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Trump speaks with NRA's Wayne LaPierre as he weighs possible gun reforms

NRA pushes back against background checks
NRA's Wayne LaPierre warns Trump against enhanced background checks for gun purchases 02:31

National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre and President Trump have spoken, a senior administration official confirmed to CBS News. The White House has not disclosed what the two spoke about during the phone call.

In the wake of the mass shootings in Ohio and Texas, the president called on Congress to pass legislation on background checks, which the NRA has long opposed and lobbied against. Mr. Trump has not always supported strengthening background check laws, threatening to veto such legislation earlier this year. The president has also spoken with West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, who said the two discussed the NRA's concerns about a background check bill, according to a spokesperson for the senator. 

Manchin said the president told him he wants to see legislation before September, and the West Virginia senator told Mr. Trump he needs to be outspoken in his support for the background checks bill in order to secure Republican support.

The NRA issued a statement expressing "deepest sympathies" after the Ohio and Texas shootings, insisting the group would "work in good faith to pursue real solutions that protect us all from people who commit these horrific acts." But late Thursday, LaPierre issued a statement saying the NRA "opposes any legislation that unfairly infringes upon the rights of law-abiding citizens," adding, "The inconvenient truth is this: the proposals being discussed by many would not have prevented the horrific tragedies in El Paso and Dayton." 

LaPierre continued, "The NRA will work in good faith to pursue real solutions to the epidemic of violence in America. But many proposals are nothing more than 'soundbite solutions' – which fail to address the root of the problem, confront criminal behavior, or make our communities safer."

LaPierre and the NRA have come under scrutiny in recent months, most recently after the Washington Post and Wall Street Journal reported that the NRA considered buying LaPierre a $5 million, 10,000 mansion near Dallas for his safety. Internal turmoil has plagued the gun rights group, with former NRA president Oliver North leaving after only a year in the job, and the group's finances are also in disarray. The NRA's  tax-exempt status is being investigated by the state attorneys general in New York and Washington, D.C. 

The NRA was a substantial financial backer of Mr. Trump's 2016 presidential campaign, and Mr. Trump has spoken multiple times at NRA gatherings, praising the group's defense of the Second Amendment and pledging that Americans' rights to carry firearms will always be protected under his presidency. 

"Your Second Amendment rights are under siege, but they will never, ever be under siege as long as I'm your president," Mr. Trump said in a speech to the NRA last year. After the February 2018 Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, however, the president mocked fellow Republicans for being "petrified" of the NRA, claiming he doesn't need to cave to the group's demands. Back then, the president also said at the time that he supported expanded background checks, although he did not push the effort. The Trump administration did ban bump stocks, a move that received significant pushback from the gun lobby. 

The NRA declined to discuss the call between LaPierre and the president. 

"It is long-standing policy that we do not comment on private meetings," NRA spokesperson Catherine Mortensen said. 

On expanding background checks, Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Pat Toomey, after speaking with the president, said, "I will just tell you generally the president is open-minded about this."

It's unclear what comes next for the White House and Congress on any gun control measures, particularly with Congress out of session for the August recess. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer urged Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to return to work on gun reforms, but McConnell declined. 

Mr. Trump says there is a strong appetite in Congress for expanded background checks, although he doesn't think the same is true for banning assault-style firearms. The president, as CBS News has reported, is also considering taking executive actions on gun control. White House principal deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley said the White House is looking at a number of things on the "legislative and executive level, and we're looking at all of those things to make sure this never happens again." 

At this point, the president is weighing his options.

A senior administration official told CBS News the "politics of this is changing" and Mr. Trump is a "different kind of guy" when it comes to gun matters. Still, the White House believes nothing short of an assault weapons ban will satisfy Democrats, and that if the White House agrees to smaller actions Democrats will accuse Republicans of not caring about victims. 

Ben Tracy and Sara Cook contributed to this report.

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