President Trump spoke by phone with National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre for at least 30 minutes on Tuesday, and according to at least three accounts of their conversation, Trump assured LaPierre that expanding background checks — supported by 90 percent of Americans in multiplepolls conducted after the back-to-back mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio — is off the table.
In the call, Trump assured LaPierre that "he was not interested in legislation establishing universal background checks and that his focus would be on the mental health of the gunmen, not their guns," The New York Times reports. Trump said as much after the phone call, telling reporters "we have very, very strong background checks right now," and "mental problems" are the "sort of missing areas and areas that don't complete the whole circle." He added: "A lot of the people that put me where I am are strong believers in the Second Amendment, and I am also."
This wasn't Trump's first aborted post-shooting lurch toward gun control, nor his first conversation with LaPierre after the El Paso and Dayton mass murders. Three days after the shootings, daughter and senior adviser Ivanka Trump "had proposed the idea of a televised Rose Garden appearance as a way to nudge her father toward supporting universal background checks," promising a made-for-TV occasion "where Trump could sign a document and call it 'historic' and 'unprecedented' — and receive positive media attention," The Atlantic reports.
Trump "loved it. He was all spun up about it," a former senior White House official told The Atlantic, but when he enthusiastically pitched the idea to LaPierre on an Aug. 7 call, LaPierre shot it down, and, as an NRA official put it, "the Rose Garden fantasy" was dead. The NRA, despite scandal and shrinking support, has kept up the lobbying onslaught unabated, to a receptive White House. Ivanka Trump assured GOP donors in Wyoming on Monday night that the White House is still focused on background checks, The Atlantic notes, but "less than 24 hours later, her father reportedly assured LaPierre of the opposite." Peter Weber