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Trump administration testing GOP appetite for background checks

Donald Trump holding a flintlock rifle
Photo: Richard Ellis/Getty Images

President Donald Trump may still be thinking about supporting expanded background checks for gun sales after all.

Driving the news: A memo titled "Idea for New Unlicensed-Commercial-Sale Background Checks" was being circulated as Attorney General Bill Barr and the White House's legislative affairs director Eric Ueland visited this week with Republicans on Capitol Hill.

Why it matters: The president was expected to say this week what, if any, gun control legislation he is prepared to support. Advocates were doubtful he would support expanded background checks because polling suggested it could hurt his standing with core supporters.

The memo, first reported by the Daily Caller and also obtained by Axios, suggests he may be open to background checks depending on feedback from Republican lawmakers.

  • The memo talks about extending a background-check requirement "to all advertised commercial sales, including sales at gun shows."
  • It would be consistent with the bipartisan Manchin-Toomey draft legislation.
  • It would impose civil penalties for failure to keep necessary records.

Where it stands: The president has not said publicly whether he supports the proposal in the memo or is just shopping it. White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said Trump "has not signed off on anything yet" and said the memo is "not a White House document."

  • Meanwhile, the head of the NRA's lobbying arm, Jason Ouimet, said that the memo is a "nonstarter," because "it burdens law-abiding gun owners while ignoring what actually matters: fixing the broken mental health system and the prosecution of violent criminals."

Read the memo:

Editor's note: This story has been updated with responses from the White House and the NRA.