White House Backs Away From Barr's Background Check Proposal

Yesterday, we learned of an idea being floated by Attorney General William Barr that would expand universal background checks. (Fun fact, the journalist who broke the news, Amber Athey, will be on today’s Cam & Co., so be sure to check that out.)


The proposal called for mandatory background checks at all advertised gun sales, which would include gun shows. It apparently doesn’t differentiate for private sales between two parties that just happens to take place at a gun show and those between an FFL and a customer.  However, it also doesn’t cover private transfers between two parties pretty much anywhere else.

At least, that’s the theory.

In practice, who knows what will actually transpire.

Not that it looks like it will matter, because not only is the NRA displeased with the bill, but the White House is backing away from it.

Attorney General William Barr spent Wednesday shopping a proposal to expand background checks to conservative Republicans in Congress. There’s just one problem: President Donald Trump is not on board with any of it.

“That is not a White House document, and any suggestion to contrary is completely false,” White House Deputy Press Secretary Hogan Gidley said.

That lack of support had the potential of killing the proposal before it was barely out of the gate. But the attorney general pressed on with a memo, obtained by ABC News, that contained ideas for expanding background checks for “all advertised commercial sales,” expanding who could perform the checks and seeking to negate any kind of federal firearms registry — a primary concern for many gun rights groups.

“The president has made clear he’s interested in any meaningful, workable measures that can provide greater security to the American people. I’ve been up here gathering perspective, kicking around some ideas, so I’m in a better position to advise the president,” Barr told reporters after a meeting with Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.

But as the attorney general was making the rounds, the National Rifle Association was also making calls to lawmakers, according to a Republican senator who asked not to be named.

“Let’s just say, they’re not on board with this,” the senator told ABC News.

In a statement to ABC News, the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action Executive Director Jason Ouimet said, “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.”

That left the proposal in a precarious position, given the sway the gun rights group has with lawmakers despite its own internal political turmoil.


It looks like Barr floated the idea in an effort to gauge reaction and potentially try and pressure Trump into accepting this as a workable alternative, even if he’s not on board with it right now.

What we don’t know just yet is why Trump isn’t supportive of the measure.

While it’s tempting to chalk it up to the idea that it goes further than the president would like, we also have to acknowledge at least the possibility that the issue is it doesn’t go quite far enough. President Trump may well feel that a proposal like this isn’t sufficient for Democrats who could potentially stall any efforts Republicans makes along these lines.

Of course, the idea of Democrats hampering gun control sounds hysterical, there is a perception on Capitol Hill that failing to pass any gun control could prove disastrous for Republicans in 2020. Making life difficult for Republicans, even if it inhibits some kind of gun control, could ideally serve Democrats. Especially if they argue that the bills are simply not sufficient and the American people agree.

This, however, shouldn’t be taken as evidence of Trump’s proposals that are still expected sometime this week. However, it is an indicator that universal background checks are still on the table.

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