- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 21, 2019

President Trump said Wednesday he considers gun violence in the U.S. a public health emergency, as he grapples with proposals to address recent mass shootings in Texas and Ohio.

Mr. Trump said he spoke with the head of the National Rifle Association, Wayne LaPierre, on Tuesday and has been conferring regularly with lawmakers from both parties. He said he wants to “fill in some of the loopholes” in laws requiring background checks on firearms purchases.

“We’re going to be doing background checks,” he said. “Wayne agrees that something needs to be done also. We want to fix the weaknesses.”

Asked if he believes the level of daily gun deaths in the U.S. qualifies as a public health emergency, Mr. Trump replied, “I do.”

But he said he’s also concerned that congressional Democrats will take advantage of any move for gun control to push the nation down a “slippery slope” of stricter gun laws.

“That’s what actually your gun owners and a lot of other people are concerned with,” the president said. “But assuming that that’s not going to take place by the Democrats, assuming they really want to get this done, we can get it done.”

Mr. Trump reiterated his view that any gun proposal must address people with mental illness.

“I want guns to be in the hands of people who are mentally stable,” he said. “If a person is sick, if a person is mentally ill … we can’t let that happen. We also have to remember the gun doesn’t pull the trigger, the person does.”

A reporter challenged the president that the “slippery slope” phrase “is an NRA talking point.” Mr. Trump disagreed.

“No. It’s a Trump talking point,” the president said. “We have a Second Amendment, and our Second Amendment will remain strong.”

• Dave Boyer can be reached at dboyer@washingtontimes.com.

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