Donald Trump says views of gun lobby will be respected in debate over mass shootings

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Donald Trump speaks to the NRA about gun laws after mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton.
US President Donald Trump

Donald Trump says he has reassured the National Rifle Association that its “strong views” about the right to bear arms will not be ignored in Washington’s response to recent mass shootings.

The president said he is talking with the NRA and others to make sure their “very strong views can be fully represented and respected”.

“I am the biggest Second Amendment person there is, but we all must work together for the good and safety of our Country,” Trump tweeted. “Common sense things can be done that are good for everyone!”

The NRA is uncompromising when it comes to gun control. Chief executive Wayne LaPierre said in a rare public statement on Thursday that some federal gun control proposals “would make millions of law-abiding Americans less safe and less able to defend themselves and their loved ones”.

Mr Trump did not say specifically how the NRA’s position could be reconciled with the push for new gun control measures.

He said leaders in the House and Senate are having “serious discussions” about background checks for buying guns, and he repeated his frequent statement that guns should not be “placed in the hands of mentally ill or deranged people”.

On Thursday, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell said he wanted to consider background checks and other action, setting up a potentially pivotal moment when legislators return in the autumn.

The Republican will not call senators back to work early, as some had demanded, but he told a Kentucky radio station that Mr Trump called him on Thursday morning and they talked about several ideas. The president, he said, is “anxious to get an outcome and so am I”.

Republicans have long opposed expanding background checks — a bill passed by the Democratic-led House is stalled in Mr McConnell’s Senate — but they face new pressure to do something after the shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, that left 31 people dead.

Read: Trump to visit Ohio city rocked by gun massacre amid calls for unity

“What we can’t do is fail to pass something,” Mr McConnell said. “What I want to see here is an outcome.”

He said he and Mr Trump discussed background checks and “red flag” laws that allow authorities to seize firearms from people deemed a threat to themselves or others.

“Those are two items that for sure will be front and centre as we see what we can come together on and pass,” Mr McConnell said.

Mr Trump has declared an interest in federal background checks before, only to drop the issue later, as in his reversal on gun proposals after the 2018 high school shooting at Parkland, Florida.

The NRA and its allies have long wielded influence, but it is unclear how much sway the gun lobby still holds over Republicans in the Trump era.

House speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said Mr Trump assured them in phone calls on Thursday that he will review the House-passed bill that would expand federal background checks for firearm sales.

In a joint statement, they said the president called them individually after Ms Pelosi sent a letter asking the president to order the Senate back to Washington to consider gun violence measures.

The politics of gun control are shifting amid the frequency and toll of mass shootings. Spending to support candidates backing tougher gun control measures — mostly Democrats — surged in the 2018 mid-term elections, as campaign spending by the NRA declined.

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