WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump said Tuesday his administration was in “meaningful” talks with Democrats about gun legislation after the latest mass shootings, but congressional aides downplayed the discussions as low-key. level and not very productive.
Democrats have accused Trump of changing course after initially voicing support for stricter background checks following recent shootings in the United States, so that “sick people don’t get guns.”
He also suggested that the National Rifle Association lobbyist could ease its strong opposition to the gun restrictions.
Since then, Trump has changed his approach, however, calling the shooters mentally ill and saying the administration had to consider building more mental institutions.
“These recalls are heartbreaking, particularly for the families of the victims of gun violence,” US Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said on Twitter. He urged Trump to pressure Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to allow a Senate vote on a House of Representatives-backed background check bill.
Speaking to reporters at the White House, Trump declined to say whether he supported any of the gun laws endorsed by House Democrats. But he said the administration had been in talks with Democrats.
“We are in very meaningful discussions with the Democrats and I think the Republicans are very close,” Trump said. He said Democrats were weaker in their support for gun rights than Republicans and wanted to protect himself from gun controls becoming too restrictive.
“We are seeing different things. And I have to tell you that it is a mental problem, and I have said it hundreds of times, it is not the gun that pulls the trigger, it is the person that pulls the trigger. These are sick people,” Trump said. .
Democrats have been demanding action against the guns after shooters earlier this month in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio, killed 31 people with semi-automatic rifles using high-volume magazines.
The White House held a staff-level meeting with staff from the Senate Judiciary Committee on Friday, congressional aides said.
House Judiciary Committee staff met with White House aides Tuesday, focusing primarily on the gun bills the panel plans to address at a meeting scheduled for Sept. 4. Attendees said there was no productive discussion about legislative priorities or measures the White House could support.
Trump suggested Tuesday that he could accept some changes to improve the background check, but did not offer details.
“We have very, very strong background checks right now. But we have, in a way, missing areas and areas that don’t fill the whole circle,” Trump said.
A White House official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, later said that “meaningful background checks remain on the table” for the president, but that he “has not mentioned support for universal background checks.”
The official said Trump spoke with NRA chief Wayne LaPierre on Tuesday. LaPierre said in a post on Twitter that they “discussed the best ways to prevent these kinds of tragedies.”
The House Judiciary Committee said Friday it would shorten its summer recess to meet on Sept. 4 and begin considering new gun control legislation.
The panel planned to prepare a series of bills for consideration by the House floor, including a ban on high-capacity magazines, a measure to prevent people convicted of minor hate crimes from buying firearms and a “red flag” bill to deny guns to those deemed to be a danger to themselves and others.
(This story has been republished to add the missing word in paragraph 1.)