President Trump called National Rifle Association (NRA) CEO Wayne LaPierre today to tell him that universal background checks for gun purchases are off the table.
The decision to oppose an initiative that has strong support in public polling signals an apparent backtracking by Trump from initial comments he made following two mass shootings earlier this month in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, that left 31 dead.
Trump at the time indicated support for legislation on “meaningful background checks,” saying the issue was not a question of the NRA or political partisanship.
“On background checks, we have tremendous support for really common-sense, sensible, important background checks,” Trump told reporters on Aug. 9 following the shootings.
However, Trump reportedly no longer supports the initiative.
“He was cementing his stance that we already have background checks and that he’s not waffling on this anymore,” a source told The Atlantic with regard to Trump’s phone call with LaPierre on Tuesday. “He doesn’t want to pursue it.”
Trump told LaPierre that he instead wanted to focus on “increasing funding” for mental health care and directing attorneys general across the country to start prosecuting “gun crime” through federal firearms charges from the Justice Department, according to The Atlantic.
LaPierre confirmed Tuesday evening that he had spoken to Trump, though he did not provide details.
“I spoke to the president today. We discussed the best ways to prevent these types of tragedies,” LaPierre wrote on the NRA’s Twitter account. “@realDonaldTrump is a strong #2A President and supports our Right to Keep and Bear Arms!”
Trump’s backtracking on background checks indicates that the NRA still wields significant influence on gun issues, despite internal turmoil.
Several top officials have left the gun rights lobbying group over the last few months since the ouster of ex-President Oliver North amid accusations from LaPierre that he attempted to extort him over the NRA’s finances.