Without providing details, US President Donald Trump said on Tuesday that his administration was in discussions with Democrats to produce some sort of meaningful gun legislation following mass shootings in the United States in recent weeks.
Trump, speaking to reporters at the start of a meeting with the Romanian president, declined to say whether he supported any of the gun legislation backed by Democrats in the US House of Representatives.
“We are in very meaningful discussions with the Democrats and I think the Republicans are very unified,” Trump said, adding that Democrats were weaker in their support for gun rights than Republicans and he wanted to protect against gun controls becoming too restrictive.
“We’re looking at different things. And I have to tell you that it’s a mental problem, and I’ve said it a hundred times, it’s not the gun that pulls the trigger, it’s the person that pulls the trigger. These are sick people,” Trump said.
But health experts have warned against treating gun violence as solely a mental health issue. Studies show that only about three to five percent of violent acts in the US are committed by individuals diagnosed with mental illnesses. And those who are diagnosed with a mental illness are more likely to be victims of violence than commit violent acts.
Democrats have been demanding action on guns after shooters earlier this month in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, killed 31 people with semi-automatic rifles using high-volume magazines.
Congressional Democrats did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the president’s remarks on guns.
Following the mass shootings, Trump initially voiced support for tougher background checks so that “sick people don’t get guns”. He also suggested the National Rifle Association, one of the most powerful lobby groups, might drop its strong opposition to gun restrictions.
Trump has since shifted his approach, saying he supported meaningful background checks but that those behind the shootings were mentally ill and that the US needed to consider building institutions for the mentally ill, a statement he repeated on Tuesday.
“We have very, very strong background checks right now. But we have, sort of, missing areas, and areas that don’t complete the whole circle,” Trump said.
The House Judiciary Committee said on Friday it would cut short its summer recess to meet on September 4 to begin considering new gun control legislation.
The panel planned to prepare a series of bills for consideration by the full House, including a high-capacity magazine ban, a measure to prevent people convicted of misdemeanour hate crimes from purchasing firearms and a “red flag” bill to deny guns to those deemed to be a danger to themselves and others.
In February, the House passed the first major gun control bills in years, but the legislation has been stalled in the Senate and is unlikely to receive a vote.
“It’s been 175 days since @HouseDemocrats acted to end gun violence and passed #HR8 and #HR1112. We asked Mitch McConnell to hold a vote – and he hasn’t even responded. It’s past time for the Senate to expand background checks. #DoSomething #ForThePeople,” tweeted Democratic Representative Barbara Lee earlier on Tuesday.
It's been 175 days since @HouseDemocrats acted to end gun violence and passed #HR8 and #HR1112. We asked Mitch McConnell to hold a vote – and he hasn’t even responded. It’s past time for the Senate to expand background checks. #DoSomething #ForThePeople https://t.co/aRfbarXAVo
— Rep. Barbara Lee (@RepBarbaraLee) August 20, 2019