Trump Wants ‘Intelligent Background Checks’ and Says McConnell Is ‘On Board’ - The New York Times

Politics | Trump Wants ‘Intelligent Background Checks’ and Says McConnell Is ‘On Board’ Video President Trump spoke to reporters about the need for “intelligent background checks” before leaving the White House for a political fund-raiser and a vacation. Credit Credit Gabriella Demczuk for The New York Times

WASHINGTON — The time is now for lawmakers to come together and pass new laws for “meaningful” background checks on gun purchasers, Mr. Trump said Friday as he left the White House for a political fund-raiser in Southampton, N.Y., followed by a vacation at his golf club in New Jersey.

Less than a week after mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton, Ohio, left 31 people dead, Mr. Trump said there was “tremendous” support for “really common-sense sensible, important background checks.”

The Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, was “on board,” Mr. Trump said. And the gun lobby, which in the past has been effective in resisting such measures, would “get there.”

While Mr. Trump suggested there was a greater will now for new gun measures than after previous mass shootings, there were no new major signals on Friday from the National Rifle Association, the White House or Capitol Hill that action on the politically fraught issue was closer to compromise or resolution. And there was no rush for lawmakers, who are on recess, to reconvene early to take up the proposals.

The National Rifle Association’s position on new gun safety measures had not changed. The 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.”

The organization has succeeded in the past in convincing Mr. Trump to abandon certain gun control efforts. Both Mr. Trump and Mr. McConnell have opposed legislation to expand background checks, including a bill the House passed earlier this year.

So, why now?

“Time goes by,” Mr. Trump said. “I think I have a greater influence now over the Senate and over the House.”

The president directed the White House to see what he might be able to do through executive action if Congress does not act. Former President Barack Obama also considered executive actions, with little success, after Congress did not act after a 2012 mass shooting in a Connecticut elementary school that killed 20 children and six adults.

Some Democratic lawmakers who have pushed for gun legislation in the past were hopeful that the president was right, and that this time was different. But they acknowledged the challenge of upsetting a core group of Mr. Trump’s supporters while he campaigns for a second term in the Oval Office.

“He is at a different point now than he was before, but I’ll believe it when I see it,” Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut, said Friday.

Mr. Blumenthal is sponsoring legislation in the Senate that would make it easier for the 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.

Mr. Trump has not defined what “meaningful” background checks entail. “We’re not talking about anything specific — I can tell you this,” Mr. Trump said.

On Friday, he suggested that a minor’s record, which is typically expunged when he or she turns 18, should be visible to those reviewing a prospective gun buyer’s background, but he did not suggest there was specific proposal to address it.

Mr. 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. Mr. Trump, on Friday, said that an early return to Washington was not necessary, and that lawmakers could expect to start debating proposals when they reconvene next month.

The key to success, Mr. Blumenthal said, would depend on whether Mr. Trump and Mr. McConnell were willing to stand up to the National Rifle Association.

“They have both raised false hopes in the past,” Mr. Blumenthal said.

This time is different, Mr. Trump said. He added that members of the N.R.A. are “great patriots” who love their country and reaffirmed his support for the Second Amendment.

“I really think they’re going to get there,” he said of the association.

And to those who question whether a substantive change in gun laws was realistic, Mr. Trump said, “There’s never been a president like President Trump.”

Sheryl Gay Stolberg contributed reporting.