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Trump’s defiance of the NRA could keep Congress from gutting state gun laws

Reuters/Jonathan Ernst
Trump speaks at a NRA leadership forum in 2017, flanked by the group’s executive director Chris Cox (L) and CEO Wayne LaPierre (R).
By Heather Timmons
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Donald Trump is sincere about passing stronger gun safety laws, and willing to oppose the National Rifle Association on certain positions, a senior White House official told Quartz today.

Trump is throwing his support behind the “FixNICs Act” co-written by Texas senator John Cornyn, which would strengthen background checks. That’s instead of an NRA-backed bill that also contains stronger background checks—but would expand concealed carry rights in exchange.

The president only supports the “narrower Cornyn one,” the White House official said.

The NRA-backed bill, called the “Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act” which passed the House in December, would allow anyone who can carry a concealed gun in one state to carry a concealed gun in another—essentially turning “the weakest state’s laws into nationwide laws,” gun safety advocates like Everytown say. Some states don’t require any training, a background check, or even a permit, to carry a concealed gun.

The background check issue is under discussion in Congress today, with speaker of the House Paul Ryan signaling he would consider bringing a narrower version of the bill to a vote:

In both bills, “NICs” refers to the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System, which came under scrutiny after the Sutherland Springs, Texas shooting, when 26 were killed after the the US Air Force failed to report the gunman’s history of domestic assault to the database.

Trump also supports banning bump stocks and wants the age limit for semi-automatic rifles to be raised to 21, the official said in response to questions about Trump’s commitment to new gun laws. The NRA and its partners threw support behind Trump during the 2016 presidential election, spending over $30 million on ads supporting him and targeting his opponent Hillary Clinton.

Meeting with governors from across the country at the White House yesterday, Trump hinted at his position, saying “I will tell you, [the NRA] are doing what they think is right. But sometimes we’re going to have to be very tough and we’re going to have to fight them.”

Don’t worry, you’re not going to get any—you won’t—don’t worry about the NRA. They’re on our side. You guys—half of you are so afraid of the NRA. There’s nothing to be afraid of. And you know what? If they’re not with you, we have to fight them every once and a while. That’s okay. They’re doing what they think is right. I will tell you, they are doing what they think is right.
But sometimes we’re going to have to be very tough and we’re going to have to fight them. But we need strong background checks. For a long period of time, people resisted that. But now people, I think, are really into it.

Senator Cornyn “has legislation in,” Trump said, and “We’re going to strengthen it.”

📬 A periodic dispatch from the annual session of the United Nations General Assembly in NYC.

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