President TrumpDonald TrumpOvernight Defense & National Security — The Pentagon's deadly mistake Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by Climate Power — Interior returns BLM HQ to Washington France pulls ambassadors to US, Australia in protest of submarine deal MORE sent mixed signals Wednesday about enhanced background checks for gun purchasers, telling reporters he has an “appetite” for screening measures while also insisting that the U.S. already has strong rules in place.
“I have an appetite for background checks,” Trump said. “We have a lot of background checks right now.”
Trump added it was important for lawmakers to fix the “weak” areas in the current system. He also repeated his assertion that gun violence is a mental health issue.
The president's remarks came a day after he appeared to back off a previous push for enhanced background checks, just hours after speaking with Wayne LaPierre, head of the National Rifle Association (NRA).
Trump confirmed Wednesday that he spoke with LaPierre the previous day but denied reports that he told the CEO that universal background checks were off the table.
“No, I didn’t say anything about that. We had a great talk with Wayne yesterday. We just talked about concepts,” Trump told reporters at the White House before departing for a speech at the AMVETs convention in Kentucky.
“We have background checks, but there are loopholes in the background checks, and that’s what I spoke to the NRA about yesterday," Trump said. "They want to get rid of the loopholes as well as I do. At the same time, I don’t want to take away people’s Second Amendment rights."
Trump went on to say that he wants people who are mentally stable to be able to “easily” obtain guns, but indicated that people who are mentally ill should be prevented from doing so.
“There are things we can do, but we already have very serious background checks,” Trump said. “We also have to remember, the gun doesn’t pull the trigger.”
Democrats renewed a push for universal background checks following a pair of mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, earlier this month. Trump indicated shortly after the shootings that he was supportive of enhanced background check legislation. He has since backtracked following conversations with GOP lawmakers and the NRA.
The NRA is publicly opposed to background checks and other legislative proposals that have been floated in the wake of the shootings.
Trump also doubled down on his Tuesday remarks by repeating an oft-used NRA argument that warns of a “slippery slope” when it comes to gun control legislation.
“All of a sudden, nobody has any legal protections,” Trump told reporters when asked about the remark Wednesday. “We have a Second Amendment and our Second Amendment will remain strong.”