President Donald Trump again indicated Friday that Republicans could lead the way to expand background checks for Americans purchasing firearms.
“I think that Republicans are going to be great and lead the charge along with the Democrats,” Trump said.
Trump said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) was “totally on board” with the idea and said that even “hard-line” Senate supporters of the Second Amendment were interested in the idea.
He said he also spoke to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) about the issue.
“We have tremendous support for really common sense, sensible, important background checks,” he said.
Republicans supporting expanded background checks would be a sharp reversal from their stance in 2013 when they blocked the Democrat attempt to pass a bill after Sandy Hook Elementary shootings. The proposed legislation was passionately supported by then-President Barack Obama.
Trump said Friday that Republicans were “different” on the issue than they were in 2013.
“Time goes by,” he said when asked by a reporter why he would expect Republicans to vote differently. “I don’t think I’m different, but I think that the Senate is different I think other people in the House are different … I think that people that maybe had their arm up a couple of years ago, maybe they feel differently.”
Trump even acknowledged that it was “possible” that expanded background checks would not have even stopped either of the shooters from getting a weapon, but said it was important to act.
He did not say whether or not he supported the expanded background check bill already passed in the House by Democrats led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Trump confirmed that he spoke with Wayne LaPierre of the National Rifle Association about the issue and suggested that he could even oppose the organization on the issue of expanded background checks.
“I think I could but I don’t think I’ll be there,” Trump said regarding the possibility of opposing the NRA.
He hinted that the NRA could support his idea or even be “neutral” on the proposed legislation.
“I think in the end, Wayne and the NRA will either be there or maybe will be a little bit more neutral and that will be ok too,” he said.
Trump said he disagreed with the NRA’s principled opposition to any form of gun control in Congress and across the country over the years.
“Look, the NRA has over the years taken a very, very tough stance on everything and I understand it, you know, it’s a slippery slope, they think you approve one thing and that leads to a lot of bad things,” he said. “I don’t agree with it. I think we can do meaningful background checks, I want to see it happen.”
Trump said that Congressional leadership was working together on background check proposals and would probably move forward on something when they returned from their August vacation.
“I don’t think we’ll need to call them back,” he said.
Trump’s endorsement of the idea of expanding background checks runs against his 2015 campaign stance on the issue.
His 2015 campaign document on protecting the Second Amendment read:
Every time a person buys a gun from a federally licensed gun dealer – which is the overwhelming majority of all gun purchases – they go through a federal background check. Too many states are failing to put criminal and mental health records into the system – and it should go without saying that a system’s only going to be as effective as the records that are put into it. What we need to do is fix the system we have and make it work as intended. What we don’t need to do is expand a broken system.