HARTFORD, CT — U.S. Senator Chris Murphy’s negotiations with the White House over gun control legislation have halted after the public disclosure last week of a whistleblower complaint involving President Donald Trump’s communications with a foreign leader.
At a press conference Monday, Murphy said he hasn’t any communication with the Trump administration since his meeting with Attorney General Bill Barr last Wednesday night — the same day the whistleblower complaint was publicized.
“I don’t think that’s coincidental,” Murphy said. “I think the White House has been in crisis management mode since the whistleblower complaint was made public. I don’t know whether the White House is going to be willing to re-engage on background checks (for firearms) given the crisis that is currently unfolding.”
The impasse follows continued stonewalling from the president while Democrats continue calling for Republicans to act on proposed gun safety legislation.
In an interview that aired on “Fox & Friends” last Thursday, Trump said that the White House was working with both Democrats and Republicans to find a compromise that addresses concerns about gun-related violence while protecting the 2nd Amendment. However, Trump also said that his administration has no plans to move quickly.
“A lot of people think this is just a way of taking away guns and that’s not good because we’re not going to allow that,” he said. “Look, I’m a very strong believer in the 2nd Amendment … We’re going ot protect our 2nd Amendment. We have plenty of ideas.”
Trump further said that he was willing to stand up to other Republicans, as well the National Rifle Association, which has publicly expressed opposition to gun control measures — as long as the measures don’t infringe upon freedoms granted by the 2nd Amendment.
“I am (willing to stand up to the NRA), if it’s not going to hurt a good, solid, great American citizen from keeping his weapon — because they want that and they’re entitled to that,” he said. “ … I don’t want to have crazy people have guns (and) I don’t want to have bad people to have guns, but we’re going to do nothing to hurt the 2nd Amendment. What we want to do is see if we can come up with a compromise.”
Proposal to Expand Background Checks To Commercial Sales Floated
Trump’s remarks came amid chatter on Capitol Hill that the White House was close to a decision on gun control measures last week after a proposal to expand background checks for commercial-sale firearms began circulating about a week ago.
The document — which was acquired by The Daily Caller and POLITICO, and is believed to have originated with Attorney General Barr — proposes expanded background checks legislation that is “consistent with the Manchin-Toomey draft legislation” — namely extending background checks to all advertised commercial sales, including those at gun shows. It also recommended that background checks would be conducted through either a federal firearm licensee or “newly-created class of licensed transfer agents” and would require compliance with specific records-keeping guidelines.
While White House spokesman Hogan Gidley told reporters that White House legislative director Eric Ueland was among those pushing the document around Capitol Hill, he clarified that the document was “not a White House document” and that Trump has not signed off on the proposal.
The proposal to expand background checks for commercial sales of firearms echoes a plea Murphy made last week during a string of Senate floor speeches delivered by Democrats as the party pushes hard for congressional action on gun violence.
Barr Proposal a “Good Faith Effort” But Unlikely to Satisfy All Democrats
At Monday’s press conference, Murphy called the proposal a “good faith effort to bridge the divide on background checks,” but noted that some of his fellow Democrats were unlikely to settle for anything less than universal background checks for all firearms sales.
Democrats from both the House and the Senate have ramped up pressure in recent weeks on both Republicans and Trump to act on gun safety legislation with little success.
While the House passed a bipartisan bill in February that would require a background check for every firearm sale, the bill has yet to be taken up in the Senate — largely because Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has refused to allow any gun control bill that doesn’t already have Trump’s support and approval come to the floor for debate.
It remains to be seen if and when the White House will issue a decision on Trump’s support for any gun safety legislation.