President Donald Trump still supports raising the age limit to buy certain firearms, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters on Tuesday.
But her statement is at odds with Republican sources on Capitol Hill, who have told CNN that Trump’s interest in the issue has privately waned in recent days.
White House officials have been all over the map on raising the age limit to buy semi-automatic weapons, a policy proposal that Trump suggested shortly after the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, killed 17 people.
The last time Trump commented on raising the age limit came in a Saturday night interview with Fox News.
“I think we’ll have a great bill put forward very soon having to do with strong background checks, having to do with getting rid of certain things and keeping other things, and perhaps we’ll do something on age because it doesn’t seem to make sense that you have to wait until you are 21 years old to get a pistol, but to get a gun like this maniac used in the school, you get that at 18,” he said. “That doesn’t make sense.”
Since then, though, the President hasn’t raised the policy proposal in public remarks, including in lengthy remarks with the nation’s governors on Monday.
“The President still supports raising the age limit to the age of 21 for the purchase of certain firearms,” Sanders said Tuesday.
Sen. Pat Roberts, who said last week that he wanted individuals to be age 21 – not age 18 – buying a rifle, said on Tuesday that the White House was “not as interested in that as they perhaps first said.”
“They backed off of that,” Roberts said. “There’s other things we should consider that would have a more dramatic effect.”
CNN reported on Monday that Trump was privately backing away from his call to increase the age limit to 21 for some weapons.
“He’s obviously moving back from that,” a key GOP congressional source said.
A source close to the White House said after Tuesday’s briefing that it appears Trump is “talking out of both sides of his mouth” on the issue. And another top source on Capitol Hill added that there doesn’t appear to be “a path forward” for raising the age limit.
Trump, in response to the Parkland shooting, listed a series of policy proposals that he would endorse to address school safety, including backing bills that strengthened the nation’s background check system and raising the age limit to buy certain weapons. Trump has also proposed arming certain education officials, a proposal that has been panned by teachers and education organizations.
The National Rifle Association, an organization Trump has personally lauded over the last week, opposes raising the age limit to purchase certain weapons.
Top White House officials have struggled to explain Trump’s views on raising the age limit to buy semi-automatic weapons.
White House spokesperson Hogan Gidley told Fox News on Monday that such a proposal would be “very inconsistent” given all the rights afforded to people after they turn 18.
“They didn’t bring up the age issue one time in that meeting,” Gidley said of Trump’s meeting with governors on Monday. “And again, the President is listening to all of the stakeholders here. And when you sit with the governors at the local level who could help stop some of these shootings, when they don’t bring it up that’s very telling.”
When the Fox News host noted “we go to war and you vote at 18,” Gidley replied: “It’s very inconsistent.”
That’s at odds with what White House spokesman Raj Shah just told Fox News on Tuesday.
“The President still believes in an age 21 limit for the purchase of semi-automatic weapons. His approach to this is that measure along with fixing the background check system, strengthening it,” Shah said.