Days after a pair of deadly mass shootings in Texas and Ohio, U.S. President Donald Trump said he was prepared to endorse what he described as “very meaningful background checks” that would be possible because of his “greater influence now over the Senate and over the House.”
But after discussions with gun rights advocates during his two-week working vacation in Bedminster, N.J. – including talks with Wayne LaPierre, chief executive of the National Rifle Association – Mr. Trump’s resolve appears to have substantially softened, and he has reverted to reiterating the conservative positions on the gun issue he has espoused since the 2016 campaign.
Speaking to reporters on Sunday as he departed from New Jersey and returned to Washington, Mr. Trump said he was “very, very concerned with the Second Amendment, more so than most presidents would be” and added that “people don’t realize we have very strong background checks right now.”
Mr. Trump’s turnaround is the latest example of the President ultimately capitulating to the views of his populist white and working-class political base, and it came after NRA officials flooded the White House, Congress and governors’ offices around the country with phone calls since the back-to-back mass shootings Aug. 3 and 4.
White House officials insisted Mr. Trump would shift back again toward supporting more aggressive legislation in the fall, when lawmakers return from their August recess. But they also said Mr. Trump had sounded less aggressive in private over the past week in discussions about possible gun legislation, a change that coincided with the NRA mounting a full-court press.
A White House spokesman declined to comment on the record but said Mr. Trump’s latest comments did not constitute a reversal of anything he had said before.
Some aides to Mr. Trump claimed that his comments on Sunday did not signify a change of position and that he was simply engaging in a public negotiation with Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, to get them to back off their support for a universal background check bill and compromise.
But Mr. Trump has not spoken to Ms. Pelosi or Mr. Schumer since Aug. 8, their aides said, when he told them he “understood” their interest in moving quickly to pass a universal background check law in the Senate.