tv U.S. House of Representatives Legislative Business CSPAN January 5, 2016 12:00pm-2:01pm EST
we may not be able to save everybody but maybe some. we try to take steps to reduce traffic accidents. as ronald reagan once said, if mandatory background checks could save more lives it would be well worth making it the law of the land. the bill before congress three years ago met that test. unfortunately too many senators failed theirs. [applause] in fact, we know that background checks make a difference. after connecticut passed a law requiring background checks and gun safety courses, gun deaths decreased by 40%. 40%. [applause]
meanwhile, since missouri repealed a law requiring comprehensive background checks and purchased permits, gun deaths have increased to an almost 50% higher than the national average. one study found, unsurprisingly, that criminals in missouri now have easier access to guns. and the evidence tells us that in states that require background checks, law-abiding americans don't find it any harder to purchase guns whatsoever. their guns have not been confiscated, their rights have not been infringed. and that's just the information we have access to. with more research we could further improve gun safety just as with more research we've reduced traffic fatalities enormously in the last 30 years. we do research when cars, food, medicine, even toys harm people so that we make them safer.
and you know what, research, science, those are good things. they work. [laughter] [applause] they do. but think about this. en it comes to an inherently deadly weapon, nobody argues that guns are potentially deadly, weapons that kill tens of thousands of americans every year, congress actually voted to make it harder for public health experts to conduct research into gun violence. made it harder to collect data and facts and develop strategies to reduce gun violence. even after san bernardino, they refused to make it harder for terror suspects, who can't get
on a plane, to buy semiautomatic weapons. that's not right. [laughter] that can't be right. so the gun lobby may be holding congress hostage right now but they can't hold america hostage. we can't accept that carnage is a price of freedom. [applause] now, i want to be clear, congress still needs to act.
the folks in this room will not rest until congress does. [applause] because once congress gets onboard with commonsense gun fety measures, we can reduce gun violence a whole lot more. but we also can't wait. until we have a congress that's in line with the majority of americans, there are actions within my legal authority that we can take to help reduce gun violence and save more lives, actions that protect our rights and our kids. after sandy hook, joe and i worked together with our teams and we put forward a whole series of executive actions to
try to tighten up the existing rules and systems that we had in place. but today we want to take it a step further. so let me outline what we're going to be doing. number one, anybody in the business of selling firearms must get a license and conduct background checks or be subject to criminal prosecutions. [applause]
it doesn't matter whether you're doing it over the internet or the gun show, it's not where you do it but what you do. we're also expanding background checks to cover violent criminals who try to buy some of the most dangerous firearms by hiding behind trusts and corporations and various cutouts. we're also taking steps to make the background check system more efficient. under the guidance of jim comey and the f.b.i. and our deputy rector, tom brandon, a.t.f., we're going to hire more folks to process applications faster and we're going to bring an outdated background checks system into the 21st century. [applause] and these steps will actually lead to a smoother process for law-abiding gun owners, a smoother process for responsible gun dealers, a stronger process for protecting the people from the -- public from dangerous people. so that's number one. number two, we're going to do everything we can to ensure the smart and effective enforcement of gun safety laws that are
already on the books, which means we're going to add 200 more a.t.f. agents and investigators. we're going to require firearms dealers to report more lost or stolen guns on a timely basis. we're working with advocates to protect victims of domestic abuse from gun violence where too often -- [applause] where too often people are not getting the protection they need. number three, we'll do more to help those suffering from mental illness to get the help that they need. [applause] so i profile mass shootings tend to shine a light on those few mentally unstable people who inflict harm on others but the truth is nearly two in three gun deaths are from sue sides. -- suicides. so a lot of our work is to prevent people from hurting
themselves. that's why we made sure that affordable care act, also known as obamacare -- [laughter] finally -- [applause] under that law, made sure that treatment for mental health was covered the same as treatment for any other illness. that's why we're going to invest $500 million to expand access to treatment across the country. [applause] it's also why we're going to ensure that federal mental health records are submitted to the background check system and remove barriers that prevent states from reporting relevant information. if we can continue to destigmatize mental health issues, get folks proper care and fill gaps in the background check system, then we can spare more families the pain of losing a loved one to suicide. and for those in congress who so often rush to blame mental
illness for mass shootings as a way of avoiding action on guns, here's your chance to support these efforts, put your money where your mouth is. [applause] number four, we're going to boost gun safety technology. today many gun injuries and deaths are the result of legal guns that were stolen or misused or discharged accidentally. in 2013 alone, more than 500 people lost their lives to gun accidents and that includes 30 children younger than 5 years old. the greatest, most technologically advanced nation on earth, there is no reason for this. we need to develop new technologies that make guns safer. you can't et it up
unlock your phone unless you have the right fingerprint, why can't we do the same thing for our guns? [applause] if there's an app that can help us find a missing tablet, which happens to me often -- [laughter] the older i get -- [laughter] if we can do it for your ipad, there's no reason we can't do it for a stolen gun. if a child can't open a bottle of aspirin, we should make sure they can't pull a trigger on a gun. [applause] all right. so we're going to advance research, we're going to work with the private sector to update firearms technology. some gun retailers are already stepping up by refusing to
finalize a purchase without a complete background check or by refraining from selling semiautomatic weapons or high capacity magazines. and i hope that more retailers and more manufacturers join them. because they should care as much as anybody about a product that now kills almost as many americans as car accidents. i make this point because none of us can do this alone. i think mark made that point earlier. all of us should be able to work together to find a balance hat declares the rest of our rights are also important. second amendment rights are important. there are other rights that we care about as well. and we have to be able to balance them. because our right to worship
freely and safely, that right was denied to christians in charleston, south carolina, and that was denied jews in kansas city and that was denied muslims in chapel hill and ocreek. they had rights too. our right to peaceful assembly, that right was robbed from moviegoers in aurora and lafayette. our inalienable right to liberty and the pursuit of happiness, that was stripped from students in blacksburg and santa barbara and from high schoolers at columbine. nd from first graders in newtown.
