National Rifle Association suggests Trump may retreat from gun control

NRA Executive Director Chris Cox (left) and Executive Vice President and CEO Wayne LaPierre (right) with US President Donald Trump (centre) at an National Rifle Association forum in Atlanta on April 28, 2017.
NRA Executive Director Chris Cox (left) and Executive Vice President and CEO Wayne LaPierre (right) with US President Donald Trump (centre) at an National Rifle Association forum in Atlanta on April 28, 2017.PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (NYTIMES) - The top lobbyist for the National Rifle Association has claimed that US President Donald Trump had retreated from his surprising support a day earlier for gun control measures after a meeting with NRA officials and Vice President Mike Pence in the Oval Office.

The lobbyist, Chris Cox, posted on Twitter just after 9pm on Thursday (March 1) that he met with Mr Trump and Mr Pence, saying that "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."

Mr Trump tweeted about an hour later, "Good (Great) meeting in the Oval Office tonight with the NRA!"

The twin tweets suggest it may have taken the gun rights group a little over a day to persuade the president to back away from his apparent embrace of Democratic gun control measures during a remarkable, televised meeting on Wednesday with members of Congress.

In that meeting, Mr Trump called for comprehensive legislation that would expand background checks to firearms purchased at gun shows and on the internet - a measure favored by Democrats but anathema to the NRA.

He also stunned lawmakers from both parties by suggesting that he would support measures to allow the authorities to seize guns from the mentally ill or people who could pose a danger without first following due process, like appearing before a judge.

The reaction from the NRA's allies on Capitol Hill to those comments was fierce the next day, as conservatives vowed that such measures would not become law regardless of Mr Trump's declarations.

But Mr Trump kept mostly quiet on the subject Thursday. In a morning tweet, he said that "many ideas, some good & some not so good," had been discussed and he again endorsed the idea of improving background checks. He also tweeted, "Respect 2nd Amendment!"

 

Mr Cox, in his post Thursday night, singled out due process as something Mr Trump supports - a suggestion Mr Cox had explained to the president that conservatives would revolt against gun seizures by the government without due process.

On Wednesday, Democrats and gun control activists had expressed hope, as well as skepticism, about Mr Trump's surprising support for legislation to more strictly regulate guns - something that the Republican Party and the NRA has long opposed.

By Thursday night, several expressed resignation to the late-night statements by the president and Mr Cox.

"Unsurprising, but no less revolting," tweeted Matt Bennett, a longtime gun control advocate and top official at a centre-left Washington think tank, in response to Mr Cox's comment.