President Trump appears to back away from stronger gun sale background checks

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(AP Photo/Andrew Harnik) (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
(ABC) -

After President Donald Trump appeared to respond to a groundswell of public support for tougher gun sale background checks following recent mass shootings, his language -- and possibly his stance -- on new gun control measures seems to be softening.

Just a few weeks ago, Trump told reporters “we have to have very meaningful background checks” as he left the White House just days following the shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio.

“We need intelligent background checks. This isn’t a question of NRA, Republican or Democrat,” he said on Aug. 9.

But now, as time has elapsed, and with Congress still away on its August recess, Trump on Sunday appeared to back off on any new push background checks, again calling mental health the actual problem.

"I'm saying Congress is going to be reporting back to me with ideas,” the president told reporters as he prepared to board Air Force One in Morristown, New Jersey.

“And they'll come in from Democrats and Republicans. And I'll look at it very strongly. But just remember, we already have a lot of background checks. OK?”

Congress passed legislation -- FIX NICS --in the aftermath of the Sutherland Springs Church shooting in Texas in November 2017 that claimed 26 lives. The measure was aimed at penalizing government agencies for not reporting into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).

But whether there's political support in Congress for stronger background checks is still in question. A bill proposed by Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin and GOP Sen. Pat Toomey would significantly extend background checks to include gun shows, and even internet sales.

Trump previously said background checks would keep guns out of the hands of "sick" and "deranged" people, although medical experts say mental illness is not the main reason shooters carry out mass murders, such as the El Paso and Dayton shootings.

These are people that have to be in institutions for help,” he said. “I'm not talking about as a form of a prison I'm saying for help.”

Senior Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway on Monday doubled down on the president’s remarks, but made no mention of the racially motivated El Paso shooting that killed 21 people, given the president’s reversal on background checks.

“When the president says we need to fix the mental health system, ‘look at mental health, he's not saying everybody who's in treatment for mental health is a shooter,” Conway said.

“What he's saying is that we have specific incidences where that has been an issue and has been ignored.”

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