President Donald Trump speaks in the Oval Office of the White House, in Washington on Wednesday. (Doug Mills/The New York Times)
Photo: DOUG MILLS
Photo: DOUG MILLS

Trump closes in on background check decision, key senators say

The news comes about a month after a mass shooting in Dayton’s Oregon District killed nine people and injured 27. There were several other mass shootings in recent weeks including one in El Paso, Tex., that killed 20.

President Trump, speaking to reporters in the Oval Office Wednesday, said he and lawmakers were “working very, very hard together” and “seeing if we can come up with something that’s acceptable to everybody.”

President Trump spoke for about 45 minutes with the trio of senators at the center of background check talks. Sens. Joe Manchin III, D-W.Va., Patrick J. Toomey, R-Pa., and Christopher S. Murphy, D-Conn., told reporters the president discussed options for securing a potential deal.

“We’re looking at background checks and we’re looking at putting everything together in a unified way so that we can have something that’s meaningful,” President Trump said, adding that, “At the same time, all of us want to protect our great Second Amendment. It’s very important to all of us.”

Senators said they are expecting an announcement from the White House within days.

“It sounds like they’re going to try to have some answer for us as to whether they can come to the table on background checks in the next 24 to 48 hours. Maybe that timeline will slip,” Sen. Murphy said. But he added: “I do think we’re getting to the witching hour.”

Manchin and Toomey said they focused their discussions on increasing background checks for commercial sales, saying going further would be unacceptable to many Republicans.

President Trump was “very engaged, personally asking thoughtful questions, asking reasonable questions” throughout the call, Toomey said.

Ohio reaction

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio said he was “encouraged” by the discussions.

“I agree that that there is more we can do to try and keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people. I am encouraged that bipartisan discussions are ongoing and hope that both parties will continue to work together towards this goal,” Portman said.

Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said the ball is in President Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s court.

“People don’t have to keep dying, and we have the power to stop it,” Brown said. “But nothing can happen until President Trump, Leader McConnell and Republicans in Congress stop working for the NRA and start working to keep our communities safe.”

Just back from a meeting with the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Washington, Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley on Wednesday said Democratic and Republican mayors are unified in support of background check changes.

“There are so many gaping holes in background checks that now one out of every five purchases goes around that system,” Whaley said Wednesday.

Jim Irvine of the Buckeye Firearms Association said background checks are already done on most gun sales. He also said the system is “flawed.”

“There’s no point in doing a background check if the database that you’re checking people against is flawed. We know our database is flawed.… If you don’t fix the database nothing else matters,” he said. “It is shocking the number of warrants and criminal stuff that is not entered into the national database in Ohio.”

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine recently tasked Lt. Gov. Jon Husted to work with lawmakers to create a better system for background checks in Ohio and improving the technology.

Irvine said he wants President Trump to take action in fixing the National Instant Criminal Background Check database for background checks. But as far as requiring background checks for private gun sales, he doesn’t see a benefit.

“Think about automobiles. We buy and sell cars…If you require everybody to pay extra money and go through a background check to buy a car, would we reduce car accidents? Would we make people better drivers? Would you reduce criminal homicides from vehicles? No, you’re not. And doing it in guns isn’t going to reduce that either,” Irvine said.

Mayor Whaley says background checks do have a benefit.

“This whole argument that criminals are going to get guns anyway so we make it really easy for them to do that, I don’t think that makes a lot of sense,” Whaley said. “It’s kind of like people are going to die in cars, so let’s all stop driving. We have to have guardrails on these systems and background checks is the best way that makes the most sense, that protects the Second Amendment.”

Staff writers Holly Shively and Anthony Shoemaker, CQ Roll Call’s Katherine Tully-McManus and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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