President Donald Trump said Friday there has been “tremendous support” for changing background check laws and appeared optimistic that the National Rifle Association would come around on the issue, despite public statements from the NRA against certain changes to current law.
“I really believe that the NRA — I’ve spoken to them numerous times — they’re great people… and frankly I really think they’re gonna get there also,” Trump told reporters outside the White House on whether the NRA will support background check legislation.
When asked whether background checks will be bad for him politically, Trump didn’t directly answer, saying there has been “no president that feels more strongly about the Second Amendment then I do. However we need meaningful background checks so sick people don’t get guns.”
Trump also referenced NRA chief executive Wayne LaPierre, who spoke with Trump multiple times over the last two days, a person familiar with the conversations told CNN on Thursday. In those conversations, LaPierre made clear the NRA’s stance on renewed calls for expanded background checks – something the President has privately and publicly supported in recent days.
“I think in the end, Wayne and the NRA will either be there or maybe will be a little bit more neutral — and that would be OK too,” Trump said Friday.
Trump added: “Frankly, we need intelligent background checks. This isn’t a question of NRA, Republican or Democrat.”
The gun lobby group tweeted on Thursday that “the NRA’s long-standing position that those who have been adjudicated as a danger to themselves or others should not have access to firearms and should be admitted for treatment.”
“But, there needs to be real evidence of danger – and we cannot sacrifice anyone’s constitutional rights without due process,” the organization said in a series of tweets. “It is not enough anymore to simply say that ‘we need more background checks.’ Considering both suspects in El Paso and Dayton passed them, that is rhetoric for billionaire activists and campaign rallies – not a call for constructive progress.”
Trump also added that he spoke to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and said he is “totally on board” with changes to background check laws. Trump also said he had “great” conversations with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York.
“I think the Republicans are going to be great and lead the charge, along with the Democrats,” Trump said of passing legislation on gun control. He added later, “We have tremendous support for really common sense, sensible, important background checks.”
McConnell’s spokesman said the Senate GOP leader didn’t endorse anything specific in his conversation with Trump.
“He spoke about broad policy areas where he thinks we can make law,” McConnell spokesman David Popp said.
Schumer expressed dismay about Trump’s comments evoking NRA support, saying that McConnell should take up legislation already passed by the House aimed at strengthening background checks.
“If @realDonaldTrump needs the NRA’s sign off for background checks legislation, it will be nearly impossible to accomplish anything meaningful to address gun violence. The NRA stated even yesterday that they are against background checks legislation which 90% of Americans support,” Schumer tweeted.
Trump’s comments come ahead of the President’s 10-day vacation in Bedminster, New Jersey, and as both chambers of Congress are planning to be in recess until September. Some Democrats in Congress have called for canceling the congressional recess to pass gun control-related legislation.
Trump on Friday indicated he is erring on the side of not calling Congress back into session.
“I don’t think we’ll need to,” he said. “We may. Leadership is dealing, along with me right now. By the time you call ‘em back they’re going to be back anyway.”
He later added, “So, I really don’t think, for the extra little time, it matters.”
Trump praised congressional leadership – including Democrats – for their work on the issue.
“There’s a lot of goodwill about this issue,” he said.
CNN’s Jim Acosta, Kaitlan Collins, Veronica Stracqualursi, Manu Raju and Jeremy Diamond contributed to this report.