On one side, according to Politico, daughter Ivanka Trump and Attorney General William Barr, who are both pushing for expanded background checks. On the other, son Donald Trump, Jr. and Michael Williams, a counselor to Mick Mulvaney, who are pushing back.
“I would say that not everybody in the White House is supporting the president trying to engage and make something happen,” said Manchin, a key Senate negotiator on gun legislation. “But he’s still the president, and I think he’ll make it happen.”
Barr has earned rare Democratic praise over his efforts on gun legislation. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), a vocal critic of the attorney general, described Barr’s role in negotiations as “constructive.” Graham, a close Trump ally, also said that Barr has been helpful with the negotiations and has “been trying to bring the law enforcement perspective to the table.”
Manchin’s snark about “not everybody in the White House is supporting the president” is a dig not only at Trump, Jr. but a little-known staffer named Michael Williams as well.
Senators involved in negotiations view as an obstacle Mulvaney’s counselor, Michael Williams, a former law clerk for the National Rifle Association’s lobbying arm and general counselor for the American Suppressor Association, which supports easing restrictions on gun silencers.
Manchin criticized Williams, saying he suggested at a meeting that a smartphone app could help resolve the background checks issue.
“I know there’s one gentleman, young gentleman over there that has a complete different philosophy than I have, ” Manchin said. “The only thing I would say to Michael Williams is, ‘If you think this technology is so great, let’s do a year study on it.’”
Williams is also in contact with the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the group representing the gun industry. Ueland, however, pushed back on criticism of Williams while on Capitol Hill last week.
“It’s important for people to realize that this president is open to and seeks input across a wide array of perspectives,” he told reporters. He added that picking on individual staffers “is completely counterproductive.”
If Manchin were serious about doing something productive, and not just “doing something”, he wouldn’t be so dismissive of Williams and his suggestion. One of the big roadblocks for any background check proposal dealing with private sales is going to be the potential for a gun registry. While the suggestion of an app that would facilitate background checks on private sales drew some pushback from gun owners, it was at least an attempt to address those legitimate criticisms and concerns from 2nd Amendment supporters.
The White House has focused on a series of proposals that Democrats deem too weak, including expediting the death penalty for mass shooters, releasing teenagers’ previously sealed records after they become adults, requiring the FBI to notify local authorities when a potential buyer fails a background check and providing more money for mental health, according to people familiar with the discussions. More recently, staff has focused on changing the definition of a gun dealer and extending the background check review period, they say.
The problem for Democrats is that anything short of “universal background checks” is going to be too weak in their eyes, which doesn’t leave them much room to negotiate. The problem for Republicans is that anything that gives the gun control side even a partial victory isn’t going to gain the support of 2nd Amendment groups and gun owners, especially if there’s nothing proposed by President Trump that would be a win for the right to keep and bear arms. The two sides are simply too far apart to try and craft a proposal that’s going to win the support of both gun control activists and 2nd Amendment supporters.