Trump’s big NRA backtrack
PRESIDENT Donald Trump believes he has the influence to rally Republicans around stronger background check laws for gun owners, as Congress and the White House work on a response to recent mass shootings in Texas and Ohio.
At the same time, Trump said he had assured the National Rifle Association that its gun-rights views would be "fully represented and respected".
He said he was hopeful the NRA would not be an obstacle to strengthening the nation's gun laws.
Trump has promised to lead on tougher gun control measures before, including after the 2018 Parkland, Florida, school shooting, but little has come of it.
His comments in the wake of the twin massacres marked his most optimistic and supportive words in favour of more stringent gun laws, though he left the details vague and it remained to be seen how much political capital Trump would throw behind marshaling Republicans on the issue.
Trump said he now is looking for "very meaningful background checks" but is not considering a resurrection of an assault weapons ban.
He said he also believes politicians will support "red flag" laws that allow guns to be removed from those who may be a danger to themselves and others.
"I see a better feeling right now toward getting something meaningful done," Trump told reporters when asked why the political environment was different now.
"I have a greater influence now over the Senate and the House," he said at the White House.
The NRA, one of the most powerful lobbies in the US and a frequent donor to Republican politicians, has for decades rejected gun control efforts. It indicated in a statement on this week that it still opposed further gun restrictions.
Trump told reporters at the White House that the NRA should have input on the issue, and might come around to supporting tighter background checks on gun buyers, or at least not be so strident in its opposition.
Following attacks last weekend that killed 31 people in Texas and Ohio, Trump said the US needs significant background checks on gun buyers "so that sick people don't get guns".
Trump said he had spoken to NRA chief Wayne LaPierre by phone.
"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.
"You know, it's a slippery slope. They think you approve one thing and that leads to a lot of bad things. I don't agree with that. I think we can do meaningful, very meaningful background checks. I want to see it happen."
rump said that many attempts to restrict gun ownership have stalled in congress in the past "but there's never been a president like President Trump. "I have a great relationship with the NRA," he said.
Pressure from the group helped force the Republican president to back down on supporting tighter gun laws last year despite national outrage at the fatal shootings of 17 people at a high school in Parkland, Florida.
The NRA spent $US30.3 million to support Trump's 2016 presidential campaign, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a group that tracks campaign spending.
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, in a Twitter post, said: "It will be nearly impossible to accomplish anything meaningful to address gun violence" if Trump requires pre-approval by the NRA.
The Washington Post reported that LaPierre called Trump this week to tell him a background check bill would not be popular with his supporters.
Trump said that he had "been speaking to the NRA, and others, so that their very strong views can be fully represented and respected".
As he considers whether to push for new measures, Trump also has to ensure he does not lose support of pro-gun rights conservatives as he runs for re-election next year.
Democrats are trying to galvanise public support for legislative action over what has been a contentious issue for years, even before Trump's administration.
Since he became president in 2017, there have been mass shootings at a church in Texas, a concert in Las Vegas and high schools in Florida and Texas.
Trump initially appeared to support background checks but then did not mention them in a public address that focused on mental illness and media culture as possible causes of part mass shootings.
He later predicted congressional support for background checks and blocking gun access to the mentally ill, but not for any effort to ban assault rifles.