first graders. and from every family who never imagined that their loved one would be taken from our lives . a bullet from a gun every time i think about those kids it gets me mad. and by the way, it happens on the streets of chicago every day. [applause] so all of us need to demand that congress be brave enough to stand up to the gun lobby's
lies. all of us need to stand up and protect its citizens. all of us need to demand governors and legislators and businesses do their part to make our communities safer. we need the wide majority of responsible gun owners who grieve with us every time this happens and feel like your views are not being properly represented to join with us to demand something better. [applause] and we need voters who want safer gun laws and who are disappointed in leaders who stand in their way to remember ome election time. i mean, some of this is just
simple math. yes, the gun lobby is loud and it's organized in defense of making it effortless for guns to be available for anybody anytime. well, you know what, the rest of us, we all have to be just as passionate. we all have to be organized in the defense of our kids. this is not that complicated. the reason congress blocks laws s because they want to win elections. if you make it hard for them to win an election if they block those laws they'll change course, i promise you. [applause]
and, yes, it will be hard. and it won't happen overnight. it won't happen during this congress. it won't happen during my presidency. but a lot of things don't happen overnight. a woman's right to vote didn't appen overnight. liberation of african-americans didn't happen overnight. lgbt rights, decades worth of work. so just because it's hard, to try.o excuse not if you have any doubt as to why you should feel that fierce urgency now, think about what
happened three weeks ago. dobson was a sophomore at fulton high school in knoxville, tennessee. he played football. beloved by his classmates and his teachers. his own mayor called him one of their city's success stories. the week before christmas he headed to a friend's house to play video games. he wasn't in the wrong place at the wrong time. he hadn't made a bad decision. he was exactly where any other kid would be. your kid. my kids. nd then gunmen started firing. nd he who was in high school hadn't even gotten started in life, dove on top of three girls to shield them from the
bullets. and he was shot in the head. and the girls were spared. he gave his life to save theirs. an act of heroism a lot bigger than anything we should ever expect from a 15-year-old. greater love than a man laid down his life for his friends. e are not asked to do what zavon dobson did. we're not asked to have reactions that quick. i'm not asking people to have that same level of courage or sacrifice or love. but if we love our kids and care about their prospects and if we love this country and care about its future, then we
can find the courage to vote, we can find the courage to get mobilized and organized. we can find the courage to cut through all the noise and do sensible country would do. that's what we're doing today and tomorrow we should do more and we should do more the day after that. and if we do we'll leave behind a nation that's stronger than he one we inherited and worthy of the sacrifice of a young man like zaevion. thank you very much, everybody. god bless. thank you. [applause] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2016] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org]
>> president obama there in the east room of the white house along with vice president joe biden and also some of the families of victims of gun violence talking about what he is planning on doing with his executive actions on guns and also calling on congress to come together to work on gun violence prevention. we're going to take your phone calls. we have the lines divided up between gun owners and nongun owners. if you own a gun call 202-748-8920. nongun owners, 202-748-8921. we're going to get right to your calls. we're also going to talk to a reporter from "usa today" in just a few minutes who will also answer some of your questions as well. jonathan is calling from
virginia on the nongun owners line. jonathan, go ahead. caller: yeah. i just wanted to make a comment about the speech that the president just spoke about. like i said, i'm a nongun owner and i am totally enamored with the fact that he says these things and he really -- me. i guess my best wish is that our elected officials come together and do the right thing. >> all right, jonathan. thanks for the call. on our gun owners call. north carolina. hi. and are you there? all right. we've lost caney but we'll get back to your phone calls in just a moment. joining us to talk about the president's executive action is paul, d.c. correspondent from "usa today." what's been the reaction from
congress from house speaker paul ryan and those in the senate? paul: it is neatly divided by party. democrats, of course, are saying this is commonsense effort to fight gun violence. republicans are saying it is a continued assault by the president both on the second amendment rights of americans and on congress' prerogative to actually regulate this stuff. their argument is that obama's overstepping his authority. hank: what were the plans in the -- host: what were the plans in the house and senate? what do they have planned for this year ahead? paul: not much. the bill that's been sort of the primary talking point for republicans is a bill on mental health issues. every time one of these things comes up they talked about the bill that would basically expand resources for people in mental health crisis.
which a lot of democrats thinks is a good idea. there is real bipartisan support for it. there's debates on the margins about what exactly it should do. there is a provision that would require basically or expand the opportunity for court-required treatment of people with severe mental health, kind of an outside of mental institutions. there's some dispute whether that's a good idea or not. that's the only sort of gun control measure that has any kind of traction in the republican congress and there is a question about whether that can get enough bipartisan support to pass. host: and that's a look ahead. what about some of the past legislation? the thome-manchin, both lawmakers and gun owners but they came together to work on legislation, whatever happened to it? paul: it was a couple years ago, as the president was saying in his presentation. there was a big cry for legislation and a major effort broker a deal with a whole
bunch of gun provisions in it. ranging from, as i recall, there was some stuff on straw buyers of guns, when people purchase guns for other people, transiting guns across state lines and a lot of it was hung on this major compromise on expanded background checks. that thing ultimately fell apart because there was not enough republican support to pass it. so the bill died. and it's been sort of -- that's been the last move for any kind of broad gun legislation. host: what about democrats? are they in line about his executive actions? and what else have they proposed? paul: they are in line with the president's executive actions. as you will notice, there was not a great deal of breath to the president's executive action. he's sort of tinkering it the margins of existing law and that's why he turned the conversation to appealing to congress to do more. there is a whole bunch of do more that the republicans are urging. banning people from the terrorist no-fly list from owning a gun, whether it's
expanding background checks more broadly, whether it's, as nancy pelosi was trying to do last year, trying to allow the centers for disease control to do more research on the health effects of guns. all that stuff is what congress has to do. in fact, a bunch of the resident that the -- stuff that the president wants to do, he wants $500 million for mental health care assistance. that's something he can't do by himself. that's something congress has to do. host: and on the campaign trail, how is this going into what they're saying? paul: it's easy to anticipate. we've seen a lot of comment from the republican candidates that president obama doesn't respect your second amendment rights. that he's trying to undermine the rights of law-abiding americans and part of the topic today amongst a lot of the republicans, including speaker ryan, has been essentially what
obama is doing is bullying law-abiding citizens with these additional provisions that pester those who are following the law instead of actually going after criminals. host: is that issue on the campaign trail resonating with voters? paul: well, i don't really know. this is the whole question. no one has had to cast a ballot yet. we know it is a regular theme of the republican primary campaign stops that obama does not respect the constitution, obama does not respect congressional authority and doesn't respect your rights on everything ranging from immigration to guns. i think the immigration one has been sort of the more active topic on the campaign trail. but it certainly appears that the republicans believe it is a very successful issue for them with their voting base. we'll see when someone actually has to cast a ballot. host: paul singer is with "usa
today," d.c. correspondent. thanks for joining us. paul: thanks for having me. host: i want to take a look at a quick statement. this is from speaker paul ryan. statement on president obama's executive order to undermine the second amendment. says here -- >> still, rather than focus on criminals and terrorists he goes after the most law-abiding citizens. his words and actions amount to a form of intimidation that undermines liberty. you can read more at his website. that's paul ryan, house speaker. going to take some of your phone calls. we have paul singer on the line with us. john from santa cruz. john, you're a gun owner. caller: yes, good morning. just a couple of quick questions. thank you for taking my call. couple of quick points.
