Trump Cools On Expanding Background Checks

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Amber Athey Podcast Columnist
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President Donald Trump appears to be cooling on expanding gun background checks after conversations with gun rights activists in Bedminster, New Jersey last week.

“People don’t realize we have very strong background checks right now,” the president told reporters while leaving New Jersey at the end of his two-week vacation, adding that he is “very, very concerned with the Second Amendment.”

The president initially seemed well positioned to take action on gun control after back-to-back mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio. White House officials held meetings with Connecticut Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy, who backs an “assault weapon” ban, and Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Pat Toomey and West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, who support expanding background checks. (RELATED: The White House Is Negotiating Gun Control Legislation With A Pro-Assault Weapons Ban Democrat)

“There’s an appetite, and I mean a very strong appetite, for background checks,” Trump said shortly after the shootings.

Background checks currently apply to all sales through federally licensed gun dealers, but do not apply to private sales or trades. Toomey and Manchin’s bill would expand background checks to unlicensed sales over the internet or at gun shows, but would exempt sales between friends and family members. Stricter Democratic-backed measures would force background checks every time a gun even temporarily changes hands, which critics say would require a national registry of firearms and would unfairly harm rural Americans who swap guns for everyday tasks, such as hunting and farming.

Trump may have been swayed from such policies by National Rifle Association (NRA) president Wayne LaPierre and other gun rights activists, who met with the president in New Jersey, according to The New York Times. In fact, the president promised in early August that he would consider the NRA’s position on such matters, tweeting, “I have also been speaking to the NRA, and others, so that their very strong views can be fully represented and respected.”

The president’s flip could assuage the fears of conservative members of Congress and the administration who feared Trump was poised to make a deal with the Democrats at the expense of his base.