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Inside the gun lobby’s push to sway Trump

President Donald Trump talked about expanding background checks, then wavered. He was considering a “red flag” bill to let authorities take away guns from dangerous people, but has now “cooled” on the prospect, according to three people involved in the discussions.

The whole time, the gun rights lobby was there to nudge the president along. Advocates bombarded the White House with calls and petitions. Representatives scored meetings with senior officials. And the industry even has a former staffer working in the West Wing on legislation. Meanwhile, groups pushing for more restrictions on gun purchases haven’t been able to get in the door.

It’s an all-of-the-above strategy that is helping to shape the package of gun proposals that Trump is expected to release soon. In addition to possible changes to the background check system, Trump will likely include gun lobby-approved offerings meant to address violent video games and mental health treatment, according to several people familiar with the situation. The red flag bill — a so-called compromise proposal pushed by the president’s ally, Sen. Lindsey Graham, but opposed by the gun industry — may not make the cut.

On Thursday night, Trump uttered the words the gun lobby wanted to hear.

“Democrats want to confiscate guns from law-abiding Americans,” he told House Republicans at their retreat. “Republicans will always uphold the fundamental right to keep and bear arms.” He received a standing ovation.

To those who have been pushing Trump to buck the gun lobby, including the powerful but scandal-plagued National Rifle Association, it’s a disappointing development. They say the gun rights groups have caused Trump to lose his momentum to act following a pair of back-to-back mass shootings in August that left many Americans asking for solutions.

“We’re learning even more information about just how far the NRA has sunk its claws into this White House,” Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), a vice chairman of the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force told POLITICO. “The American people deserve better than a president who’s bought and paid for by the gun lobby.”


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