Under lobbying from gun rights advocates, President Donald Trump appears to be wavering once again on stricter gun control legislation.
He has wavered after first suggesting he backed expanded gun-buyer background checks, and has now “cooled on his earlier support for a “red flag” bill to let authorities take guns away from dangerous people, Politico reports.
Last month, he promised that legislation to close “loopholes” in the background check system would be forthcoming within weeks.
Trump’s apparent softening comes after supporters of the gun rights lobby bombarded the White House with calls and petitions, while groups pushing for more restrictions on gun purchases haven’t been able to get in the door. The industry even has a former staffer working in the West Wing on legislation.
Trump was expected to release soon proposed changes to the background check system, and gun lobby-approved offerings meant to address violent video games and mental health treatment. But the red flag bill pushed by the president’s ally, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) but opposed by the gun industry may not make the cut.
On Thursday, Trump said what the gun lobby wanted to hear.
“Democrats want to confiscate guns from law-abiding Americans,” he told a House Republican retreat. “Republicans will always uphold the fundamental right to keep and bear arms.”
That elicited a predictable response from gun control advocates.
“We’re learning even more information about just how far the NRA (National Rifle Association) has sunk its claws into this White House,” said Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) of the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force.
Gun advocates have a conduit in the White House in Michael Williams, who worked for the gun rights lobby before advising acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney.
“We have different positions and a difference of opinion,” Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WVA) said of Williams. Manchin wants the White House to back a bipartisan proposal — which he developed with Sens. Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Pat Toomey (R-PA) — to expand background checks for sales at gun shows and online. They expect to speak to Trump again Thursday.