- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 19, 2019

The Trump administration is losing conservative House members on efforts to expand background checks for buying firearms, with Freedom Caucus members rejecting the proposals floated by the attorney general.

The idea of expanding background checks to all commercial sales was a no-go for some conservative lawmakers, who felt it would erode the rights of law-abiding gun owners.

“We’re continuing to work with the administration to find a solution. That particular proposal isn’t something we’d be in favor of,” Rep. Mark Meadows, former chairman of the Freedom Caucus, told The Washington Times. “If they move forward with that plan the Freedom Caucus would not be in support of it.”

The Freedom Caucus is a bloc of about 30 of the most staunchly conservative Republicans in Congress.

Another lawmaker from the group, Arizona Rep. Paul Gosar, was concerned that President Trump would alienate his base if the administration adopts that approach.

“Don’t jump because the Democrats want you to jump,” he told The Times. “What you ought you to be doing is consciously asking — does this enforce or does this empower law-abiding citizens?”

Conservative members contend a better approach to addressing gun violence lies in shoring up the National Instant Criminal Background Check System and investigating why people fail to pass the test.

The tentative proposal Republicans are considering, which the president has not yet weighed-in on, also drew a red flag from the National Rifle Association.

“This missive is a non-starter with the NRA and our 5 million members because it burdens law-abiding gun owners while ignoring what actually matters: fixing the broken mental health system and the prosecution of violent criminals,” said Jason Ouimet, executive director of the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action.

Rep. Jim Jordan was optimistic, however.

While lawmakers on both sides of the aisle wait for the president to make a decision on what he might endorse, the Ohio Republican is confident it won’t be on background checks.

“I don’t think the president is going to go that direction. I think he’s gonna defend people’s Second Amendment liberties,” he said.

The administration took the first step in testing a potential position for Mr. Trump and the Republicans on Wednesday, as Attorney General William P. Barr met with lawmakers and floated an idea to expand background checks to all commercial sales, including gun shows.

Senators were left needing more details about how that proposal would work, but felt it was a good starting point.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said he was withholding his decision on whether or not to support the idea until he saw the details.

Asked about the appetite among House Republicans for background checks generally, Mr. McCarthy focused on other proposals such as the ban on bump stocks and efforts to bolster the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

But Democrats are holding out for universal background checks, which would apply to private sales.

Asked if Democrats could back something like Mr. Barr’s idea, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi pointed out that the White House made it clear that Mr. Trump hadn’t signed off on it yet.

She also pointed out that one of the summer’s deadly shootings occurred because of a “straw purchase” — when someone buys a gun for someone who can’t pass the background check — which doesn’t appear be addressed by the proposal.

However, some conservative Democrats, like Reps. Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey and Anthony Brindisi of New York, would be open to approaches like the one floated by Mr. Barr — seeing it as at least some progress.

“I think it would be a great step towards making a dent in the gun violence we have in our country right now,” Mr. Brindisi said. “I don’t think we should let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”

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