US President Donald Trump has called for “very meaningful background checks” for gun buyers and said he can sway the powerful National Rifle Association (NRA) towards more stringent controls.
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Trump, speaking to reporters at the White House, said he has a “great relationship” with the NRA – which has resisted gun-control efforts for decades – and thinks he can change their mind on some measures.
He also said that while many attempts to restrict gun ownership have stalled in Congress in the past “there’s never been a president like President Trump.”
The NRA is one of the most powerful lobbies in the US and a frequent donor to Republican politicians. It spent $30.3 million to support Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks campaign spending.
Serious discussions are taking place between House and Senate leadership on meaningful Background Checks. I have also been speaking to the NRA, and others, so that their very strong views can be fully represented and respected. Guns should not be placed in the hands of…..
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 9, 2019
Earlier in the week, the NRA reiterated its opposition to stringent gun control laws, including an expanded background check law that US legislators passed earlier this year.
“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, adding that he had spoken to NRA head Wayne LaPierre earlier in the week.
“I think we can do meaningful, very meaningful background checks. I want to see it happen.”
The comments are considered to be the strongest yet in favour of gun control from Trump.
His words stood in stark contrast to those of LaPierre, who, in a rare public statement on Thursday, said the proposed controls “would make millions of law-abiding Americans less safe and less able to defend themselves and their loved ones”.
Trump spoke hours before several top Democratic presidential candidates attended a hastily organised event on gun control in Iowa hosted by prominent gun control groups in the wake of the most recent shootings.
Most recent shootings
On August 3, Patrick Crusius, 21, walked into a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas and opened fire with an AK-47, a semi-automatic rifle, killing 22 people and wounding dozens.
Crusius later told investigators he was targeting “Mexicans”, according to a report by the Washington Post on Friday.
Hours later, Conor Betts, 24, opened fire on a bustling downtown street in Dayton, Ohio, killing nine and wounding at least 26. Police killed Betts at the scene of the shooting.
Days before the two attacks, a teenager killed three people, including a 6-year-old boy and a 13-year-old girl, in Gilroy, California.
Last year, pressure from the NRA forced Trump to back down on supporting tighter gun laws, despite national outrage at the fatal shootings of 17 people at a high school in Parkland, Florida.