WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer urged President Donald Trump on Friday to follow his gut on gun restrictions he has recently backed, after the powerful U.S. gun lobby said the Republican president and vice president do not want gun control.
The exhortation to Trump, who this week stunned fellow Republicans by backing several gun control measures his party has long opposed, reflected a fierce tug-of-war for the president’s support on gun measures in the wake of a deadly Feb. 14 high school shooting in Florida.
Trump met with leaders of the National Rifle Association gun lobby late on Thursday and said in a post on Twitter: “Good (Great) meeting in the Oval Office tonight with the NRA!”
Schumer issued a statement on Friday reminding the president of his initial response to the Parkland shooting in Florida that killed 17 people and the ensuing student-led groundswell of protests that demanded that lawmakers restrict gun sales and honed in on NRA-funded politicians.
“President Trump should go with his instincts, not the clarion and destructive call of the NRA,” Schumer said. “He knows instinctively that this is the right thing to do both substantively, because it will save tens of thousands of lives, and politically, because over three quarters of the American people support it.”
In a White House meeting with Republican and Democratic lawmakers on Wednesday, Trump backed several gun control measures opposed by the NRA, including broader background checks and raising the age for legally buying rifles to 21 from 18.
Late on Thursday, NRA chief lobbyist Chris Cox said on Twitter that Trump and Vice President Mike Pence “don’t want gun control.”
White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders gave no indication whether Trump had changed his views on gun measures early on Friday.
Asked if Trump had made any promises to the NRA in the meeting, Sanders said: “Only that he’ll continue to support the Second Amendment, that’s not something that he’s backed away from.”
He still supported raising the age limit for buying some guns, but knows that measure has lacked broad support in Congress and might have to be done at state level, Sanders said.
Trump was still interested in improving the background check system, she said, but does not necessarily support “universal” background checks.
“Universal means something different to a lot of people,” she told reporters.
Reporting by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Bernadette Baum