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WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump was set to be briefed Thursday on potential gun control measures and may make a decision shortly after on what path forward he will get behind, an administration official said.
Trump was to be given summaries of the various ideas endorsed by members of Congress and White House aides, but he won't be immersed in any specific legislative language, the official said.
The president, who spoke Thursday with senators advocating for stricter background checks, said after that meeting that he was working with them to “come up with something that is acceptable to everybody,” and that there would be additional meetings Wednesday and Thursday.
"So we're looking at background checks and we are looking at putting everything together in a unified way so that we can have something that’s meaningful at the same time," the president said.
Following a 40-minute call with Trump and his staff Wednesday, Sens. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., Chris Murphy, D-Conn., and Joe Manchin, D-W. Va., said they were told to expect something from the White House on Thursday, though the president had not specifically signaled what bills he was likely to support.
"It was a very engaging conversation for quite a period of time and everybody was able to have their back-and-forths on this and the president is still very encouraging," Manchin said. "I believe he sincerely wants to move forward and do something. We're going to know, hopefully by tomorrow, if there's something that we can all agree on, and once we agree on something we're going to hold to it and fight for it, so we'll see what happens."
White House and congressional staffers have spent the past month trying to find a bill or package of bills that could pass the Senate, narrowing down what could gain the necessary support from Democrats and Republicans.
Trump, who has appeared to waffle on how far he’s willing to go in support of gun control measures, has yet to make any decision on substance or on whether to back a package of bills, a new piece of legislation or an existing bill, the official said.
Republicans in Congress will need backing from Trump to provide them cover and help sell any bill to their base of pro-Second Amendment voters.
There have been several sticking points in talks. Vice President Mike Pence has been pushing for legislation to include changes to the death penalty that would speed up executions of people convicted of mass shootings — a move that might be a deal breaker for many Democrats.
There is also a partisan divide on how far background checks should be expanded. The White House has been looking at a failed 2013 bill that would have expanded background checks to sales of guns online and at gun shows, but did not go as far as a measure that recently passed the House that would include sales between private individuals. Democrats are pushing for the House bill, which White House officials have said Trump would veto.
Among the other measures the White House has been exploring are ways to help states implement so-called red flag laws that would take guns away from people deemed a potential threat, and a bill to increase penalties for those who buy a gun for someone else in order to help them evade background checks. Another bill would notify local law enforcement officials if someone fails a background check to purchase a gun.
The White House has been looking at possible mental health measures, but a legislative solution to that has been harder to find. It has ruled out supporting any bill that would limit sales of any type of guns and ammunition, such as an assault weapons ban.