Gun purchase background checks set to be approved, says Trump
US president’s confidence at odd with signs senior Republicans oppose such controls
US president Donald Trump: claims Democratic frontrunner Joe Biden is “not playing with a full deck”. Photograph: Shawn Thew/EPA
US president Donald Trump on Friday expressed confidence that new laws on background checks would be agreed in response to last weekend’s mass shootings, but his comments were rejected by senior Republicans.
Leaving Washington ahead of a 10-day stay at his New Jersey golf club, Mr Trump said that he favoured “meaningful background checks”.
“I think Republicans are going to be great and lead the charge, along with the Democrats,” he said, adding he had spoken to Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell who was “on board”.
But Mr McConnell’s spokesman said the Kentucky senator had not yet endorsed a position on background checks since the Texas and Ohio shootings last weekend which left 31 dead.
Senate Republicans have faced calls to take up legislation passed by the House of Representatives in February, which proposes a federal system of background checks for gun purchases – one of the most far-reaching pieces of legislation on guns in years.
In a joint statement, House speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer confirmed that they spoke by phone to Mr Trump on Thursday, and that the president had given them assurances he would “review the bipartisan House-passed legislation and understood our interest in moving as quickly as possible to help save lives”.
But senior Republicans have signalled their opposition to federal background checks, instead focusing on so-called “red-flag” legislation that would prevent individuals with mental health difficulties from acquiring weapons.
In a sign of the resistance among many conservatives towards the idea of federal background checks, the head of the National Rifle Association said the kind of checks under discussion “would not have prevented the horrific tragedies in El Paso and Dayton”.
Mr Trump, who left Washington for New York for two fundraising events before travelling on to his New Jersey golf club, said it was not likely that the Senate would be recalled from the summer recess to consider the matter, as had been suggested by Democrats.
Mr Trump was met by protests as he arrived on Long Island in New York for the lunchtime fundraiser, hosted by billionaire investor Stephen Ross.
Speaking to reporters before he boarded Marine One in Washington, Mr Trump also hit out at Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden. “This is not somebody you can have as your president,” he said of the former vice-president. His comment came after Mr Biden was forced to clarify a remark he made at a fundraiser in Iowa.
Error of speech
Mr Biden said that “poor kids” are “just as talented as white kids”, before correcting himself to say “wealthy kids”. His campaign team issued a statement that Mr Biden had “misspoke and immediately corrected himself”. But the apparent gaffe was immediately seized upon by the Trump re-election campaign team.
Referencing the incident as he left Washington, Mr Trump said that the current Democratic frontrunner was “not playing with a full deck”.
“Joe Biden can’t answer a simple question – something’s gone wrong with him,” he said, adding that he would be happy if Mr Biden (76) was the Democratic nominee for next year’s presidential election.
Meanwhile, several children were still not reunited with family members on Friday, after mass immigration raids took place in Mississippi. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers conducted raids at meat-processing facilities in the state earlier in the week, detaining more than 600 people, though most were later released. Asked about the raids, Mr Trump said they were a “good deterrent”.
“I want people to know that if they come into the United States illegally, they’re getting out. They’re going to be brought out. And this serves as a very good deterrent,” he said.