(WASHINGTON) — Connecticut Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy told reporters on Friday that, despite President Donald Trump’s recent mixed signals on gun sale background checks, he believes the White House is still committed to working on a comprehensive anti-gun violence proposal.
Murphy, who spoke with Trump by phone last week, said Trump “told me personally that he was indeed serious about moving forward together on what he called meaningful background check legislation.”
“The president told me that he knew that Republicans in the Senate wouldn’t support it unless he supported a background checks measure and he was committed to finding a way forward,” Murphy said.
But then, Murphy said, Trump made comments later this week that seemed to suggest he was “once again backing away from his commitment to work on background check legislation.”
Murphy said he was in contact with the White House as late as Thursday night and said he believes the White House is still on board with finding a background check reform solution.
But it’s unclear which measure the White House supports and if it would include implementing universal background checks or simply expanding on current background checks.
Congress has not passed any sweeping gun reform legislation since the 1990s. Lawmakers have tried and failed numerous times, notably after the 2012 shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, in which 20 school children were killed by a gunman. Murphy was the US senator for Connecticut at that time.
Other proposals the White House is potentially weighing, according to Murphy, include a federal grant program that would assist states in implementing the “Red Flag” law, which Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C,. and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., support. The state law typically permits police or family members to petition a state court to order the temporary removal of firearms from a person who may present a danger to others or themselves.
The White House could also consider two background check bills passed by the House in February.
One of the bills would establish new background check requirements for firearm transfers between private parties. The other bill would extend the review period for the FBI to complete its background checks for gun purchases from three days to 10 days.
“I am skeptical that these efforts are going to bear fruit,” Murphy said Friday. “I think it’s very hard to negotiate with this White House when the president’s public positions seem to change by the day.”
“I’m sure there will some there will be some people who will say I’m naive to think that we’re going to end up getting a proposal through that will significantly expand background checks and be able to get 60 votes in the Senate, but I’m going to try,” he added.
Murphy said he believes Trump has the “instinct to lead” but he’s talking to the gun lobby “more more frequently than he’s talking to me.”
“If this, you know, all seems like a ruse, an attempt by the president to make it look like he’s doing something without actually moving the ball down the field, I think we’ll know that in fairly short order,” Murphy said.
Murphy acknowledged that public support for passing a universal background check is at an all-time high and it’s very likely Republicans are keeping this in mind heading into the 2020 presidential election cycle.
“If you want to win the presidency in 2020 you can’t be in the pocket of the gun lobby,” Murphy said. “If you win a seat for Congress in the 2020 elections, you can’t be owned by the gun industry. You have to show that you are willing to take them on.”
Murphy said he thought it was “interesting” that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is “opening the door” to a background checks bill in the Senate because McConnell likely recognizes the issue of guns could be a real “political vulnerability” for his caucus.
“The only way that we pass a bill in the Senate is if there is a proposal with words on a piece of paper that the president says he’s for and says it for more than 24 hours at a time,” Murphy said.
He added: “If Donald Trump gets behind a background checks reform bill, it will pass the Senate.”
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