Donald Trump says he wants 'intelligent' background checks

  • Donald Trump is weighing expanding background checks on gun purchases 
  • 'Frankly, we need intelligent background checks,' he said 
  • He said he had the support of Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell
  • 'I spoke to Mitch McConnell yesterday. He's totally on board,' he said
  • McConnell's support would be crucial in getting any legislation passed
  • A McConnell aide noted the Senate leader hasn't endorsed 'anything specific' in terms of legislation 
  • Trump also acknowledged such a move would infuriate the conservative Republican base headed into an election year by saying he's spoken to the NRA  
  • NRA President Wayne LaPierre has reportedly warned the president expanded background checks would anger his supporters 
  • 'There's no president that feels more strongly about the second amendment than I do,' Trump told reporters at the White House
  • 'I think in the end Wayne and the NRA will either be there or maybe will be a little bit more neutral,' he added

Donald Trump said Friday he's weighing 'intelligent' background checks on gun purchasers and has the support of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to get it done so 'insane people' don't get their hands on firearms.

The president's announcement was to reporters on the South Lawn Friday morning as he prepared to board Marine One. 

It was part of a free-wheeling half-hour question and answer session in stifling heat which also saw him attack Joe Biden as 'not playing with a full deck'; disclose a 'beautiful' new letter from Kim Jong Un; and declare Hollywood, not himself, 'racist.'

Trump was flying first to the Hamptons in New York for two fundraisers, one of them with SoulCycle investor Stephen Ross, and then on to his New Jersey golf resort in Bedminster where he is staying fora two-week vacation.  He said the boycott of SoulCycle was making Ross 'hotter' and gloated that the fundraiser was a sell-out.

Support from McConnel for a gun measure is crucial in getting any legislation passed. The president also said he's spoken to other conservative lawmakers who would be hesitant about supporting expanded background checks - votes that would be needed in the legislative process.

'I spoke to Mitch McConnell yesterday. He's totally on board. He said "I've been waiting for your call." He is totally on board.

'I spoke to senators that in some cases, friends of mine, but pretty hard-line senators,' Trump said.

'They understand. We don't want insane people, mentally ill people, bad people, dangerous people, we don't want guns in the hands of the wrong people. I think that the Republicans are going to be great and lead the charge,' he added.

But a McConnell aide noted to DailyMail.com the Senate leader hasn't endorsed 'anything specific' in terms of legislation but instead talked about 'broad policy areas where he thinks we can make a law.'

Trump also downplayed a reported warning from the NRA that such a move would cost him his base in an election year.

'I have a great relationship with the NRA. They supported me very early,' he said. 'I have a lot of respect for the people at the NRA and I have already spoken to them on numerous occasions and, frankly, we need intelligent background checks. This isn't a question of NRA, Republican or Democrat.'  

Donald Trump is weighing expanding background checks on gun purchases+9

Donald Trump is weighing expanding background checks on gun purchases

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I can do it: Donald Trump, speaking before he left the White House to start a two-week break at his Bedminster, New Jersey, resort, said he could get measures passed to keep guns from 'insane' people 

Talks: Trump said of the Senate majority leader: 'I spoke to Mitch McConnell yesterday. He's totally on board. He said +9

Talks: Trump said of the Senate majority leader: 'I spoke to Mitch McConnell yesterday. He's totally on board. He said "I've been waiting for your call." He is totally on board.'

Departure: Marine One lifts off to take the president to Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews for a flight to the Hamptons in New York+9

Departure: Marine One lifts off to take the president to Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews for a flight to the Hamptons in New York 

Trump said Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell is 'totally on board' but an aide to the senator said he hasn't endorsed 'anything specific' in terms of legislation+9

Trump said Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell is 'totally on board' but an aide to the senator said he hasn't endorsed 'anything specific' in terms of legislation

The president emphasized the time was right to get 'meaningful' work done on the issue as public pressure increases on Republicansafter two mass shootings this weekend killed 31 people. 

'I think I have a greater influence now over the Senate and over the House. I think we can get something really good done. I think we can have some really meaningful background checks. We don't want people that are mentally ill, people that are sick, we don't want them having guns. Who does?,' Trump said. 

Earlier Friday Trump tweeted that 'serious discussions are taking place between House and Senate leadership on meaningful Background Checks.'

President Trump also acknowledged the possible political costs of such a move - which would infuriate the conservative Republican base headed into an election year - by noting he's spoken to the NRA about the issue and claiming he is 'the biggest second amendment person there is.'

NRA President Wayne LaPierre has reportedly warned the president that the expansion would anger his supporters. 

Trump brushed aside any friction between him and the powerful gun lobby.

'I had a good talk with Wayne and I like Wayne,' he said on the South Lawn.

He called the NRA 'great people' who 'love our country.'

'They're big believers in the second amendment as I am. There's no president that feels more strongly about the second amendment than I do. However, we need meaningful background checks so sick people don't get guns. 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 okay, too,' Trump added.

President Trump also downplayed reported warnings from the NRA about moving forward on expanded background checks+9

President Trump also downplayed reported warnings from the NRA about moving forward on expanded background checks

He tweeted similar thoughts Friday morning.  