criminals, by their flache, do not obey the law. and obviously people who have mental challenges are not really very co-heernt or thinking clearly. -- coherent or thinking clearly. no matter what legislation you last, it's only going to affect the people who are law-abiding citizens. it's -- i think that pursuing more options for mental health is a good thing. i think that they should, you know, be more sensitive to people who have mental challenges. unfortunately in california governor reagan years ago closed all of the mental health institutions and put the people on the street. and now we have a large population of people who are homeless and many of whom are mentally ill. so we need to go in the other direction. we need to care for these people. they are citizens too. host: and paul singer, what do you think of that, "usa today" paul singer? paul: we get back to this indeed if you are asking for
more background checks or other regulations on people who are legal gun owners, it's not clear you're going to get to criminals or terrorists who don't get their weapons legally anyway. one of the things i find interesting about this particular executive action, president obama puts some real emphasis on smart gun technology and other types of technologies we might be able to attach to weapons so they can't be either misused or accidentally misfired. that's an interesting conversation because i think that's one where you might be able to get some traction to both sides. well, you should be able to get your gun and get your gun legally but you might want to prevent it from getting stolen or your child accidentally discharging the weapon. it gets to what john is saying here, people who want to use their guns properly are generally following the law already. host: john from santa cruz, thanks for the call there. charles is on the line from nongun owners calling from washington state.
go ahead, charles. caller: can you hear me? host: yes. caller: i am a law-abiding citizen. i totally agree with what president obama said today on this topic of gun control. i think that he's absolutely correct. gun nk that it is in the lobby's pockets. they should be ashamed of themselves. host: all right, charles, thanks for the call there. richard is on the line, maryland, la plata, richard, gun owner. what are your thoughts? caller: i am 100% in favor of what the president said. it just doesn't make any sense that people should die at the rate they are for really stupid abuse of freedom. so i'm 100% in favor of what
the president said. host: richard, do i mind if you ask, you're a gun owner. ? w many guns do you own caller: i live on a farm. i have three shotguns, use them rarely. i have no problem with registration or whatever is necessary to reduce gun violence. i mean, i served in the army. i know what i'm doing. and i just really believe that americans need to wake up and stop watching idly as philo citizens are butchered. host: let's see if paul singer wants to weigh in. paul, what are your thoughts? paul: i spent a lot of time out in rural virginia and everyone has a gun. it is very much part of the rural landscape and there's not a lot of conversation about it. nobody considers it anything
than a tool to use around the house because there is wildlife or whatever else. again, i think most of those eople are by and large complying with all the purchasing requirements and background checks and everything else. what becomes interesting is this issue becomes k50eu7bd of stalking force for a broad -- becomes a stalking force for a broader source. it's do you trust president obama and his administration to properly protect your rights, the rights of the individual and uphold the constitution, or do you believe that he, particularly president obama, is trying to grab power and amass power? the gun is i think really at that point a symbol of that broader movement, that's the issue. host: and paul singer, i want to thank you for your time answering questions. really appreciate it. paul singer with "usa today." he's a d.c. correspondent. paul: great to see you. thanks for being here. host: we're taking your phone calls.
wanted to mention from the business insider an article talking about the increase in purchases for guns even smith and wesson surprised by the red hot demand for guns. business at the gun maker smith-and-wesson is going gangbusters. monday evening, management announced that it was raising its guidance because sales had been unexpectedly strong. it will have $175 million to $180 million in sales up from its earlier guidance from $150 million to $155 million. this is much higher than the $155 million expected by analysts. richard is on the line -- sorry. we've already taken richard's call. here is karen, north andover, massachusetts. karen, high. caller: hi, there. thank you so much for covering this. it's curious to me how would people think in all of the right mind that obama on his way out this year is going to
have any power over their guns. it makes absolutely no sense to me that they're blaming him when so many issues have to be covered before you could ever start to take people's guns away, which i do not believe should happen if they are gun owners who are reputable and good training and no what they're doing and they keep them away from children. the other issue i wanted to make is the beginnings of this discussion today are giving the n people who want to protect society a place to rally around. we have never -- everything we've done before has been an emotional roller coaster. with newtown and gabby giffords' area with arizona,
all of those were one thing, one thing, one thing. now we have joined together. we have issues that we are able to talk about and stand behind. so we can move forward. host: all right. let's get a call from a gun owner. douglas calling from virginia beach, virginia. caller: hi. how are you doing today? host: very good, douglass. thanks. caller: same here. i would like to say all the other bills that tried to be passed in washington, the main focus gets lost because of all the little streamers that are attached to it. if we can just focus on the main thing, maybe something might get done. host: all right. thanks for the call. another gun owner here. this is vincent in buffalo, wyoming. the clerk: yeah. good morning. thanks for taking my call. and i hunt.
i raised three boys. they hunt. we all served in the military. every one of us knows how to handle a rifle or pistol. and we have rifles and shotguns for hunting and shooting targets, clay shooting and pistols for shooting. also to protect ourselves and our home. now, i understand that we got to have some kind of background check to keep felons away from handguns and i agree with that. but it seems like every time something like this happens, all the shootings that took place, and many of them were prosecuted and were executed. i never hear nobody talking about making an example of these guys or whatever that commit these crimes, look at the one in fort hood that killed all those soldiers. he's still alive. the one that killed gabby -- that shot gabby giffords, he's
still alive. why aren't we prosecuting these criminals, murderers and bring back the death sentence? and i'm pretty sure a lot of these people that think -- that if they -- they will be hung or fried in an electric chair like they used to do in new york, you're going to think twice. we need -- nobody's talking about that. neither republicans nor democrats, or even the n.r.a., which i'm a member of. host: you mentioned gabby giffords and she was at this announcement with president obama at the white house. check out one of the tweets. president obama, thanks for standing up to the gun lobby and making sure that -- ensuring fewer guns fall into the wrong hands. and shirley henry from n.p.r. friday is the fifth anniversary of the shooting in suisun. gabby giffords, who survived
the shooting, is at the white house. and elizabethesty says today action updates, a vague definition in the current background check system that allows guns to be sold without a background check. congresswoman barbara lee of california, proud of the president's leadership to address the epidemic of gun violence in america. it's past time to do something and protect our communities. also one here from -- this is frank thorpe from nbc. just as president obama begins speaking, senator daines released a statement on obama's unlawful gun grab. so both sides of the aisle weighing in on twitter. call us, if you are a gun owner or not a gun owner, on the line for nongun owner, shirley is calling from ohio. caller: yeah. this is -- our framers gave us
the right to bear arms and they ould not be infringed upon for the very purpose of -- it's not about hunting, it's not about the -- anything like that. to make sure s is that the guns that are brought into this country from the cartels that running these guns, you have hufe trafficking, you have drug trafficking and we have gun trafficking. they have weapons that they sell in all these areas and that's the big thing. considered they [inaudible] people have to register their guns because thousands upon thousands of guns -- if you want to know who's being killed in one weekend, 16 people were murdered by guns in chicago. now, stricter the laws of the state of guns -- host: cheryl, do you own a gun? caller: no, i don't. if i wanted to get one i would.
