President Donald Trump insisted on Wednesday that he hasn’t changed his position on gun sale background checks after a call with the NRA, even as he has walked back his previous call for "meaningful" reforms and now says the U.S. already has a strong background check system.
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“I don't think I've changed positions at all. We're working on background checks. There are things we can do. But we already have very serious background checks. We have strong background checks,” Trump told reporters at the White House on Wednesday.
But in the immediate aftermath of the El Paso and Dayton shootings, the president was making the case for “meaningful” reforms to background checks. He argued at the time that it was a unique moment in part because of his leadership, saying “there's never been a president like President Trump.”
“I think we can get something really good done. I think we can have some really meaningful background checks,” Trump said then and called on “Republicans and Democrats [to] … come together and get strong background checks.”
"We're going to be doing background checks," Pres. Trump says today after appearing to backtrack his support.— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) August 21, 2019
When asked about the issue yesterday, Trump said, "we already have very, very strong background checks," and added the issue is mental health https://t.co/uWxOiN4ZWj pic.twitter.com/MhLpPULFYt
While the president said Wednesday he continues to have an "appetite" for background checks, he said he has narrowed his focus to improving “certain weaknesses” in the existing system.
“We can close up the gaps, do things that are very good and frankly gun owners want to have done. We have to remember the gun doesn't pull the trigger. A person does. And we have great mental illness,” the president said.
The president also repeated what is a common NRA talking point in warning of a "slippery slope" in making changes to the nation’s gun laws.
“I'm concerned that no matter what we agreed to, when we get there, I'm concerned that Democrats will say, 'Oh, well, we now want this.' It's a slippery slope. That's what actually your gun owners and a lot of other people,” he said.
The president’s comments come one day after he had a lengthy phone call with NRA chief Wayne LaPierre. Sources familiar with the call said the president told LaPierre that universal background checks are off the table, even as he continues to explore some more limited reforms.