WASHINGTON (CN) – President Donald Trump said Friday morning that the House and Senate are in serious discussions about implementing stricter background checks for Americans buying guns, and also pledged that the National Rifle Association will have a seat at the table.
“I have also been speaking to the NRA, and others, so that their very strong views can be fully represented and respected. Guns should not be placed in the hands of mentally ill or deranged people,” Trump tweeted. “I am the biggest Second Amendment person there is, but we all must work together for the good and safety of our Country. Common sense things can be done that are good for everyone!”
The president’s comments come on the heels of remarks by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who said a day earlier that expanding federal background checks on firearms will “lead the discussion” when the Senate returns from its recess in September.
McConnell also said Thursday that the Senate will focus on so-called red-flag laws, which allow law enforcement officers, family members or other close relations to have courts temporarily take away guns from people found to pose a risk to themselves or others.
Staff-level discussions on gun control will continue while the lawmakers in both the Senate and House are out of town, less than a week after two back-to-back mass shootings.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., sent a letter to President Trump on Thursday asking him to use his constitutional authority to call the Senate back to Washington to consider the background check legislation.
Pelosi said acts of terrorism through white supremacy and gun violence are an assault on the “domestic tranquility” enshrined in the preamble of the U.S. Constitution. She also noted that Trump had expressed a need for stricter background checks after mass shooting events that took place in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas, last weekend.
“Mr. President, we have an opportunity to work in a bipartisan way to pass gun violence prevention background checks. However, Leader Mitch McConnell, describing himself as the ‘grim reaper,’ has been an obstacle to taking any action,” Pelosi wrote. “This extraordinary moment in our history requires all of us to take extraordinary actions to save lives.”
One bill mentioned by Pelosi, the Bipartisan Background Check Act, would require background checks on every gun purchase, while the Enhanced Background Checks Act would change the procedures for what happens when a background check is delayed.
The bills passed the House in February, but have not come up for a vote in the Senate, where they have significantly less support.
The president flew to Dayton and El Paso on Wednesday, visiting communities still grieving from the mass shootings that claimed a total of 31 lives. Trump was greeted by protestors in both cities. Days before, he was told not to visit El Paso by hometown Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke.
“He’s helped to create what we saw in El Paso on Saturday,” O’Rourke said of Trump on Monday.
The NRA released a statement on the shootings Sunday, saluting the work of first responders and emergency personnel.
“The NRA is committed to the safe and lawful use of firearms by those exercising their Second Amendment freedoms. We will not participate in the politicizing of these tragedies but, as always, we will work in good faith to pursue real solutions that protect us all from people who commit these horrific acts,” the group said.
Kris Brown, co-president of the Brady Campaign, an activist group calling for stricter gun regulations, said Trump was parroting NRA talking points when he called for immigration reform and stricter background checks for people with mental illnesses in a speech Monday.
“It’s clear the president dangerously misrepresents a relationship between mental health and gun violence. Mental illness is not predictive of violence. In fact, studies prove the opposite is true: those living with mental illnesses are more likely to be victims rather than perpetrators of violence,” Brown said in a statement.