i've handled them. i have no fear of them. i don't think guns are the issue. i think it's a control issue. but i have a real issue with his glossing over the mentaly ill. now, he brings that up because he wants to put that in. but what stipulation will we be not allowed to use one? usually after a shooting, they were mentally ill. i know he likes to put out ptsd on that and everything, but you can't do that. and -- host: hang on a second, cheryl. this is something that president obama did address mental illness. take a look at this "washington post" article here talking about it. the obama administration unveiling a new executive actions reducing gun violence. it's a package of provisions which the president announced today. it includes 10 separate provisions. one key provision will require more gun sellers to be licensed, would force them to conduct background checks on
potential buyers and he devotes $500 million more in federal funds to treating mental illness. one of the things he did talk about in his remarks today at the white house. a gun owner, rick calling from flatwoods, kentucky. hi, rick. caller: thank you for taking my call. yes, i'm a gun owner, i'm a veteran, vietnam war veteran. what really worries me about the gun control issue is it's an underlying and predcation to -- if anyone has got their head in the sand -- i don't know what's going on with fema in these concentration camps, preparing for control of the populous, the armed people that's out there -- our government. i'm not a radical. host: where are you getting your info on fema and the concentration camps? caller: go online.
just type in fema. our government has been stalking -- stocking up these containers down in georgia and all over the place for mass graves for several years. all this stuff is stuff you can read online about it. all these kinds of things are just a nail in the coffin, if you want to say, of control of the populous that i think roosevelt said, the government's only fear is whenever the populous goes against it. host: right. i got you there. nongun owner is here. marco from gainesville, florida. go ahead. caller: i'm a stupet here in gainesville. i -- student here in gainesville. i completely agree with president obama. it's ridiculous this year at the point of the second democratic debate there were more shootings than there were actual days in the year. mass shootings. that's ridiculous. host: what do your fellow
students think? are you all on the same side of this or -- caller: it -- it's whoever you get into the conversation with. host: mixed bag. caller: mixed bag. another thing i strongly agree with president obama on is get people out to vote. people actually do need to vote. like if people want change, people want things to change, they need to go out and vote. i completely agree with that. host: nongun owner peter calling from tucson, arizona. caller: hello. i think president obama was right. everything that he said. but he hasn't gone far enough. first of all, i think all jails, all prisons in the united states should be -- we should open one facility in . xas, arizona or new mexico
100,000 acres, put every prisoner in there. give them a blanket and it's covered by electronic fence all around it. plus 25 feet above it. electronic fence, helicopters will go in there and drop bread and water and that's it through an electronic hole that they make in the fence. and by golly, i bet you in one generation there won't be any more crime. thank you very much. host: thanks for the call. peter in tucson, arizona. and thanks for all your calls. if we didn't get to your phone calls, remember you can continue the conversation online. we have a question up there. you can let us know what you think of president obama's executive actions that he announced today, his executive actions on guns, what you think congress may be doing about it as far as funding some of those actions and the price tag attached to them.
facebook.com/cspan and you can send us a tweet @cspan. this is from the white house just a few minutes ago. vice president biden: i'm in a room full -- >> i'm in a room full of warriors and champions and it's such an honor. on the morning of friday, my sweet 4, 2012, little boy, daniel, was among 20 children and six educators who were shot to death at sandy hook elementary school in newtown, connecticut. in the three years since those 26 precious lives were lost at that school, far too many more
lives had been lost to gun tragedies in this country. far too many people right now who are hearing these words are grieving the loss of a loved one to gun violence. as a nation we have to do better. we are better. we're better than this. in april of 2013, i had the honor of introducing president obama in the rose garden. unfortunately that was to announce that a bill that had been proposed to close the loophole in a federal background check system for firearm sales had been blocked by members of congress. some members of congress. but president obama delivered an address that day that was charged with genuine passion and commitment.
the president made a promise to not give up. i remember standing there with my family and vice president biden listening to our president speak and our feelings of despair were replaced with feelings of hope. and i remember thinking, who's going to help him with this? that's a tall order. and so since then i've come to know and respect and learn from many amazing individuals and organizations who are doing good, smart work in this space, and many of you are right here right now. many of the folks in the gun violence prevention coalition, including sandy hook promise, have had numerous meetings with vice president biden and president obama and their top advisors to address this issue. but we can't do it alone. and the president can't do it alone. the thing is every gun-related
eath is preventable. and we need your help. we need everybody engaged in this. president obama made a promise as an elected official and a promise as a father that he would do everything in his power to protect our nation's children to make our communities safer and curb the loss of life to gun violence in america. so today we celebrate another example of how president obama and vice president biden continue to keep that promise. it is with such great honor that i introduce to you the president of the united states, barack obama, and vice president joe biden. [applause]
ark, i want to thank you for your introduction. i still remember the first time we met, the time we spent together. and the conversation we had about daniel. and that changed me that day. and my hope earnestly had been it would change the country. ive years ago this week, a sitting member of congress and 18 others were shot at at a supermarket in tucson, arizona. it wasn't the first time i had to talk to the nation in response to a mass shooting nor ould it be the last. binghamton, aurora,
her wonderful husband, mark, who by the way the last time i met with mark -- this is a small aside. you may know mark's twin brother is in outer space. he came to the office and i said, how often are you talking to him? he said, well, i usually talk to him every day but the call was coming in right before the meeting so i think i may have not answered his call. [laughter] which made me feel kind of bad. [laughter] that's a long distance call. [laughter] so i told him, if his brother, scott, is calling today that he should take it. [laughter] urn the ringer on. i was there with gabby when she was still in the hospital. and we didn't think necessarily
at that point that she was oing to survive. and that visit right before , about an hour later gabby first opened her eyes. now, i remember talking to mom bout that. but i know the pain that she and her family have endured the past five years and rehabilitation and the work and from ort to recover shattering injuries. and then i think of all the americans who aren't as fortunate.
