President Donald Trump’s positions on guns and school safety appeared to shift following a surprise meeting with the National Riffle Association on Thursday night.
Good (Great) meeting in the Oval Office tonight with the NRA!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 2, 2018
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The meeting came one day after he had expressed his support for a number of measures on guns that put him at odds with the gun lobby during a freewheeling meeting with lawmakers on Wednesday.
On Friday morning, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said the president continues to "conceptually" support the idea of raising the minimum age of purchase on assault rifles, but suggested that the president was in favor of leaving the matter up to the states.
"I think he thinks it would probably have more potential at the states than it would at the federal level," Sanders said, noting that the president realizes that “there's not a lot of broad support for” raising the minimum purchase age.
But on Wednesday, when the president urged lawmakers not to be afraid of going up against the NRA on the issue and accused Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Penn., of being “afraid of the NRA” because his previously proposed legislation calling for expanding background checks on nearly all gun purchases, and co-sponsored by Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, does not address the age minimum.
“I'm a big fan of the NRA … but that doesn't mean we have to agree on everything. It doesn't make sense that I have to wait until I'm 21 to get a handgun but I can get this weapon at 18,” Trump said on Wednesday, as he pressed Toomey on why his legislation doesn't address the issue.
“You know why? Because you're afraid of the NRA, right?” Trump said to Toomey.
Following his previously unannounced meeting with the NRA on Thursday, President Trump took to Twitter to declare the meeting a success.
The NRA’s top lobbyist went further in his readout of the meeting, suggesting that the organization was on the same page with the president and vice president in their opposition to gun control measures.
I had a great meeting tonight with @realDonaldTrump & @VP. We all want safe schools, mental health reform and to keep guns away from dangerous people. POTUS & VPOTUS support the Second Amendment, support strong due process and don’t want gun control. #NRA #MAGA— Chris Cox (@ChrisCoxNRA) March 2, 2018
The president had also seemed to clearly support requiring expanding background checks on gun purchases in Wednesday's meeting. But on Friday, Sanders said that the president is simply in favor of improving the existing background check system.
"Not necessarily universal background checks but certainly improving the background check system," Sanders said. “Universal means something different to a lot of people. He certainly wants to focus and improve on the background check system.”
When it comes to the so-called Manchin-Toomey bill, which the president on Wednesday seemed enthusiastic about, Sanders said Friday that the President hasn’t "fully gotten on board with” that bill.
“They are still kind of working out some of the final pieces of that legislation. Until it gets into its final stage, we're not going to weigh in. But we're continuing to closely watch that," Sanders said on FOX News.
Sanders emphasized that the only existing legislation that the president supports in its current form are the FIX NICS Act, which would make modest improvements to the nation’s background check system, and the STOP School Violence Act, which would offer aid to states in identifying and reporting individual who may pose a safety risk.