On Friday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders told Fox & Friends, “I don’t think the NRA has had concerns with this president. He’s been very committed to supporting the Second Amendment, but also looking for ways that we can promote school safety and reduce gun violence. This is something that we’ll been having ongoing conversations with.” However, Rep. Tom Rooney (R-Fla) told listeners on Friday that Trump may well take a stand on firearms that has not been endorsed by the NRA.
Sanders said the NRA has no concerns about the president. She said that Trump wants to “take guns away from people who shouldn’t have them.” Sanders added that Trump wants “to improve the background-check system,” even while she rejected the notion that he wants to see universal background checks. “Universal means something different to a lot of people,” she said.
And in a Twitter message on Friday, Sanders reiterated some of Trump’s triumphs. "We just passed the biggest tax cuts in history. ISIS is on the run. We're rebuilding our military. We're rebuilding the judiciary, remaking what that looks like. The economy is strong."
Her statement followed a meeting President Donald Trump had with top officials of the National Rifle Association. The president qualified the meeting as “great.”
NRA official Chris Cox tweeted after the meeting that both Trump and Vice President Mike Pence support the Second Amendment, saying “We all want safe schools, mental health reform and to keep guns away from dangerous people.” Cox also defended Trump as supporting "strong due process,” in light of comments about “due process” Trump made that drew criticism from gun rights advocates such as Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.).
At the meeting, Trump was discussing how to deal with persons such as the Florida shooter who killed 17 on Feb. 14. Trump told the congressmen on Wednesday, “I like taking the guns early, like in this crazy man’s case that just took place in Florida ... to go to court would have taken a long time.” Trump added, “Take the guns first, go through due process second.” Trump has frequently focused on mental health issues and how they relate to gun violence.
I had a great meeting tonight with @realDonaldTrump & @VP. We all want safe schools, mental health reform and to keep guns away from dangerous people. POTUS & VPOTUS support the Second Amendment, support strong due process and don’t want gun control. #NRA #MAGA— Chris Cox (@ChrisCoxNRA) March 2, 2018
As for specific actions about guns, Sanders said that Trump supports legislation offered by Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn that will hold government agencies to account for failures to enter individuals’ criminal histories into the FBI background- check system. Sanders also suggested that Trump greets legislation introduced by Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Penn.) as a “base” for attaching other measures for “one great piece of legislation.” She went on to describe the bipartisan bill, which has support from Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), as “the best we’ve ever done” on gun control.
Sanders went on to say that Trump is focused primarily on improving the background check system. “Some of the things he’d like to see are improving on how the background system works as largely done through Senator Cornyn’s bill and that’s one of the big reason he supports that,” said Sanders.
“He’s looking for ways we can improve the mental-health system so that we can take guns way from people who shouldn’t have them. These are all the types of things he’s looking for and hope are reflected in legislation that Congress puts forward.”
On the New York Times’ “The Daily” podcast, Florida Republican Rep. Tom Rooney said that the president is more popular in red districts such as his than the NRA is. Trump can thus change the dynamics of gun legislation, Rooney said, while advancing Trump’s legacy in office “in a positive way.” Rooney is a lifetime member of the NRA.
“When the president had that roundtable at the White House, you heard him saying some stuff that I know made the NRA uncomfortable,” said Rooney. “But if anybody has the power, and I really think this could be a game changer for President Trump with regards to how people perceive him. If he’s able to have meaningful gun control legislation pass, I really think that would be a huge part of his legacy in a positive way.”
During his White House meeting with congressional leaders, Trump asked Sen. Toomey (R-Penn.) whether he is “afraid of the NRA.” On The Daily, Rooney said that members of Congress are reluctant to take action on gun control because “the NRA has an extremely sophisticated ability to either help you or hurt you from being able to continue to call yourself a congressman.” That can only change, Rooney said, if a conservative who is viewed more positively than even the NRA can take a stand. “I think the president wins that fight,” he said. Rooney predicted that the GOP will support Trump. “It’s just a matter of how far he’s willing to go.”
Among Trump’s proposals that have come out since the Feb. 14 massacre at a high school in Parkland, Florida, is a move to ban most firearms purchases by persons aged 18 to 21, a notion that does not have the backing of the NRA. He has also proposed arming certain school personnel.