White House circulates gun background check proposal to lawmakers
The White House this week began circulating a much-anticipated gun background check proposal to Republicans on Capitol Hill, though it’s unclear if President Donald Trump supports it.
The White House’s plan would expand background checks to all commercial gun sales, including gun show sales, according to a document obtained by POLITICO and first reported by The Daily Caller. It’s similar to a proposal from Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.).
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Under the White House proposal, background checks would be conducted through federal firearm licensees, also known as FFLS, or a newly created group of licensed transfer agents. Sellers would choose voluntarily whether the federal firearm licensees or a transfer agent keeps records of the transactions.
Both are concessions to Republicans fearful that gun owners would object to any proposal that requires them to submit to background checks as well as a fear that the government keeps their personal information.
The plan is narrower than a universal background checks bill passed by the House and pushed by top Democrats like Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.
The document was circulated Tuesday to Republicans by Attorney General William Barr and White House Legislative Affairs Director Eric Ueland.
“The attorney general, I think is trying to be helpful. And I just want to say I’m very impressed with Attorney General Barr,” said Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo), who met with Barr on Tuesday.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) also met with Barr and Ueland, who were back on the Hill Wednesday.
People familiar with the matter said the administration has not signed off on the proposal and that the president is not aggressively pushing it.
“In the end, [Trump] is going to have make a hard decision,” said Senate Majority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.). “He’s getting the full range of positions.”
While Barr is speaking with Republicans about the idea, he and Ueland are seen less as advocates and more as carrying out the president’s mission of talking to Republicans to see what they can support. At the same time, former NRA employee Michael Williams is pushing back against those efforts from within the White House, much to the consternation of those involved.
“There are former NRA employees in the White House. And so for every two or three steps that they seem to be taking, it seems to be pushing them back,” said Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.).
The proposal, entitled “Idea for New Unlicensed-Commercial-Sale Background Checks,” comes after the White House has spent weeks negotiating with Manchin, Toomey and Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.).
Murphy said Wednesday that “there are elements of this proposal that reflect the talks we’ve been having. There are other elements of it that seem new.” He said the White House is still interested in installing new red flag laws and punishing people who lie on background checks and fail them.
Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) are working on a separate red flag bill, which has not yet been finalized.