every single year more than 30,000 americans have their lives cut short by guns. 30,000. suicides, domestic violence, .ang shootouts, accidents hundreds of thousands of americans have lost brothers and sisters. or buried their own children. many have had to learn to live with a disability or learned to live without the love of their life. a number of those people are here today. they can tell you some stories. in this room right here there . e a lot of stories there's a lot of heartache.
there's a lot of resilience. there's a lot of strength. but there's also a lot of pain. nd this is just a small sample . the united states of america is not the only country on earth with violent or dangerous people. we are not inherently more .rone to violence but we are the only advanced country on earth that sees this kind of mass violence erupt with this kind of frequency. doesn't happen in other advanced countries. it's not even close. and as i've said before,
somehow we become numb to it and we start thinking that this is normal. and instead of thinking about this solve the problem, has become one of our most polarized partisan debates. despite the fact there's a general consensus in america about what needs to be done, and that's part of the reason on thursday i'm going to hold a town hall meeting in virginia on gun violence. because my goal here is to bring good people on both sides of this issue together for an open discussion. i'm not on the ballot again. i'm not looking to score some points. i think we can disagree without impugning other people's motives or without being disagreeable. we don't need to be talking
past one another, but we do have to feel a sense of urgency bout it. in dr. king's words, we need to feel the fierce urgency of now because people are dying and the constant excuses for do, no no longer longer suffice. that's why we're here today. not to debate the last mass shooting but to do something to try to prevent the next one. [applause]
to prove that the vast majority of americans, even though our voices aren't the loudest and most extreme, care enough about a little boy like daniel to come together and take common sense steps to save lives and protect more of our children. i want to be absolutely clear. i have said this over and over again. this also becomes routine. there is a ritual about this whole thing that i have to do. i believe in the second amendment. it is there, written on the paper. it guarantees a right to bear rms. o matter how many times people try to twist my words around, i
taught constitutional law ,blingts i know a little about- i know a little about this. i get it. but i also believe we can find ways to reduce gun violence consistent with the second amendment. we all believe in the first amendment. the guarantee of free peech. but we accept that you cannot ell "fire" in a theater. we understand there are some constraints on our freedom in order to protect innocent people. we cherish our right to privacy, but we accept that you have to go through metal detectors before being allowed to board a plane. it's not because people like oing that.
but we understand that is part of the price of living in a civilized society. what's often ignored in this debate is that the majority of gun owners actually agree. a majority of gun owners agree that we can respect the second amendment while keeping an rresponsible, lawbreaking feud -- few from inflicting harm on a massive scale. today, background checks are required at gun stores. if a father wants to teach his daughter how to hunt, he can walk into a gun store, get a background check, and purchase his weapon safely and responsibly. this is not seen as an infringement on the second amendment. contrary to the claims of what some gun rights proponents
suggested, this has not been the first step in some slippery slope to mass confiscation. contrary to claims of some presidential candidates, apparently before this meeting, this is not a plot to take away verybody's guns. you pass a background check, you purchase a firearm. the problem is, some gun sellers have been operating under a different set of rules. a violent felon can buy the exact same weapon over the internet with no background check, no questions asked. a recent study found that one in 30 people looking to buy guns on one website had criminal records. one out of 30 had criminal records. we are talking about individuals convicted of serious crimes like
illegal gun possession, people with lengthy criminal history buying weapons all too easily. this was just one website within the span of a few months. we have created a system in which dangerous people are allowed to play by a different set of rules than a responsible gun owner who buys his or her gun the right way and subjects himself to a background check. that does not make sense. everybody should have to abide by the same rules. most americans and gun owners agree. that's what we try to change three years ago after 26 americans including 20 children were murdered at sandy hook lementary. two united states senators, joe manchin, a democrat from west
virginia, and pat toomey, a republican from west virginia, all defenders of the second amendment, with a grades from the nra, that's hard to get. they worked together in good faith, consulting with folks like our vice president who has been a champion on this for a long time. to write a common sense compromise bill that would have required virtually everyone who buys a gun to get a background check. pretty common sense stuff. 90% of americans supported that idea. 90% of democrats in the senate voted for that idea. but it failed, because 90% of republicans in the senate voted against that idea. how did this become such a partisan issue? republican president george w.
bush once said, "i believe in background checks at gun shows or anywhere to make sure guns don't get into the hands of people that should not have them." senator john mccain introduced a bipartisan measure to address the gun show loophole saying we need this amendment because criminals and terrorists have exploited and are exploiting this loophole in our gun safety laws. even the nra used to support the expanded background checks. by the way, most of its members still do. most republican voters still do. how did we get here? how did we get to the place where people think requiring a comprehensive background check means taking away people's uns? ach time this comes up, we are
fed the excuse that commonsense reforms like background checks might have not stopped the last massacre or the one before that. o why bother trying? i reject that thinking. [applause] we know we cannot stop every act of violence and evil in the world. but maybe we could try to stop one act? one act of violence. some of you may recall at the ame time that sandy hook happened, a disturbed person in china took a knife and tried to kill a bunch of children in
china. but most of them survived. he did not have access to a powerful weapon. we maybe cannot save everybody, ut we can save some. just as we don't prevept all traffic accidents, but we take steps to try to reduce traffic accidents. as ronald reagan once said, if mandatory background checks could save more lives it would be well worth making it the law of the land. the bill before congress three years ago met that test. unfortunately too many senators failed theirs. [applause] in fact, we know that background
checks make a difference. after connecticut passed a law requiring background checks and gun safety courses, gun deaths decreased by 40%. 40%. [applause] eanwhile, since missouri repealed a law requiring comprehensive background checks and purchased permits, gun deaths have increased to an almost 50% higher than the national average. one study found, unsurprisingly, that criminals in missouri now have easier access to guns. and the evidence tells us that in states that require background checks, law-abiding americans don't find it any harder to purchase guns whatsoever. their guns have not been confiscated, their rights have ot been infringed. and that's just the information we have access to. with more research we could
further improve gun safety just as with more research we've reduced traffic fatalities enormously in the last 30 years. we do research when cars, food, medicine, even toys harm people so that we make them safer. and you know what, research, science, those are good things. they work. [laughter] [applause] they do. but think about this. when it comes to an inherently deadly weapon, nobody argues that guns are potentially deadly, weapons that kill tens of thousands of americans every year, congress actually voted to make it harder for public health experts to conduct research into un violence. made it harder to collect data
and facts and develop strategies o reduce gun violence. even after san bernardino, they refused to make it harder for terror suspects, who can't get on a plane, to buy semiautomatic weapons. that's not right. [laughter] that can't be right. so the gun lobby may be holding congress hostage right now but they can't hold america hostage. we can't accept that carnage is a price of freedom. [applause]
