Trump flirts with action on gun control

President TrumpDonald John TrumpIllinois governor says state has gotten 10 percent of medical equipments it's requested Biden leads Trump by 6 points in national poll Tesla offers ventilators free of cost to hospitals, Musk says MORE is flirting with taking action on gun control in the wake of a pair of mass shootings that left 31 people dead and shook a country clearly tiring of a seemingly endless series of shootings.

Trump on Friday voiced clear support for background checks and legislation that would keep weapons away from dangerous individuals, and expressed confidence a deal could be put together.

“I see a better feeling right now toward getting something meaningful done,” Trump told reporters at the White House, comparing the present day to the situation after the 2018 shooting at a high school in Parkland, Fla., that initially seemed it might end a congressional logjam on guns.


Trump spoke a day after speaking to Democratic congressional leaders about the shootings and a possible response. He’s also spoken to the National Rifle Association (NRA) and a number of key senators on gun violence.

There is reason to be skeptical that Congress and Trump will reach a deal.

The president has maintained strong support from the NRA after speaking to the group as a presidential candidate.

Backing background checks or even “red flag” legislation, which would allow law enforcement to obtain a court order to confiscate weapons from individuals deemed a threat to themselves or others, could force Trump to take on the powerful group.

Democrats and Republicans in Congress would also have to unite around a bill. Many still remain far apart on how to best prevent future shootings.

Some top GOP senators have already cast doubt on the odds of passing the measures the president has said he would prefer. 

But Trump could likely move a number of Republicans behind a bill if he chooses to do so, and he has voiced support for gun control measures in the past.

On Friday, he expressed confidence not only in the possibility of a deal, but in his ability to move his party.

“I really think [Republicans are] looking for me to give them a signal,” Trump said. “And we're going to have great support, and I think we'll have the support from the Democrats also.”

Trump's views on gun control have been difficult to pin down following prior mass shootings.

After the Parkland shooting, the president said he'd support expanded background checks and an increased age requirement to buy certain weapons. But he backed off amid pressure from the NRA.

The issue was thrust to the forefront again after shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio. Hundreds of protesters in each city greeted Trump on Wednesday with posters and chants demanding lawmakers “do something” to prevent gun violence.

Trump this week said he supports “intelligent” and “commonsense” background checks and red flag laws.

“Frankly, we need intelligent background checks, OK?” he said Friday. “This isn't a question of NRA, Republican or Democrat.”

Democrats have urged the Senate to vote on bipartisan measures passed by the House earlier this year that would expand background checks, and the House Judiciary Committee is weighing a return to Washington, D.C., to consider further legislation.

But Trump has said it's not necessary to call a special session, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOvernight Health Care: White House projects grim death toll from coronavirus | Trump warns of 'painful' weeks ahead | US surpasses China in official virus deaths | CDC says 25 percent of cases never show symptoms 14 things to know for today about coronavirus Trump says he wouldn't have acted differently on coronavirus without impeachment MORE (R-Ky.) has shown little interest in bringing the House bills up for a vote.

Trump said Friday that he spoke to McConnell, and that the GOP leader was “totally on board” with the idea of background checks. The president also claimed he's spoken with senators who are “hard-line” Second Amendment supporters who understand the need for improvements.

“We don’t want insane people, mentally ill people, bad people, dangerous people — we don’t want guns in the hands of the wrong people,” he said. “I think that the Republicans are going to be great and lead the charge along with the Democrats.”

But the president may have overstated the level of buy-in from his own party.

A spokesman for McConnell noted that, despite Trump's claim the majority leader is “totally on board,” the senator has not endorsed anything specific. McConnell predicted Thursday that background checks and the red flag laws will be “front and center,” but declined to say whether he'd support either measure.

“What we can't do is fail to pass something,” McConnell told a Kentucky radio station.

Sens. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinPressure mounts for national parks closure amid coronavirus White House, Senate reach deal on trillion stimulus package Some Democrats growing antsy as Senate talks drag on MORE (D-W.Va.) and Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeyNSA improperly collected US phone records in October, new documents show Overnight Defense: Pick for South Korean envoy splits with Trump on nuclear threat | McCain blasts move to suspend Korean military exercises | White House defends Trump salute of North Korean general WH backpedals on Trump's 'due process' remark on guns MORE (R-Pa.) have spoken with the president in recent days about their bill to expand background checks to include all commercial gun sales. Toomey told Fox News this week that he doesn't feel the bill is particularly controversial.

But the measure failed by six votes in 2013 following the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, and it's unclear whether attitudes have shifted enough to change the outcome in 2019.

“I don't expect that things have changed much,” said Sen. John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoOvernight Energy: Trump rolls back Obama-era fuel efficiency standards | Controversial Keystone XL construction to proceed | Pressure mounts to close national parks amid pandemic Critics blast Trump mileage rollback, citing environment and health concerns Lobbying world MORE (Wyo.), the third-ranking Senate Republican.

Barrasso also expressed concerns with the red flag laws backed by Trump and Sens. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamTrump reviews Pelosi on morning TV: 'She wasn't bad' Encryption helps America work safely – and that goes for Congress, too Graham: Pelosi comment on Trump is 'most shameful, disgusting statement by any politician in modern history' MORE (R-S.C.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.).

The NRA on Thursday came out against the measures that have been floated following the weekend's bloodshed, with CEO Wayne LaPierre dismissing the proposals as “sound bite solutions” that would not have prevented the violence in El Paso or Dayton.

But Trump, never one to doubt his own deal-making abilities, appeared unbothered by the differences in opinion.

“I think a lot of really meaningful things on background checks will take place, including red flags, including a lot of other very, very important items. And the Republicans are looking at it very seriously,” Trump said.

“And I really believe that the NRA — I’ve spoken to them numerous times — they’re really good people,” he continued. “And, frankly, I really think they’re going to get there also.”

The issue is of growing importance for Trump and the GOP as they seek to position themselves for the 2020 election. An increasing percentage of voters, particularly in suburban areas, are in favor of background checks, bans on high-powered assault weapons and other measures to limit gun violence.

A Politico/Morning Consult poll released this week found 90 percent of those surveyed support requiring background checks on all gun sales, and 70 percent support banning assault-style weapons.

But there is pessimism about the odds of action from Congress in the wake of yet another mass shooting. The poll found 39 percent of respondents believe it's very likely or somewhat likely federal lawmakers will pass stricter gun laws, compared to 52 percent who believe it's not too likely or not likely at all.

Jordain Carney contributed.