Donald Trump softened his support for improved background checks on gun buyers after speaking to the head of the National Rifle Association (NRA) – and called him back specifically to tell him so, a new report has claimed.
The president asked Wayne LaPierre whether his vehemently anti-regulation group would budge at all in its opposition to more background checks and was told, unequivocally, “No”, The Atlantic reported.
White House officials confirmed the pair had spoken on Tuesday afternoon, but The Atlantic further reported that in a second call Mr Trump told Mr LaPierre he did not want to pursue universal background checks. The magazine cited a former White House official and an NRA worker.
The president’s daughter Ivanka, who serves as White House adviser, had reportedly been trying to persuade him to come out in favour of universal checks.
Separately, the New York Times reported that the president had told Mr LaPierre he wanted to focus on access to juvenile criminal records and mental health during a 30-minute conversation.
The picture around Mr Trump’s views on gun control remains confused and Democrats have accused him of retreating on the issue.
Having previously called for “intelligent” and “strong” background checks in the wake of mass shootings in Ohio and Texas, Mr Trump told reporters on Tuesday that the US already had a “very strong” regime in this area and that “a lot of the people that put me where I am are strong believers in the Second Amendment”.
Nonetheless, he appeared to suggest that some action on background checks might still be possible, adding that “we have, sort of, missing areas, and areas that don’t complete the whole circle”.
However, Mr Trump said he feared a “slippery slope” of regulation where “all of a sudden everything gets taken away."
He declined to say whether he endorsed any of the gun legislation backed by Democrats in Congress.
Earlier in the week the Republican urged people not “to forget that this is a mental health problem”, calling for more mental health institutions to be created and adding: “It’s the people that pull the trigger, it’s not the gun that pulls the trigger.”
Anonymously, a Trump administration official insisted later on Tuesday that ”meaningful background checks remain on the table” and that the president had “not [previously] mentioned supporting universal” checks on all gun purchases.
On Tuesday afternoon Mr LaPierre said in a tweeted statement: “I spoke to the president today. We discussed the best ways to prevent these types of tragedies. @realDonaldTrump is a strong #2A President and supports our Right to Keep and Bear Arms!”
The latest mass shooting-inspired debate on gun control follows the deaths of 31 people in massacres in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas.
While Mr Trump has overseen concrete action to restrict firearms in the past – banning so-called bump stocks in the wake of 2017’s Las Vegas shooting – lasting action in other areas has not been forthcoming.
Additional reporting by agencies