now, i want to be clear, congress still needs to act. the folks in this room will not est until congress does. [applause] because once congress gets onboard with commonsense gun safety measures, we can reduce gun violence a whole lot ore. ut we also can't wait. until we have a congress that's in line with the majority of americans, there are actions within my legal authority that we can take to help reduce gun violence and save more lives, actions that protect our rights
nd our kids. after sandy hook, joe and i worked together with our teams and we put forward a whole series of executive actions to try to tighten up the existing rules and systems that we had in place. but today we want to take it a step further. so let me outline what we're going to be doing. number one, anybody in the business of selling firearms must get a license and conduct background checks or be subject to criminal prosecutions. [applause] it doesn't matter whether you're doing it over the internet or
the gun show, it's not where you do it but what you do. we're also expanding background checks to cover violent criminals who try to buy some of the most dangerous firearms by hiding behind trusts and corporations and various cutouts. we're also taking steps to make the background check system more efficient. under the guidance of jim comey and the f.b.i. and our deputy director, tom brandon, a.t.f., we're going to hire more folks to process applications faster and we're going to bring an outdated background checks system into the 21st century. [applause] and these steps will actually lead to a smoother process for law-abiding gun owners, a smoother process for responsible
gun dealers, a stronger process for protecting the people from the -- public from dangerous people. so that's number one. number two, we're going to do everything we can to ensure the smart and effective enforcement of gun safety laws that are already on the books, which means we're going to add 200 more a.t.f. agents and investigators. we're going to require firearms dealers to report more lost or stolen guns on a timely basis. we're working with advocates to protect victims of domestic abuse from gun violence where too often -- [applause] where too often people are not getting the protection they need. number three, we'll do more to help those suffering from mental illness to get the help that they need. [applause] so i profile mass shootings tend
to shine a light on those few mentally unstable people who inflict harm on others but the truth is nearly two in three gun deaths are from sue sides. -- suicides. so a lot of our work is to prevent people from hurting themselves. that's why we made sure that affordable care act, also known as obamacare -- [laughter] finally -- [applause] under that law, made sure that treatment for mental health was covered the same as treatment for any other illness. that's why we're going to invest $500 million to expand access to treatment across the country. [applause] it's also why we're going to ensure that federal mental health records are submitted to the background check system and remove barriers that prevent states from reporting relevant information. if we can continue to
destigmatize mental health issues, get folks proper care and fill gaps in the background check system, then we can spare more families the pain of losing a loved one to suicide. and for those in congress who so often rush to blame mental illness for mass shootings as a way of avoiding action on guns, here's your chance to support these efforts, put your money where your mouth is. [applause] number four, we're going to boost gun safety technology. today many gun injuries and deaths are the result of legal guns that were stolen or misused or discharged accidentally. in 2013 alone, more than 500 people lost their lives to gun accidents and that includes 30 children younger than 5 years old. the greatest, most technologically advanced nation
on earth, there is no reason for this. we need to develop new technologies that make guns safer. if we can set it up you can't unlock your phone unless you have the right fingerprint, why can't we do the same thing for our guns? [applause] if there's an app that can help us find a missing tablet, which happens to me often -- [laughter] the older i get -- [laughter] if we can do it for your ipad, there's no reason we can't do it for a stolen gun. if a child can't open a bottle of aspirin, we should make sure they can't pull a trigger on a gun. [applause] all right.
so we're going to advance research, we're going to work with the private sector to update firearms technology. some gun retailers are already stepping up by refusing to finalize a purchase without a complete background check or by refraining from selling semiautomatic weapons or high capacity magazines. and i hope that more retailers and more manufacturers join them. because they should care as much as anybody about a product that now kills almost as many americans as car accidents. i make this point because none of us can do this alone. i think mark made that point earlier. all of us should be able to work together to find a balance that declares the rest of our rights are also important.
second amendment rights are important. there are other rights that we care about as well. and we have to be able to balance them. because our right to worship freely and safely, that right was denied to christians in charleston, south carolina, and that was denied jews in kansas city and that was denied muslims chapel hill and sikhs in oak creek. they had rights, too. [applause] our right to peaceful assembly, that right was robbed from moviegoers in aurora and lafayette. our inalienable right to liberty and the pursuit of happiness, those rights were stripped from
college kids in blacksburg and santa barbara and from high choolers at come lum wine. -- columbine. and from first graders in newtown. first graders. and from every family who never imagined that their loved one would be taken from our lives by a bullet from a gun. every time i think about those kids it gets me mad. and by the way, it happens on the streets of chicago every day. [applause]
so all of us need to demand that congress be brave enough to stand up to the gun lobby's lies. all of us need to stand up and protect its citizens. all of us need to demand governors and legislators and businesses do their part to make our communities safer. we need the wide majority of responsible gun owners who grieve with us every time this happens and feel like your views are not being properly represented to join with us to demand something better. [applause] and we need voters who want safer gun laws and who are disappointed in leaders who
stand in their way to remember come election time. [applause] i mean, some of this is just simple math. yes, the gun lobby is loud and it's organized in defense of making it effortless for guns to be available for anybody anytime. well, you know what, the rest of us, we all have to be just as passionate. we all have to be organized in the defense of our kids. this is not that complicated. the reason congress blocks laws is because they want to win elections. if you make it hard for them to win an election if they block those laws they'll change course, i promise you. [applause]
and, yes, it will be hard. and it won't happen overnight. it won't happen during this congress. it won't happen during my residency. but a lot of things don't happen overnight. a woman's right to vote didn't appen overnight. liberation of african-americans didn't happen overnight. lgbt rights, decades worth of work. so just because it's hard,
that's no excuse not to try. f you have any doubt as to why you should feel that fierce urgency now, think about what appened three weeks ago. dobson was a sophomore at fulton high school in knoxville, tennessee. he played football. beloved by his classmates and his teachers. his own mayor called him one of their city's success stories. the week before christmas he headed to a friend's house to play video games. he wasn't in the wrong place at the wrong time. he hadn't made a bad decision. he was exactly where any other kid would be. your kid. my kids. and then gunmen started iring.
and he who was in high school hadn't even gotten started in life, dove on top of three girls to shield them from the bullets. and he was shot in the head. and the girls were spared. he gave his life to save theirs. an act of heroism a lot bigger than anything we should ever expect from a 15-year-old. greater love hath no man that this that a man lay down his life for his friends. we are not asked to do what zavon dobson did. we're not asked to have shoulders that big, heart that strong, reactions that quick.
i'm not asking people to have that same level of courage or sacrifice or love. but if we love our kids and care about their prospects and if we love this country and care about its future, then we can find the courage to vote, we can find the courage to get mobilized and organized. we can find the courage to cut through all the noise and do what a sensible country would do. that's what we're doing today and tomorrow we should do more and we should do more the day after that. and if we do we'll leave behind a nation that's stronger than he one we inherited and worthy of the sacrifice of a young man like zambon -- zavion. thank you very much, everybody. god bless.
