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February 28, 2018

Donald Trump to Pat Toomey: 'You're afraid of the NRA'

President Donald Trump took Sen. Pat Toomey to task on Wednesday over a bill he co-authored with Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia to strengthen background checks for gun purchases, proclaiming that the senators are afraid of the National Rifle Association.

During a televised meeting on gun control between Trump and a bipartisan group of senators at the White House, Trump asked Toomey if the bill he worked on with Manchin after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012 proposed raising the age requirement for rifles from 18 to 21.

Toomey, a Republican from Pennsylvania, told the president it did not.

"You know why? Because you're afraid of the NRA," Trump responded before pointing and laughing.

The NRA opposed the 2013 bill, which aimed to improve reporting to the national database used for background checks and proposed expanding background checks for firearm sales at gun shows and over the internet.

"Despite the aggressive opposition of the NRA, Senator Toomey never wavered in his commitment to this legislation," Toomey press secretary Steve Kelly said in a statement. "The NRA downgraded Senator Toomey’s rating and refused to back him for re-election. Senator Toomey has not received a dime from the NRA since joining the Senate. Senator Toomey has demonstrated that he is not afraid of the NRA or any other special interest group."

Toomey told CNN after the meeting that he didn't think Trump's comment was aimed at him personally, but rather that the president was referring more generally to members of Congress.

"If there's a Republican who has demonstrated he's not afraid of the NRA, that would be me," he said in the CNN report, also noting that the NRA hasn't donated to his campaign since 2010.

Watch the exchange below.

Speaking to lawmakers before directing the remark at Toomey, Trump recommended giving "serious thought" to raising the age requirement for rifle purchases, despite the NRA's opposition to the proposal.

“I’m a fan of the NRA,” Trump said. “There’s no bigger fan. I'm a big fan of the NRA. These are great people. These are great patriots. They love our country. But that doesn't mean we have to agree on everything.”

Trump challenged Republicans at times throughout the listening session.

Per CNN's report:

Trump reiterated multiple times Wednesday that he wanted to see a "comprehensive" approach on guns. The comments undercut Republican congressional leaders who have argued that the key on any legislation was starting with a bill that had broader bipartisan support like the narrow Fix NICs bill.

Throughout the meeting, Trump encouraged members to present their ideas. Sometimes after an idea was presented Trump would look at colleagues and ask if it could be added to the base bill. He called for "one, great piece of legislation."

Trump has pushed new firearms restrictions in the aftermath of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida on Valentine's Day, in which 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz allegedly gunned down 14 students and three staff members with an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle.