President Donald Trump has told the head of the National Rifle Association that strengthening background checks for gun buyers is “off the table,” the Atlantic magazine reports.
“He was cementing his stance that we already have background checks and that he’s not waffling on this anymore,” Atlantic quotes a top White House official who witnessed a telephone call between Trump and NRA chief Wayne LaPierre.
Trump came out in favor of stricter background checks for gun buyers immediately after mass shootings this month in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio.
But he now appears to be lukewarm on the idea, telling reporters Tuesday the country already has “very, very strong background checks.” He said he is worried about a “slippery slope” when “all of a sudden everything is taken away.”
But the president also said his administration is having “meaningful” talks with Democrats on gun control.
“We’re looking at different things. And I have to tell you that it’s a mental problem as I’ve said it a hundred times — it’s not the gun that pulls the trigger, it’s the person that pulls the trigger. These are sick people,” Trump said.
According to The Atlantic, Trump was excited about the idea of a Rose Garden ceremony during which he would sign documents tightening background checks for gun purchases.
But a former White House official says when Trump asked LaPierre whether the NRA would be open to more checks, LaPierre said “No,” and that Trump immediately tossed out the idea of what could have been an historic Rose Garden event.
The White House has so far not commented on The Atlantic report.
A gunman killed 22 people at a Walmart store in El Paso August 3 in a shooting that appears to have targeted Mexicans. The suspect is in jail.
Hours later, another gunman shot nine others dead in Dayton before police killed him. The motive for that attack is still unclear.
Both shooters used military-style assault weapons.
The killings, along with a spate of threatened mass shootings in the past week that have resulted in a number of arrests, have renewed the nationwide debate over gun control in the United States.
The NRA has been a major force on Capitol Hill in opposing more gun laws. Gun rights supporters consistently point to the Second Amendment of the Constitution, which guarantees Americans the right to own a gun.
But millions of other Americans say they have had enough of mass shootings and the legislative inaction that follows such crimes and many gun owners themselves have said they support tighter background checks.