>> on capitol hill the house convenes at 2:00 eastern time today. then recessing until 6:30 when they'll vote to establish a quorum to begin legislative business. we'll head back to the white house now. the briefing room with the daily briefing which started a few minutes ago. >> we need to do more to keep that from happening. keeping that from happening would make our community safer. that is the problem that the lawyers at the department of justice were focused on trying to address. they wanted to be sure that any of the prescriptions they put forward would be well within the president's legal authority as the president of the united states is head of the executive ranch. >> can you describe for us any other time where you have seen the president be as physically emotional as he was today? it goes against the reason the
no trauma obama president. an issue, occasion, something that moved him as he was so physically moved today? josh: the president talked before about how the violence at sandy hook elementary in saddest of 2012 was the day of his presidency. he's been president for almost seven years now, and the president was quite emotional in speaking in this room at this podium on that day. and i think the president explained it for himself that even now more than three years firstthe thought of those aders being massacred is terribly sad and really tragic. and one that is emotional for the president of the united
states, who also happens to have two daughters. i think the emotional reaction that the president has, even three years later, i think is familiar to millions of americans across the country who , particularly parents, who envision their own kids in school. i think this is a very emotional issue. terribly tragic situation. and one that i think does a lot to animate the president's determination to try to do something about it. and he has been profoundly disappointed that despite this tragedy, congress has not felt the same obligation to try to do something about it. but i think the president's announcement of 23 executive actions about a month or so after that terrible incident i think was pretty clear evidence of the president's determination to try to keep guns out of the wrong hands. and i think even three years
later new set of executive actions it that the president announced today are a vivid illustration of the president's ongoing determination to try to keep guns out of the wrong hands. ok. >> more on the gun guidance. is the change as far as background checks and ensuring that dealers on the internet gun shows, other places, that they are adhering to background checks, is that change contingent on having 200 new a.t.f. agents and investigators to enforce it? it seems unlikely that congress would approve funding for that -- for those measures. is that contingent on getting the 200 new agents? josh: i think the point thaur' making highlights one of the most vivid contradictions in the position that is advocated by republicans.
many of the statements criticizing the president's executive actions that littered all of your in boxes today have noted the need for the federal government to more effectively enforce the law that's on the books. if republicans were serious about that notion, why wouldn't they support hiring more officers to do exactly that? so again, it's a little hard to take seriously, republican excuses for inaction when they are not willing to back up their suggestion prescriptions that they believe would be more effective in trying to solve this problem. but to answer your question more directly, no. it is not continent gent on the ability of the federal government to hire additional a.t.f. agents. this guidance has been issued and it certainly does clarify that anybody who is engaged in the business of selling firearms has to get a license. and make sure their customers are getting a background check before their customers are able to purchase a weapon. and the a.t.f. using the
resources they have now will enforce the law accordingly. those who are engaged in the business of selling firearms that do choose to go without a license and do not force their customers to undergo a background check will be subject to a substantial criminal penalty. this is a statute that carries with it a criminal penalty on the order of up to five years in prison and a fine of $250,000. so this is a serious law that the a.t.f. is committed to seriously enforcing. and the president has suggested that we should devote greater resources to enforcing the law that's on the books. again, that is a position the republicans themselves have advocated as recently as today. so we would certainly call on republicans to back up their news releases with actual legislative action. >> when will enforcement actually begin. attorney general lynch yesterday said there will be an
educational period. is there a point sometime during this year when there will be a crack down? when exactly does the enforcement start? josh: certainly the guidance will begin to be implemented today. that is one of the benefits of the president's proposal. that these are actions that can be -- that aren't subject to a protracted rule making process, but rather changes that can go into effect and begin being implemented today. as for how it is enforced down the line, you would have to check with either the attorney general's office or somebody at the a.t.f. who could give you greater clarity about how exactly that will take place. >> have you had any indication that any republicans are willing to work with you on these funding issues? any calls for optimism given the president's proposals are in line with what they previously supported? josh: no. we look forward to republicans actually backing up the promises that are contained in their news releases with actual legislative action.
recognize that for this congress that's a relatively novel concept, but it shouldn't be. >> given that many are predicting that there will be challenges in the courts, how optimistic are you that these actions will become a reality while the president is still in office? josh: i did note the reaction from the n.r.a. spokesperson to this announcement that seemed to down play the significance of these executive actions. i'm not an attorney and wouldn't even play one on tv, but that seems it would hurt their legal case. that these are actions that must be stopped and that this is a classic example of presidential overreach if the n.r.a. is claiming it's no big deal. i certainly have more confidence in our legal case based on that public reaction than i did before. >> the president has admitted that the comprehensive reform does not seem likely while he is in office.
