President Donald Trump endorsed an expansion of background checks for U.S. gun buyers following the massacres in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, but said there’s “no political appetite” to renew a ban on military-style rifles.
“I’m looking to do background checks,” Trump told reporters as he departed the White House on Wednesday to visit the two violence-stricken cities. “I think background checks are important.”
While he said there’s not enough support in Congress to re-enact what was commonly known as the assault weapons ban, which expired in 2004, he indicated he would discuss the idea with lawmakers. “I will certainly bring that up,” he said.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has refused so far to allow a vote on House-passed legislation that would expand background checks and hasn’t indicated whether he’s reconsidering after the shootings, which killed 31 people.
“I think we can bring up background checks like we’ve never had before,” Trump said.
Political leaders in Ohio and El Paso have said new gun-safety laws must be considered following the shootings. Ohio Governor Mike DeWine issued a 17-point plan to address gun violence on Tuesday that includes background checks for nearly all gun purchases and a so-called “red flag” law that would allow courts to take firearms from people reported as potentially dangerous.
Trump, though, has previously endorsed expanded background checks only to reverse course after hearing from the National Rifle Association, whose membership comprises an important part of his political base.
After a shooting at a Parkland, Florida, high school in 2018 that killed 17 people, Trump publicly endorsed a host of gun-safety measures opposed by the gun-rights group, only to retreat following a private dinner with the organization’s leaders.
The NRA’s chief executive officer, Wayne LaPierre, called Trump on Tuesday to warn him against supporting expanded background checks, according to a person familiar with the matter. The Washington Post, which reported the call earlier, said LaPierre told Trump his supporters wouldn’t approve and also argued against the policy on its merits.