Buttigieg knocks Trump on background checks

South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg on Wednesday knocked President Donald Trump for abandoning his previous calls for tougher background checks and said the National Rifle Association holds power over the President.

“A 30-minute call with the president of NRA reminded him who’s in charge,” the South Bend, Indiana mayor said at an event in Iowa.

“Apparently, they have him by the…” Buttigieg began. He then paused for a slight beat.

“Base,” he said, eliciting laughter from the crowd.

The 2020 presidential Democratic candidate, who supports universal background checks, said Trump “just can’t stand up to” the NRA — which opposes background check expansion — and said that puts American lives “at risk.”

In the aftermath of two mass shootings in the past month, the President appeared to suggest that he wanted to strengthen the background check system.

Then, on Tuesday, Trump held a lengthy phone call with NRA chief Wayne LaPierre, which was first reported by The Atlantic. The President told the NRA chief universal background checks were “off the table,” a source familiar with the details of the call told CNN.

A day later, the President said he has an “appetite for background checks” and wants to fix loopholes but reiterated several times to reporters at the White House the US “already” has “strong” background checks. The President added he is “concerned” that whatever Democrats and Republicans agree to on gun legislation, Democrats will always want more, and said it’s a “slippery slope.”

His comments this week were a departure from Trump’s statements shortly after two mass shootings in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas, took the lives of more than 30 people earlier this month. The President, shying away from specifics, said at the time he wanted to strengthen the background check system and that he felt he could rally Republican support for “common sense, sensible, important background checks.”

Buttigieg has argued the Republican-led Senate should pass the universal background check bill, HR 8, that was approved by the Democratic-led House in February. He has also urged a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.

Earlier this month, the mayor unveiled a policy proposal to prevent gun violence. He also accused Trump of bearing “some responsibility” for the mass shootings.

Buttigieg’s proposal would increase federal funding to combat hate and violent extremism, boost federal research into gun violence and work with social media companies to stem incendiary rhetoric spread online.

A recent CNN poll conducted by SSRS suggests across the nation there is broad support for tighter gun restrictions.

Three in five Americans favor stricter gun control laws (60%), down since polling conducted shortly after the 2018 mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida (70%), but up compared with polling after the 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas (52%) and the 2016 mass shooting at a nightclub in Orlando (55%).

CNN’s Allie Malloy, Kaitlan Collins, Joe Johns and Jeremy Diamond contributed to this report.