The New York Times Company
WASHINGTON — The time is now for Congress to pass new laws for “meaningful” background checks on gun purchasers, President Donald Trump said Friday as he left the White House for a political fundraiser in New York, followed by a vacation at his golf club in New Jersey.
Less than a week after mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, left 31 people dead, Trump said there was “tremendous” support for “really common-sense sensible, important background checks.”
The Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., was “on board,” Trump said. And the gun lobby, which in the past has been effective in resisting such measures, would “get there.”
The National Rifle Association’s chief executive, Wayne LaPierre, said Thursday that additional background-check measures being discussed in Washington “would not have prevented the horrific tragedies in El Paso and Dayton.”
Both Trump and McConnell have opposed previous legislation to expand background checks, including a bill the House passed earlier this year. But Trump suggested there was a greater will now for new gun measures than after previous mass shootings.
“Time goes by,” Trump said. “I think I have a greater influence now over the Senate and over the House.” The president also directed the White House to see what he might be able to do through executive authority if Congress does not act.
Some Democratic lawmakers who have pushed for gun legislation in the past were hopeful, but they acknowledged the challenge of upsetting a core group of Trump’s supporters. “He is at a different point now than he was before, but I’ll believe it when I see it,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said Friday.
Blumenthal is sponsoring legislation in the Senate that would make it easier for authorities to take firearms from people considered potentially dangerous. He and other Democrats say the so-called red flag laws and improved background checks go hand-in-hand.
McConnell has signaled that he would at least be open to considering new legislation, including red flag laws, though he did not call the Senate back from its August recess to address the issue immediately. Trump on Friday said an early return to Washington was not necessary, and that lawmakers could expect to start debating proposals when they reconvene next month.