'I have also been speaking to the NRA, and others, so that their very strong views can be fully represented and respected,' Trump wrote. 

'Guns should not be placed in the hands of mentally ill or deranged people. I am the biggest Second Amendment person there is, but we all must work together for the good and safety of our Country. Common sense things can be done that are good for everyone!,' he added.  

The president has been reaching out to all sides on the issue as the White House explores its next steps. 

Trump has spoken to Senate Republican Leader McConnell, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, and LaPierre this week - some of them multiple times. 

The NRA, however, said it opposes any legislation that 'unfairly infringes upon the rights of law-abiding citizens.'

'I can confirm that the NRA opposes any legislation that unfairly infringes upon the rights of law-abiding citizens,' LaPierre said in a statement Thursday.

He called many of the proposals out there '"soundbite solutions" which fail to address the root of the problem, confront criminal behavior, or make our communities safer.'

During one of their conversations this week, LaPierre warned Trump expanded background checks would not be popular among the president's supporters, officials toldThe Washington Post

But Trump is arguing he can convince the conservative, red-meat Republican base that the moment for change has arrived, The New York Times reported.  

He's also discussed with aides of making a change in gun laws via executive action. After the 2017 mass shootings at a Las Vegas concert and Parkland, Fla., high school Trump signed an order banning the sale of bump stocks.  

'There is a great appetite, and I mean a very strong appetite, for background checks. And I think we can bring up background checks like we’ve never had before,' Trump told reporters at the White House on Wednesday before he left for visits in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio - the site of the weekend's mass shootings.  

In November of last year, when 13 people were killed at a bar in Thousand Oaks, Calif., Trump contemplated requiring 'registration' of fire arms but conceded it would be 'hard' to get through.

'I understand both sides of it very, very well but the one side is a little bit naive. You know? Let's get rid of all your guns, because the bad guys are gonna have the guns, you know?,' he told the authors ofPolitico's Playbookat the time in an interview for their book 'The Hill to Die On.'

'What I do see is registration, certainly mental illness, that is a big thing, but that's hard,' he said in the interview, which the authors published for the first time on Friday.   

In a sign Republicans are feeling pressure to do something, McConnell signaled he would be open to considering the idea. 

The GOP leader said he would not bow to pressure and call the Senate back into session - a demand Democrats have made.

'If we did that we’d just have people scoring points and nothing would happen,' McConnell told a Kentucky radio station. 'There has to be a bipartisan discussion here of what we can agree on. If we do it prematurely it will just be another frustrating experience for all of us and for the public.'

He did say that background checks would be 'front and center' when Congress returns to Washington D.C. in September. 

'There is a lot of support for that,' McConnell said. 'The president called me this morning about this. ... He's anxious to get an outcome and so am I, and I believe the Democrats will have to admit it's better to get a result than just engage in this sort of endless point-scoring that has the tendency to occur after one of these awful, awful incidents.' 

NRA President Wayne LaPierre has reportedly warned the president expanded background checks would anger his supporters+9

NRA President Wayne LaPierre has reportedly warned the president expanded background checks would anger his supporters

President Trump and NRA President Wayne LaPierre - seen here at the White House together in February 2017 - have spoken several times this week+9

President Trump and NRA President Wayne LaPierre - seen here at the White House together in February 2017 - have spoken several times this week 

Bipartisan legislation from Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin and Republican Sen. Pat Toomey would expand background checks to private and online sales.

Trump spoke to both Manchin and Toomey after the shootings but the NRA opposes their legislation.

McConnell is unlikely to bring any legislation to the Senate floor without the Republican support it would need to pass. It's unclear if the Manchin-Toomey bill can get that. 

Another possibility is a 'red flag law' - such as one being championed by Trump ally Senator Lindsey Graham - that would allow law enforcement, family members and others to ask a judge to confiscate firearms from people who are deemed to be dangerous.

Graham, who is traveling with Trump to fundraisers in the Hamptons on Friday, reminded reporters on Air Force One that no one's voted for the Manchin-Toomey bill.

'We've all voted against the bill before. I'm trying to find some middle ground here,' he said. 

He also pointed out that both suspected shooters from the weekend's mass shooting bought their guns legally.

'None of these cases involved somebody that got around a background check. All these guys bought the gun legally,' he said. 

House Democrats, meanwhile, passed legislation in February that would require background checks for all firearms sales, including those purchased online and at gun shows. 

At the time Trump vowed to veto the measure. 

Pelosi and Schumer are pressing for the Senate to pass that legislation.  

Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell has signaled he is open to expanding background checks+9

Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell has signaled he is open to expanding background checks

'We spoke to the President separately this afternoon and told him the best way forward to address gun violence in our country is for Leader McConnell to let the Senate take up and pass the House-passed universal background checks legislation and for the President to sign it into law,' they said in a joint statement on Thursday.

'The President gave us his assurances that he would review the bipartisan House-passed legislation and understood our interest in moving as quickly as possible to help save lives,' the Democratic leaders added.

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