- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 20, 2019

President Trump said Tuesday he’s engaged in “meaningful” talks with Congress on gun violence but he won’t go down a “slippery slope” that erodes the Second Amendment — a stance that worries Democrats intent on expanding background checks.

“It’s not the gun that pulls the trigger, it’s the person that pulls the trigger,” Mr. Trump told reporters in the Oval Office. “We’re looking at mental institutions, which we used to have.”

Mr. Trump said he hasn’t closed the door to congressional action on things like background checks, though said there is a robust review of purchases right now.

“We have very, very strong background checks right now,” Mr. Trump said, though said there may be room for improvement. “We have sort of missing areas and areas that don’t complete the whole circle.”

At the same time, Mr. Trump said his supporters are staunch defenders of the Second Amendment. He said he won’t head down a legislative path in which “all of a sudden everything gets taken away.”

Washington is trying to figure out the best response to mass shootings like the ones that afflicted El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, within the span of 24 hours earlier this month.

Mr. Trump offered support for greater background checks in the days after the tragedies, though he’s shifted his rhetoric toward mental health in recent days.

His wavering stance is worrying Democrats like Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut.

The senator said Mr. Trump appeared to support expanded background checks after the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, only to back down — despite polling that suggests nine in 10 Americans support universal background checks on gun sales.

“I spoke to President Trump last week and he expressed support for working together with Republicans and Democrats to come up with a background checks bill that can pass the Senate and save lives,” Mr. Murphy said Tuesday, following Mr. Trump’s comments. “Until I hear directly from him, I’m not willing to concede that history repeated itself and that he has walked away from the commitment he made. But it’s time for Republicans and President Trump to decide whose side they’re on.”

Mental health advocates, meanwhile, say warehousing people in mental institutions, as Mr. Trump has proposed, is not the answer. It risks stigmatizing people who suffer from mental illness, yet thrive in their communities, and could allow gunmen to escape responsibility for what amounts to hateful actions.

“As a nation, we must not allow people with mental illness to become scapegoats for the urgent problem of mass violence, particularly perpetrated by individuals with guns,” said Chuck Ingoglia, president and CEO of the National Council for Behavioral Health.

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