Where Does Donald Trump Stand on Gun Control? President Takes Timid Step in Support of Better Background Checks

President Donald Trump has decided to back efforts to improve the federal background checks system in the wake of the mass shooting at a Florida high school that killed 17 people last week, a White House statement announced Monday.

The president spoke to Senator John Cornyn (Republican, Texas) on Friday, a lawmaker who co-authored a bipartisan bill with Senator Chris Murphy (Democrat, Connecticut) in November aiming to strengthen the National Instant Criminal Background Check (NICS).

“While discussions are ongoing and revisions are being considered, the President is supportive of efforts to improve the Federal background check system,” the White House statement read.

Expressing support for the bipartisan “Fix the NICS Act” is the first sign Trump has given of wanting to taking action on gun control, having failed to do so in the aftermath of the Las Vegas massacre in October and the Texas church mass shooting in November that instead prompted the bipartisan bill.

02_19_Trump_NRA President Donald Trump arrives to address the National Rifle Association (NRA) Leadership Forum in Atlanta, Georgia on April 28, 2017. Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

In a series of puzzling tweets on Saturday, Trump first attempted to deflect discussion of gun control, accusing the FBI of “missing the signal” on the threat posed by the Florida gunman Nikolas Cruz due to spending “too much time on trying to prove Russian collusion.” He also accused Democrats of doing nothing to pass gun control legislation when President Barack Obama controlled both the House and the Senate, from January 2009 to January 2011.

Trump did not mention that within two months of his taking office, an Obama-era gun regulation that prevented individuals suffering from mental illness too severe to collect their own Social Security financial benefits from buying firearms was rescinded.

Read more: Ready, aim, fired: Donald Trump and guns, explained

During the presidential campaign, Trump portrayed himself as a defender of Second Amendment Rights and a lover of the gun lobby National Rifle Association (NRA) in sharp contrast to his Democrat rival Hillary Clinton, despite previously expressing less indulgent views on Republicans who “walk the NRA line” and “refuse even limited restrictions” on gun laws, in his 2000 book, The America We Deserve.

In the book, Trump defined himself as opposing gun control in general, but supporting “the ban on assault weapons” and “a slightly longer waiting period to purchase a gun,” positions closer to Clinton’s campaign proposals than those expressed in his own campaign.

Clinton advocated for stricter gun regulation, including an expansion of background checks to more gun sales, a ban on assault weapons, and barring felons convicted of domestic violence and other violent crimes from purchasing weapons. Trump instead proposed “fixing” the background check system that ensures that criminal and mental health records are properly documented.

The "Fix the NICS Act" is closer to Trump’s proposal than Clinton’s, although it would require submitting domestic violence records as part of the background checks. “This bill aims to help fix what’s become a nationwide, systemic problem so we can better prevent criminals and domestic abusers from obtaining firearms,” Senator Cornyn said on presenting the bill.