WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is threatening to veto two Democratic bills expanding federal background checks on gun purchases, saying they do not sufficiently protect gun owners’ Second Amendment rights.
The House is expected to vote this week on separate bills requiring background checks for all sales and transfers of firearms and extending the background-check review from three to 10 days.
The bills are the first in a series of steps planned by majority House Democrats to tighten gun laws after eight years of Republican control.
The White House says in a veto message that the bill expanding background checks would impose unreasonable requirements on gun owners. It says the bill could block someone from borrowing a firearm for self-defense or allowing a neighbor to take care of a gun while traveling.
The other bill, extending the review period for a background check, “would unduly impose burdensome delays on individuals seeking to purchase a firearm,” the White House said.
The bill would close the so-called Charleston loophole used by the shooter in a 2015 massacre at a historic black church to buy a gun. But the White House said allowing the federal government to “restrict firearms purchases through bureaucratic delay would undermine the Second Amendment’s guarantee that law-abiding citizens have an individual right to keep and bear arms.”
Democrats accused Trump of hypocrisy, noting that Trump advocated for strengthening background checks after 17 people were shot and killed at a Florida high school a year ago.
At a meeting with survivors and family members of the Parkland, Florida shooting, Trump promised to be “very strong on background checks.” And he suggested he supported allowing some teachers and other school employees to carry concealed weapons to be ready for intruders.
A week later, during a televised meeting with lawmakers at the White House, Trump wagged his finger at a Republican senator and scolded him for being “afraid of the NRA.” The president declared that he would stand up to the gun lobby and finally get results in quelling gun violence.
Trump’s words rattled some Republicans in Congress and sparked hope among gun-control advocates that, unlike after previous mass shootings, tougher regulations would be enacted. But Trump later retreated on those words, expressing support for modest changes to the federal background check system, as well as for arming teachers.
The Democratic National Committee said in a statement on Tuesday that Trump’s initial pledge to take on the National Rifle Association and address gun violence “were just empty words.”
Trump “had the opportunity to put his money where his mouth is, and instead said he would veto bipartisan legislation” to expand background checks, the DNC said.
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., said Trump was ignoring the threat of gun violence even as he declared a national emergency so he could siphon billions of dollars from the military to fund his proposed wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
“The gun violence epidemic in the United States of America is an actual national emergency. The days of this House burying its head in the sand are now over,” Jeffries said on Tuesday.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland said the two gun bills to be voted on this week are “something that the overwhelming majority of the American people will want us to support.”
Associated Press writer Alan Fram contributed to this report.