Speaking with reporters in the Oval Office on Tuesday, President Donald Trump offered the latest indication he’s backing away from throwing his political support behind changes to the background check system already in place for those purchasing firearms.
Trump insisted that the U.S. already has “very, very strong background check” for gun purchases. Trump also noted “a lot of the people that put me where I am are strong believers in the Second Amendment.”
In the more than two weeks that have passed since gunmen opened fire in El Paso, Texas, then in Dayton, Ohio, leaving more than 30 people dead, Trump’s position has softened significantly.
In the immediate aftermath of the two shootings, Trump said that he was eager to implement “very meaningful background checks” and told reporters there was “tremendous support” for action.
“We don’t want people that are mentally ill, people that are sick — we don’t want them having guns,” he said at the time.
Trump said Tuesday that, while the current system has “sort of missing areas and areas that don’t complete the whole circle,” it is overall “very, very strong” — even though federal law only requires background checks for guns sold through licensed firearms dealers.
In his Tuesday comments, the president also noted he worried about the potential risk of a “slippery slope” where “all of a sudden everything gets taken away.” It was just 11 days earlier, The Associated Press reported, that Trump dismissed that very same “slippery slope” thinking, which he attributed then to the National Rifle Association. “I don’t agree with that,” he said at the time.
Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Connecticut, told the AP he spoke with Trump last week and the president expressed support then for working across the aisle “to come up with a background checks bill that can pass the Senate and save lives. But he was quick to compare the comments of a week ago to Trump’s flip-flop on background checks following the Parkland, Florida, shooting after intervention from the NRA.
Trump spoke with NRA chief executive Wayne LaPierre by telephone Tuesday after which LaPierre tweeted the two had discussed “the best ways to prevent these types of tragedies” and noted Trump supports the right to keep and bear arms.”
If Trump and LaPierre have come up with a reasonable — not foolproof but a step in the right direction — way to prevent mass shootings, they should share it with an increasingly concerned populace.