Trump Pushes for 'Common Sense Background Checks' After Talks with Pelosi and Schumer, Confirms NRA Talks

President Donald Trump on Friday continued to declare his support for new legislation that would strengthen federal background checks for buying firearms as Congress searches for bipartisan measures that could pass both chambers in the wake of two deadly mass shootings.

"I can tell you, there's tremendous goodwill for meaningful—I'm talking about meaningful, add that word—meaningful background checks so that sick and demented people don't carry around guns," he told reporters at the White House. "It's a big mental illness problem. The gun doesn't pull the trigger—a mind, a sick mind pulls the trigger, and we want to take that out of the equation... We have tremendous support for common-sense background checks."

The remarks came the morning after Trump spoke with congressional leaders about addressing gun violence from the mass shootings last week that left 31 people dead.

"We spoke to the president separately this afternoon and told him the best way forward to address gun violence in our country is for Leader McConnell to let the Senate take up and pass the House-passed universal background checks legislation and for the President to sign it into law," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, said in a joint statement Thursday evening. "The President gave us his assurances that he would review the bipartisan House-passed legislation and understood our interest in moving as quickly as possible to help save lives."

Trump said the country needs "intelligent background checks. This isn't a question of NRA, Republican or Democrat." He did not elaborate on specific parameters that would be included in such legislation.

In early morning tweets on Friday, the president confirmed he's also been speaking with the National Rifle Association. Media reports this week said that the NRA expressed their opposition to background checks in talks with Trump. He expressed confidence that he can persuade both the gun rights group and congressional Republicans to get some form of gun control law passed.

"I think I have a greater influence now over the Senate and over the House. I think we can get something really good done," Trump continued. "I think we can have some meaningful background checks."

Trump background checks
President Donald Trump speaks to the press on the South Lawn of the White House before departing in Washington, DC on August 9. NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty

Trump also maintained he had a "great relationship" with the NRA.

"They supported me very early. We'll see where the NRA will be. I've spoken to them numerous times. They're great patriots. They love our country so much. I think in the end, [NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre] and the NRA will either be there or will maybe be more neutral. The NRA over the years has taken a very tough stance on everything and I understand it. It's a slippery slope—they think you approve one thing and that leads to a lot of bad things. I don't agree with that."

The president further pushed for Democratic and Republicans leaders in Congress to draft a bipartisan measure that would pass both chambers. But he denied the notion that Congress needs to return from their August recess to act immediately, something Democrats have said the Senate needs to do.

"I don't think we'll need to call them back. I think we'll have a very good package by the time they come back, and they can start debating and voting on it then," Trump said.

Congress is not slated to return until the second week of September, but Pelosi sent a letter to Trump on Thursday requesting he use his executive powers to force the Senate to return and address House-passed legislation from February that would require background checks for all gun sales and most gun transfers, including private transactions.

"Today, as Speaker of the House, I am writing in good faith to request that you call the United States Senate back into session immediately under your powers in Article II Section 3 of the Constitution to consider House-passed bipartisan gun violence prevention legislation," the California Democrat wrote.

Trump had previously threatened to veto those two bills, should they make it through the GOP-controlled Senate and to his desk. But he said previous gun control legislation that failed to pass both chambers may have a renewed opportunity because "there's never been a president like President Trump."

He also claimed that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell—who, in a radio interview Thursday said a background checks debate would be "front and center" when Congress returns—was in agreement.

"I talked to Mitch McConnell yesterday. He's totally on board," Trump said.

A McConnell spokesperson did not respond for comment.