President Trump assured Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, on Thursday that he was still considering legislation that could include background checks for gun buyers. But White House aides said they had polling data showing that gun control was politically problematic for the president, according to two people briefed on the meeting.
Inside the White House, the issue of new gun control measures has largely been theoretical. Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, has cautioned that it will be the president who will have to press his party to act. To help guide Mr. Trump’s decision-making, White House aides commissioned a poll to determine where his supporters stood on different measures.
For his part, the president has sent conflicting signals about his plans, depending on with whom he is speaking, and the issue has taken on a new urgency after a shooting spree in West Texas over the weekend.
Days after consecutive shootings in El Paso and Dayton, Ohio, in early August, Mr. Trump said that he wanted to pursue what he described as “very meaningful background checks.” But that resolve appeared to soften amid concerns from the National Rifle Association and some of his closest advisers and family members, including his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr. The president, reverting to a stance he has taken since the 2016 campaign, has subsequently focused more on mental health issues and the deficiencies in treating them.
Two weeks ago, Mr. Trump indicated to the chief of the N.R.A., Wayne LaPierre, that he did not intend to pursue major legislation on background checks, but that he planned to scrutinize other options.
And with the Senate in recess in August, any momentum behind major legislation appeared to stall.
Mr. Trump and Mr. Manchin met for about 30 minutes on Thursday at the White House after the president presented the Medal of Freedom to Jerry West, a former N.B.A. star. The Wall Street Journal first reported that the meeting occurred.
Mr. Trump’s aides were on hand for the meeting, and the president told Mr. Manchin that a background checks bill that the senator had pushed for with a Republican counterpart, Senator Patrick J. Toomey, Republican of Pennsylvania, was still on the table, according to the people briefed on the discussion.
But the polling data, White House aides said, indicated that the issue does not help the president with his core base of supporters, according to the people briefed on the meeting.
People familiar with the meeting said a number of different options of gun measures were discussed. But those familiar with the meeting said the president’s likeliest course of action was a menu of smaller items, like a slimmer version of a background checked bill and “red flag” laws, which allow the authorities to temporarily confiscate firearms from those who are found by a judge to be a danger to themselves or to others.
A White House spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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