President Trump said Wednesday that he is in favor of passing legislation to tighten background checks for gun purchasers, but warned that banning high-powered weapons is a non-starter in Congress.
“I’m looking to do background checks,” Trump told reporters at the White House as he left to visit the scenes of the mass shootings that hit El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio over the weekend. “I think background checks are important. I don’t want to put guns into the hands of mentally unstable people or people with rage or hate — sick people. I’m all in favor of it.”
Congress, however, has not shown a “political appetite” for banning high-powered weapons such as the semi-automatic AR-15 rifle, which is sometimes used in mass shootings in the U.S., Trump said.
“You have to have a political appetite within Congress, and so far I haven’t seen that,” Trump said. “I think there’s a great appetite to do something with regard to making sure mentally unstable, seriously ill people aren’t carrying guns, and I’ve never seen the appetite as strong as it is now. I have not seen it with regards to certain types of weapons.”
On Saturday, a 21-year-old gunman opened fire in an El Paso shopping center, killing 22 people and injuring 26 others. Less than 24 hours later, another young male shooter used an assault-style rifle to kill ten people, including his sister, and injure 27 more in a Dayton entertainment district.
Trump wrote on Twitter after the shootings that he supports “strong background checks,” but in his Monday speech addressing the twin tragedies he emphasized “red-flag laws,” which would allow police to temporarily confiscate weapons from individuals deemed by a judge to be a danger to themselves or others.
It is thought that a “red flag” bill would have better chances of passing the Republican-led Senate than other kinds of gun-control legislation. Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell has thus far refused to bring up for a vote a bill expanding background checks that was passed by the House earlier this year.