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Trump denies that he told NRA chief universal background checks are off the table

President Trump on Aug. 21 denied reports that he told the National Rifle Association that he would not pursue new gun background checks. (Video: The Washington Post)

President Trump on Wednesday denied that he told National Rifle Association chief executive Wayne LaPierre that universal background checks are off the table, insisting that he “didn’t say anything” about the issue.

Trump made the remarks in an exchange with reporters outside the White House before departing for an event in Kentucky.

“No, I didn’t say anything about that,” Trump said when asked whether he had ruled out universal background checks in his 45-minute conversation with LaPierre on Tuesday. “We just talked about concepts. Wayne agrees things have to be done, also.”

Several people familiar with the call told The Washington Post that Trump assured LaPierre on Tuesday that universal background checks were off the table. The president’s conversation with LaPierre, which was first reported by the Atlantic, further reduced hopes that major new gun-safety measures will be enacted after the latest round of mass shootings.

On Wednesday, Trump described the potential impact of tighter gun restrictions as a “slippery slope” that could eventually lead to the confiscation of all guns. That phrase has been part of the NRA’s messaging for years, but Trump claimed Wednesday that it was instead “a Trump talking point.”

“We have a Second Amendment,” Trump said. “And our Second Amendment will remain strong.”

After hearing from NRA leaders over the past week, the president stopped talking about instituting universal background checks, emphasizing instead the need to keep guns away from people who are mentally disturbed. He has noted in recent days that the country already has “very strong background checks,” a position that aligns with that of the NRA leadership.

Trump maintained Wednesday that he has “an appetite for background checks” but quickly pivoted to discussing the issue of border security, telling reporters, “We’re going to be filling in some of the loopholes, as we call them, at the border.”

Days earlier, the president was noncommittal when asked whether he supports banning high-capacity magazines. He went on to discuss mental health and then switched the topic to voter identification laws.

“I believe that the concept also of voter identification has to be looked at, because you can’t have great security for the voter — people that vote, you can’t have that national security unless you’re going to have voter identification,” Trump said during the exchange with reporters in Morristown, N.J., on Sunday. “It’s something people have to look at very strongly.”

“Sir, what does that have to do with guns?” a reporter asked.

Trump responded instead to a question from another reporter who asked about his golf partners over the weekend.

Tom Hamburger contributed to this report.