Aug 13, 2019

Trump claims Mitch McConnell supports gun background checks

President Donald Trump talks to journalists before boarding Marine One and departing the White House August 02

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

President Trump said Tuesday he spoke with Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) about background checks following this month's mass shootings, and he's "convinced" that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) wants to do something about the issue.

"There is nobody more pro-Second Amendment than Donald Trump, but I don’t want guns in the hands of a lunatic or a maniac. And I think if we do proper background checks, we can prevent that."
— Trump's remarks to reporters

Why it matters: This is another sign that Trump is looking into gun control measures, despite opposition from some conservative allies.

What he's saying: Trump said McConnell also "wants to do background checks," along with "a lot of Republicans." He said, "I don’t know, frankly, that the Democrats will get us there," but he "had a very good conversation" with Murphy.

I would like to see meaningful background checks. And I think something will happen."
— Trump's remarks to reporters

Reality check: McConnell has never publicly expressed his support for background checks, and he's ignored Democrats' pressure to call the Senate back early to vote on 2 gun measures that passed in the House but stalled in the Senate.

  • McConnell has been in touch with the bipartisan sponsors of a background checks bill that Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) introduced after the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre but fell 6 votes short of passing in 2013, NPR notes.

The big picture: Trump's remarks came hours after Axios' Alayna Treene revealed that his elder daughter, White House senior adviser Ivanka Trump, has quietly been calling lawmakers since the El Paso and Dayton massacres to gauge their openness to movement on gun legislation when Congress returns.

Between the lines: While McConnell has said that gun control bills and proposed "red flag" laws will be debated when the Senate returns from recess, several Republican lawmakers are against new gun restriction measures — including Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.), a survivor of the 2017 baseball practice shooting.

  • Trump ally Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said he would attempt to explain to Trump that background check measures have previously failed because Republicans could not support them, according to CNN.

Yes, but: There has been movement among some GOP lawmakers in calling for gun control measures, as NPR points out. These include Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio.), who was endorsed by the National Rifle Association in the 2018 midterm elections but called for gun control action following the Dayton mass shooting this month.

  • Graham is working on bipartisan red flag legislation with Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.). Graham said he's trying to find some middle ground on the issue, per CNN.

The other side: Murphy tweeted that he had spoken with Trump, Manchin and Toomey on background check bills.

"We continue to work to find common ground, but as I told the President, we can't get a bill if he and the GOP give the gun lobby veto power."
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