Following Saturday’s shootings in West Texas, President Donald Trump on Sunday remained firm that his “administration is committed to working with Congress to stop the menace of mass attacks” but did not include universal background checks as part of the solution this time.
Trump largely attributed the shootings to mental health issues and said the mass attacks have “been going on for a long time” and that he wants to reduce them.
“It would be wonderful to say — to say ‘eliminate,’ but we want to substantially reduce the violent crime — and actually, in any form,” he said at the start of a briefing on Hurricane Dorian. “This includes strong measures to keep weapons out of the hands of dangerous and deranged individuals, and substantial reforms to our nation’s broken mental health system.”
The president added: “To reduce violence, we must also ensure that criminals with guns are put behind bars and kept off the streets.“
After the early August shootings in El Paso and Dayton, Trump called for changes to mental health laws but also took to Twitter to mention discussions in Congress over “meaningful background checks” for people who are purchasing firearms.
“Serious discussions are taking place between House and Senate leadership on meaningful Background Checks,” Trump wrote on Twitter days after those shootings. “I have also been speaking to the NRA, and others, so that their very strong views can be fully represented and respected.”
Trump also added that he is the “biggest Second Amendment person there is, but we all must work together for the good and safety of our Country.”
Polling has indicated that the idea of universal background checks is extremely popular with the American public, even among people who do strongly favor the right to own firearms. In contrast, focusing on mental health has been a more popular approach with those who would prefer there be no new restrictions on guns of any kind.
In his Sunday remarks, Trump said, “Public safety is our No. 1 priority,” but reiterated his support to “protect our Second Amendment.”
He lauded the actions of the local law enforcement who responded to the shootings in West Texas, and also said he spoke with Attorney General William Barr.
“We will provide all possible support from the federal government in the aftermath of this wicked attack,” he said.
Earlier Sunday, as he returned to Washington from Camp David, Trump dismissed the usefulness of universal background checks.
“Background checks — I will say that for the most part, sadly, if you look at the last four or five, going back even five or six or seven years — for the most part, as strong as you make your background checks, they would not have stopped any of it.”
Trump’s previous remarks on background checks had been seen as encouraging by those who were pleased to see the president taking a position notably different from the National Rifle Association.
That has turned to impatience and frustration. “The biggest lies that the president has told include that he would do something about universal background checks,” Democratic presidential candidate Julián Castro said Sunday on NBC‘s “Meet the Press.”
A gunman Saturday in the Texas communities of Odessa and Midland killed seven people and wounded 22 others after a traffic stop; among the dead was a postal worker whose truck he hijacked. On Aug. 3, a gunman killed 22 people in El Paso, Texas; on Aug 4, a shooter in Dayton, Ohio, killed nine people.