Trump says he will push to close background check loopholes for gun buys

FILE PHOTO: A prospective buyer examines an AR-15 at the "Ready Gunner" gun store In Provo, Utah, U.S. in Provo, Utah, U.S., June 21, 2016. REUTERS/George Frey/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump said on Wednesday his administration would seek to close background check loopholes for gun purchases after Democrats accused him of reversing course on gun control measures.

Trump spoke with the leader of the National Rifle Association lobbying group, Wayne LaPierre, on Tuesday, a White House official said. Speaking to reporters outside the White House, Trump said he did not tell LaPierre, whose group strongly opposes increased gun restrictions, that he would avoid pursuing measures on background checks.

Trump, who was endorsed by the NRA in the 2016 presidential race, said he views the number of U.S. gun deaths as a public health emergency and reiterated his belief that people who are mentally ill should not be allowed to buy guns.

“We’re working on background checks. There are things we can do. But we already have very serious background checks. We have strong background checks. We can close up the gaps. We can do things that are very good and things that frankly gun owners want to have done,” Trump said.

“We have background checks but there are loopholes in the background checks. And that’s what I spoke to the NRA about yesterday. They want to get rid of the loopholes as well as I do. At the same time, I don’t want to take away people’s Second Amendment rights,” Trump added later.

On Tuesday, Trump, a Republican, said his administration was engaged in meaningful talks with Democrats, who control the U.S. House of Representatives, about gun legislation after gunmen in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, killed 31 people using semi-automatic rifles and high-volume magazines earlier this month.

Congressional aides, however, said the discussions have been low-level and generally unproductive.

(Reporting by Jeff Mason; Writing by Makini Brice; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Paul Simao)

Trump again threatens Mexico border closure, seeks Congress action

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks at the National Republican Congressional Committee Annual Spring Dinner in Washington, U.S., April 2, 2019. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump again threatened on Wednesday to close the U.S. border with Mexico, this time calling on Congress to take steps immediately to deal with immigration and security loopholes that he says are creating a national emergency.

“Congress must get together and immediately eliminate the loopholes at the Border!” Trump wrote in a Twitter post. “If no action, Border, or large sections of Border, will close. This is a National Emergency!”

Trump has repeatedly threatened to close the border to stem what he calls a tide of illegal immigration. On Friday, he said he would close the border this week unless Mexico took steps to stop illegal migration.

The threat drew an outcry from business leaders and others, who said the move could disrupt legal crossings and billions of dollars in trade. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the largest U.S. business lobbying group, said it contacted the White House to discuss the negative impact of a border closure.

Trump took a step back on Tuesday, saying action by Mexico in recent days had eased pressure on U.S. ports of entry. But he revived the closure warning on Wednesday in a bid to pressure Congress to act.

White House adviser Mercedes Schlapp said on Wednesday that progress is being made with Mexico on immigration issues but she declined to comment on whether the border would be closed this week.

“Our resources are being stretched thin. The system is overwhelmed,” she told reporters at the White House. “We are seeing our border patrol commissioner make it very clear that we are at a breaking point.”

Trump has made fighting illegal immigration from Mexico a key part of his agenda but shutting down one of the world’s most used borders might be a step too far even for many of his fellow Republicans.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said on Tuesday that closing the border could have devastating economic consequences, and joined his Democratic colleagues in warning Trump against such a move.

The White House is looking closely at ways to lessen the economic impact of a border shutdown, Trump economic adviser Larry Kudlow said on Wednesday.

(Reporting by David Alexander, Jeff Mason and Alexandra Alper; Writing by Doina Chiacu; Editing by David Gregorio and Alistair Bell)

House panel plans action on gun background check bill next week

FILE PHOTO: A prospective buyer examines an AR-15 at the "Ready Gunner" gun store In Provo, Utah, U.S. in Provo, Utah, U.S., June 21, 2016. REUTERS/George Frey/File Photo

By David Morgan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee will take up legislation next week that would require universal background checks for gun buyers, the panel’s Democratic chairman said on Thursday.

The panel will mark up the bill, known as the Bipartisan Background Checks Act, on Feb. 13 and send it to the House floor for a vote, committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler told a news conference. The legislation has 230 House co-sponsors, including five Republicans.

“It’s finally time for action in Congress,” Nadler said. “This bill will close the loopholes that have allowed felons, domestic violence abusers and other prohibited persons to purchase guns through private sales.”

The bill would require background checks for all firearm sales and most firearm transfers. The legislation would likely pass the Democratic-controlled House. But there are no signs that it would succeed in the Republican-led Senate.

Nadler’s announcement came a day after the House Judiciary Committee held the first congressional hearing on gun violence in years and heard testimony from witnesses including Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo, who voiced support for the legislation.

Gun violence represents an epidemic that claimed the lives of nearly 40,000 Americans in 2017. Of those deaths, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in December that 60 percent were self-inflicted.

The U.S. Constitution protects the right of Americans to bear arms. The measure is fiercely defended by Republicans.

At Wednesday’s House hearing, Republican lawmakers warned that the new legislation could lead to a national gun registry and asserted that expanded background checks would penalize law abiding citizens but not protect people from gun crime.

(Reporting by David Morgan; Additional reporting by Susan Heavey; Editing by Mohammad Zargham and Tom Brown)