By Nicki Schwab
WASHINGTON — President Trump said Wednesday he’s no puppet of the National Rifle Association.
“They are Trump talking points,” he said when a reporter asked if he was parroting NRA talking points by moving away from supporting universal background checks.
He insisted that a chat with NRA chief Wayne LaPierre didn’t compel him to distance himself from supporting a future background checks bill.
“Oh, I have an appetite for background checks,” Trump said on the South Lawn. “We’re working with Democrats, we’re working with Republicans. We already have very strong background checks, but we are going to be filling in some of the loopholes, as we call them, at the border.”
The president then segued to talking about immigration policy over guns.
He was asked if LaPierre pressed him not to pursue background checks when they spoke by phone Tuesday. “No, I didn’t say anything about that,” Trump responded. “We had a great talk with Wayne yesterday. Didn’t say anything about that, just talked about concepts.”
Trump added: “Wayne agrees things have to be done also.”
In the direct aftermath of the double mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, the president said the country needed “very meaningful background checks.”
He didn’t go as far in the Oval Office on Tuesday, telling reporters that “we’re looking at different things and I have to tell you it’s a mental problem; I said it 100 times — it’s not the gun that pulls the trigger; it’s the person that pulls the trigger.”
While Trump rebuffed the idea that he was being influenced by LaPierre and the NRA, he did voice concerns that are often used when gun-control laws are up for a vote.
“I’m concerned that no matter what we agree to when we get there, the Democrats will say, ‘Oh, well, we now want this’ … it’s a slippery slope and that’s what your gun owners and a lot of people are concerned with,” the president said.
“Assuming that’s not going to take place, assuming they really want to get this done, we can get it done.”