rifle Association executive Wayne LaPierre. In private, Trump believes that the organization, which has suffered serious leadership turmoil in recent months, is no longer effective as a gun lobby group.
But that tone changes in public.