'We have to have meaningful background checks' Trump says, but NRA's 'strong views' must be 'respected'

PHOTO: President Donald Trump talks to reporters as he departs for travel to New York and New Jersey from the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Aug. 9, 2019.PlayLeah Millis/Reuters
WATCH 'We need intelligent background checks': Trump

President Donald Trump said Friday that he thinks "very meaningful background checks" can pass Congress but said the Republican-controlled Senate doesn't need to come back early from its August recess and can deal with the issue in September.

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"We have to have very meaningful background checks," he told reporters as he left the White House for a trip to New York.

"I want to see it happen," he said. "We need intelligent background checks. This isn't a question of NRA, Republican or Democrat."

He said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was "totally on board." Republican senators, he said, "are looking for me to give a signal."

"I think now we have a chance to do something much more meaningful," he said, than measures taken after the Parkland, Florida, high school shooting in 2017.

PHOTO: President Donald Trump talks to reporters on the South Lawn of the White House, Friday, Aug. 9, 2019, in Washington. Evan Vucci/AP
President Donald Trump talks to reporters on the South Lawn of the White House, Friday, Aug. 9, 2019, in Washington.

"I think in the end the NRA will either be there or maybe be a little bit more neutral and that would be OK," he said, following a report that NRA chief executive Wayne LaPierre has warned him Trump's supporters don't support new background check measures.

"The Republicans are looking at it very seriously and I really believe that the NRA -- I've spoken to them numerous times," he continued. "They're really good people. They're great patriots. They love our country. They love our country so much. And frankly, I really think they're going to get on board.”

He said the checks would keep guns out of the hands of "sick" and "deranged" people, although medical experts say mental illness is not the main reason shooters carry out mass murders, such as the El Paso and Dayton shootings last weekend.

“We don't want insane people, mentally ill people, bad people, dangerous people, we don't want guns in the hands of the wrong people,” he said. "I think that the Republicans are going to be great and lead the charge, along with the Democrats.”

Earlier Friday, Trump tweeted that there are “serious discussions” between House and Senate leadership on “meaningful background checks," though Congress is unlikely to respond to last weekend's deadly mass shootings until at least September.

At the same time, Trump, who spoke with the NRA's LaPierre multiple times this week, said the "strong views" of the NRA and others should be “represented and respected” in any bipartisan agreement but stressed that “guns should not be placed in the hands of mentally ill or deranged people.”

“I am the biggest Second Amendment person there is, but we all must work together for the good and safety of our Country," Trump tweeted. "Common sense things can be done that are good for everyone!"

PHOTO: US President Donald Trump greets first responders as he visits El Paso Regional Communications Center in El Paso, Texas, August 7, 2019. Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images
US President Donald Trump greets first responders as he visits El Paso Regional Communications Center in El Paso, Texas, August 7, 2019.

In the aftermath of the shootings, which killed a combined 31 people, Trump has signaled a willingness to support congressional efforts to craft a bipartisan agreement to address background checks and enact red-flag checks to prevent mentally ill people from obtaining firearms. The Washington Post, however, reported that the NRA warned the president that changes to background check laws could cost him politically with the Republican base.

The president also spoke via telephone with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, as well as McConnell on Thursday.

"The President gave us his assurances that he would review the bipartisan House-passed legislation and understood our interest in moving as quickly as possible to help save lives," Pelosi, D-Calif., and Schumer, N.Y., wrote in a joint statement.

PHOTO: US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump disembark from Air Force One upon arrival at El Paso International Airport in El Paso, Texas, August 7, 2019. Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images
US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump disembark from Air Force One upon arrival at El Paso International Airport in El Paso, Texas, August 7, 2019.

The president and first lady Melania Trump visited Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas, on Wednesday, meeting with first responders, health care professionals and victims and their families from the shootings.