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Trump Says He Supports Background Checks, Shift From NRA

Aug 9, 2019
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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

President Trump says conversations are underway about possible legislation on guns. In the days since the mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton, the president has been talking to leaders in Congress in both parties. He's also been talking to the National Rifle Association.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: There has been no president that feels more strongly about the Second Amendment than I do. However, we need meaningful background checks.

MARTIN: President Trump there speaking with reporters outside the White House this morning. NPR's Franco Ordoñez was there and joins us now from the White House. Hi, Franco.

FRANCO ORDOÑEZ, BYLINE: Hello.

MARTIN: So earlier today on this program, we heard from deputy White House press secretary Hogan Gidley, who, when pressed, was very vague about what specific gun control proposals the president would support. Did the president himself get into any details?

ORDOÑEZ: The president himself is not getting into more specific details. He is continuing to kind of continue the same line that he has been saying over the last couple of days, just saying that he wants meaningful background checks but without any specific. He's talking about red flag laws.

He did mention that there could be some support for legislation from - that's being proposed by Toomey that involves some background checks. But really, he's not getting down to any details. It's much different, for example, than what the House is proposing.

And some of the things that he is - has talked about, like the red flag laws, kind of putting in protections for mental health, these are things that, actually, he's rolled back in the past. So there are still a lot of questions, but at least at this point, he's leaving the door open to talking and keeping the conversation going.

MARTIN: But this is - this has sort of happened before. I mean, we've seen the president talk about the need to address gun violence, even leaving the door open for possible gun control legislation. And then he has a conversation with the NRA, and then it's all walked back. I mean, how's he dealing with those gun rights advocates right now?

ORDOÑEZ: Yeah, exactly. I mean, in the past, President Trump has said that he's not afraid of the NRA. He said that today. He has kind of mocked his own Republican colleagues, saying that they're afraid of the NRA.

Now reporters asked him today whether he could do something without that - their support. He said yes, he could, but he didn't expect it to come to that. Now some of these proposals, President Trump said that he wasn't positive that the NRA would love them. He says they understand the need for background checks. But he also said they may be neutral on some of the proposals, and he said that would be OK.

What was also interesting, though, was that President Trump was repeating that the NRA also knows that President Trump has done so much for them, including getting two Supreme Court justices on the court who are supportive of the Second Amendment.

MARTIN: So you mentioned the House bill that passed with bipartisan support in February, but it stopped there. It's not the only piece of legislation floating around, right? Just give us the lay of the land right now.

ORDOÑEZ: Yeah, there's the Graham legislation that has to do with these red flag rules, which would prevent - or which would help mentally ill, you know, be able to take guns away from the mentally ill. There's the Manchin-Toomey legislation that is about expanding background checks. But McConnell has stopped short. And McConnell has talked about some of these things, but he's stopped short of assault weapons. He did say something earlier about that, but he's kind of backing off whether they will deal a ban. And one thing is, he's not saying they will definitely pass something, but he's saying that the Senate will discuss legislation in September when they're scheduled to return. So there's still a lot to go.

MARTIN: All right, NPR's Franco Ordoñez at the White House, thank you.

ORDOÑEZ: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.