Sen. Chris Murphy, who spoke to President Donald Trump last week about supporting legislation that would expand FBI checks of gun buyers, said Tuesday he is disregarding reports the president has cooled to the idea until Trump speaks directly to him.
“I spoke to President Trump last week and he expressed support for working together with Republicans and Democrats to come up with a background checks bill that can pass the Senate and save lives,” Murphy said. “Until I hear directly from him, I’m not willing to concede that history repeated itself and that he has walked away from the commitment he made.”
Trump said he supported stronger FBI background checks and other initiatives, including raising the legal age for the purchase of rifles, after last year’s mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.
But he walked back his support for those gun control measures after speaking with the National Rifle Association and congressional Republicans.
The same dynamic seems to have taken place in the wake of this month’s shootings in El Paso, Tex, and Dayton, Ohio, during which 31 people were killed.
The president told reporters Tuesday that closing loopholes in the FBI’s background checks of potential gun purchasers may be a “slippery slope” that threatens 2nd Amendment rights.
“A lot of the people that put me where I am are strong believers in the Second Amendment, and I am also,” Trump said. “They call it the slippery slope. All of a sudden everything gets taken away. We’re not going to let that happen.”
The U.S. House approved two bills in February that would expand FBI background checks for individuals who buy guns on the internet and give the FBI up to 20 business days, instead of the current three, to complete all background checks.
But the GOP-controlled Senate has not acted on those bills.
Trump also echoed the NRA line that guns are not the problem, but people, especially those who are mentally ill, are the problem.
“I said it 100 times: It’s not the gun that pulls the trigger, it’s the person that pulls the trigger,” the president said.
Murphy said “We’ve been here before, after Parkland, when the president made a commitment on background checks and then backed away after being lobbied by the NRA.”
Trump’s turnaround also puts at risk another initiative the president said he’d support right after the El Paso and Dayton shootings — the expansion of state “red flag” laws that allow for the temporary seizure of guns from those who are a danger to themselves or others.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., are working on a federal red flag bill that would give grants to states that adopt laws establishing extreme risk protection orders.
Connecticut was the first state in the nation to implement a red flag law. It was enacted in 1999.