In the immediate wake of the tragic mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, the left issued its typical demands for Congress and even the White House to “do something” to prevent future instances of similar gun violence, and initially, it seemed like President Donald Trump was on board with the effort to try and get something — anything — done.
Trump initially signaled an openness to supporting broadened, “universal” background checks for gun purchases as well as so-called “red flag” laws that allow the preemptive confiscation of firearms from potentially dangerous individuals — but it appears that openness was short-lived, as he has reportedly taken the possible expansion of background checks “off the table.”
Universal background checks “off the table”
The revelation came from The Atlantic, which cited unnamed current and former officials in both the White House and the National Rifle Association (NRA).
Despite his earlier expressions of willingness to do something with regard to universal background checks, Trump reportedly cooled on the idea after speaking with the NRA and receiving briefings on the details of multiple recent mass shooting events, none of which would have been prevented by expanded or universal background checks.
That turnabout reportedly led to another phone call with NRA president Wayne LaPierre in which Trump reportedly informed him that universal background checks were “off the table” and no longer under consideration.
“He was cementing his stance that we already have background checks and that he’s not waffling on this anymore,” an unnamed source said to have been briefed on the call explained to The Atlantic. “He doesn’t want to pursue it.”
Focus on mental health, enforcement of existing laws
Instead, the source suggested that Trump wanted to focus on getting more funding appropriated for mental health care, an issue he believes is a driving force behind mass shooting incidents and for state attorneys general and federal U.S. attorneys nationwide to make more of an effort in actually enforcing gun laws already on the books.
That thinking was seemingly expressed by Trump himself while speaking with reporters on Sunday ahead of his return to the White House from his golf resort in Bedminster, New Jersey.
“People don’t realize, we have very strong background checks right now. You go in to buy a gun, you have to sign up. There are a lot of background checks that have been approved over the years, so I’ll have to see what it is,” the president said.
While anything is possible, it would appear at the moment that President Trump has no appetite to further expand background checks for gun purchases that would do virtually nothing to stop mass shooters and would only infringe upon the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding gun owners and prospective purchasers.
To be sure, there will likely be a renewed push on the issue once Congress returns in September from its late summer recess, and it isn’t out of the question that Trump could change his mind again and resume support for a bipartisan bill that expanded or strengthened the current background check laws.
Doing so would likely be a big risk for the president, however, as it would be unlikely to curry him much favor among the liberal media and anti-gun left and would certainly alienate a significant portion of his base of support, so we will all just have to wait and see what, if anything, happens over the next few months.