WASHINGTON – U.S. President Donald Trump contended Wednesday there was no political support to implement tough controls on highly lethal assault weapons that were used in three mass shootings in the past two weeks.
Trump told reporters that he and leaders in Congress support legislation to prevent mentally ill people from possessing firearms via background checks.
“I think background checks are important. I don’t want to put guns into the hands of mentally unstable people or people with rage or hate, sick people. I’m all in favor of it,” he said.
But Trump replied negatively when asked if the U.S. could ban assault rifles, like the semi-automatic weapons attackers used to kill 22 people on Saturday in El Paso, Texas, and nine in Dayton, Ohio, on Sunday.
“I can tell you there is no political appetite for that at this moment,” he said.
“You could speak and do your own polling and there is no political appetite from the standpoint of legislature.
“I can only do what I can do,” he added.
“I think there’s a great appetite to do something with regard to making sure that mentally unstable, seriously ill people aren’t carrying guns. And I’ve never seen the appetite as strong as it is now. I have not seen it with regard to certain types of weapons,” he said.
Trump spoke before traveling to Dayton and El Paso to “pay his respects” to victims and their families and meet with local officials.
Those shootings, and a third in Gilroy, California, on July 28 that left three people dead, involved AR-15 and AK-47-type assault rifles originally designed for war but now widely available in the United States.
The same weapons have been used in the deadliest massacres in the country over the past decade, and gun control advocates say their ban would reduce the toll in mass shootings.
Support for bans rise after mass shootings, but polls are generally inconclusive.
A Quinnipiac poll in May showed 63 percent of voters favored a ban on the sale of assault weapons.
In a Gallup poll taken shortly after the Oct. 1, 2017, Las Vegas massacre, in which a gunman who stockpiled nearly two dozen assault rifles killed 58 people at a concert, Americans were evenly divided on a total ban on the manufacture, sale or possession of such weapons.
But in a poll in October 2018, Gallup said only 40 percent supported such a sweeping ban, and 57 percent opposed.