it now exhausted all of his executive options here. what will we see from him in the rest of the year? will he be fining in the coming months months to try to rally more public support for this? what will we see going forward? josh: i think you'll see a budget proposal that will come later this year that will reflect some of the priorities the president discussed today. as was mentioned, i think you'll see some steps taken by law enforcement to enforce the law consistent with the guidance that's now been put forward. we are hopeful we'll have additional law enforcement resource that is we can devote to that task. and, yes, i would anticipate you're going to continue to see the president speak out publicly with passion on this issue. and i think that could come as soon as the president's nationally televised town hall meeting that he'll be doing with cnn on thursday night. i certainly wouldn't be
surprised if it makes an appearance during the president's state of the union address that will be covered by all your networks next tuesday. ok. jordan. >> thanks, josh. were legal concerns one of the reasons that the background check measure was issued as a guidance rather than a rule? are there concerns that republican white house quickly reverse something like that even more quickly than it should issue a new rule of regulation? josh: i'm not aware of any specific legal concerns. as i mentioned yesterday any action that the president would announce would be something in which he and his attorneys have full confidence as well within his authority as president of the united states to exercise. one of the benefits of the kind of guidance that the president issued today is that it can go into effect immediately. and it can begin being implemented immediately. the rule making process typically is more protracted and
takes longer. this is something that can be done more quickly. and each time the president has taken action, we have observed and t is not as enduring oftentimes not as broad as what congress can do through the legislative process. the reason the president is taking these actions today is because congress hasn't done anything. and the president has had to resort to using every element of his authority do as much as he possibly can to try to keep guns out of the wrong hands. if you're asking me, gee, wouldn't it be better if congress acted? i would hartley agree with you. yes, it would be a lot better if congress would act. it would be more enduring, and it would have an even greater impact. but in the face of what even speaker ryan described as legislative failure, the president has -- is determined to do as much as he possibly can
to make our community safer, making it harder for those who shouldn't be able to get guns from purchasing them. >> separate topic, is the president aware of the reports that a u.s. service member was killed in afghanistan? and is there any reaction from the white house? josh: i can tell you the president has been briefed about the ongoing incident in afghanistan. the department of defense has confirmed that one u.s. service member has been killed. at least two others have been injured. i would refer you to their specific statement. obviously this does underscore that afghanistan is a dangerous place and that our men and women in uniform who continue to serve our country there are putting themselves at risk for our own national security. we are deeply indebted to them for their service and their sacrifice, and certainly our thoughts and prayers are with
the family of this individual who was killed today. for more details or updates on the situation, i would refer you to the department of defense. >> josh, why do you think republicans believe the president is so hostile towards the second amendment? josh: i think because -- i guess you would have to ask them, but -- >> hazard a guess. josh: it would be that it is purely politics. >> why does the president-elect to go with these executive actions? he could have come out at the state of the union and called for legislative package, try it one more time, to bring republicans onboard. why not that route? josh: primarily because we have seen, again, what speaker ryan described as legislative failure in this policy area. time and time again congress has failed to act. even in the face of unspeakable
tragic violence, like what we saw in newtown, connecticut, but also in subsequent mass shootings. what we also see are the types violence that are similarly tragic but no so common that they barely rate as news. even those overwhelming numbers, 30,000 gun deaths in america every year over the last decade, 20,000, more than 20,000 children under the age of 18 have been killed by firearms. hundreds of law enforcement officials have been shot and killed over the last 10 years. if none of that is going to convince congress to take steps, commonsense steps that would prevent guns from falling into the wrong hands, i'm not sure one more speech from even the -- this persuasive president of the united states was going to compel the kind of action that
the president clearly believes is needed. the only way, i think, at this point that we are going to see congressional action is when those who share the president's concerns about gun safety, and the need to prevent guns from falling into the wrong hands, make clear that they are as passionate about this issue as those on the other side are. the good news is that those on the president's side of gun safety far outnumber those on the other side of the debate. but what we need to see on this side of the argument is more passion. i think the president's passion was on display in the east room today. not for the first time but certainly the most recent. and moving forward i think the president is hopeful that he can inspire that kind of passion among those who agree with him. and again, there's a clear majority of gun owners, even republicans, who agree that some of these commonsense steps like
closing the gun show loophole are the right thing for the country and make our country safer and could be successfully implemented without undermining the law-abiding -- constitutional rights of law-abiding americans. >> you're not maintaining that the president's actions today effectively close the gun show loophole. you're not saying that he has administratively done what was attempted back in previous congress, the toomey amendment? the guidance seems to rely on a lot of self-compliance and enforcement. it's not really saying everybody has to have a background check. it's not the same thing. is that the right read? josh: as you have heard me say in a variety of context, executive action is not a substitute for legislative action. and the president taking this executive action today does not in any way absolve congress of the serious responsibility that they have to take steps and pass legislation that would make it harder for criminals, domestic
abusers, even would-be terrorists from getting their hands on guns. senator john mccain has sponsored legislation to close the gun show loophole precisely because he said that he knew that criminals and would-be terrorists were using that loophole to arm themself. so this is not a controversial notion. this is not an excuse -- >>ure' not saying you effectively closed the gun show loophole. josh: i continue to believe and the president continues to believe that congress must act. congress -- congressional action, a piece of legislation would be more effective. in part because, as you point out, it couldn't just be reversed by the next president. yes, the president is as determined as ever to see congress pass legislation. again, the president is also quite realistic about how unlikely that is to occur in
this congress. but i certainly would expect that over the course of the next 10 months you hear the president make a forceful case for people who agree with him about the of the eep guns out wrong hands. they should make their voices heard and their opinions on this issue known at the ballot box in november. and not just when they are voting for president but also their representative in congress. mark. >> are there any directives or executive orders or memoranda coming out along the lines of this gun policy? josh: there are no executive orders, but certainly the details on what has been announced today is included in the fact sheet everybody received last night. >> put it in writing as a memoranda to the secretary of d.h.s. or h.h.s.? josh: i'm not sure what sort of administrative paperwork is required to implement the policy that the president discussed today, but we can certainly
consult with counsel's office here and get back to you with an answer. >> does president obama read having taken these actions years ago? josh: i think, mark, i think the president is certainly -- certainly regrets that congress didn't take the kinds of steps that the american public clearly supports. spernl certainly in the aftermath of new -- certainly in the aftermath of newtown, there was even -- what happened in newtown was terribly tragic. the one silver lining that i think the president and others hoped would come after that terrible event was that it would sufficiently tug at the conscious of members of congress -- conscience of members of congress that would take action from preventing those incidents from happening again. it was so graphic and what happened was so grotesque and so
tragic that congress could no longer ignore their responsibility to act. yet that's unfortunately exactly what they did. and since that time, the president and his team have been looking for ways that the president could take additional action, but we never suggested that that would be a substitute for congressional action. we are going to continue to call on congress to take the steps that we believe are necessary. >> one other story. there was a report last week in the post -- in "the post" that said president obama on the flight back from asia feeling that the communications strategy wasn't working on u.s. policy against isil. josh: i'll say, mark, my wife asked me the same question when she read that story. you're welcome to do so if you like. what i can tell you is this. i think the president has made quite clear certainly not just
in his words but also in his deeds over the last several weeks skins that terrible incident in paris and again even in the aftermath of the terrorist incident in san bernadino, to be much clearer and much more direct and even more conspicuous in making sure that all of you and the american public understand precisely the strategy that we are implementing to degrade and ultimately destroy isil. that is something that the president felt strongly about. i think a lot of this is rooted in the criticism that has been directed at the president's strategy against isil has not been substantive. we have not seen even the president's harshest critics advocating a strategy much different than the one he's pursuing. there are some isolated examples. the example of lindsey graham
who to his credit had the courage of his convictions and actually suggested that 20,000, 30,000, 40,000, 50,000 american service members should be deployed to syria to siff guard the situation. the president disagree was that approach. at least senator graham had the guts to put forward his own strategy. we have seen others like senator cruz suggest that somehow the united states and our coalition partners should carpet-bomb syria or even potentially carry out a nuclear attack against isil. i don't think there's a lot of support for that strategy, but he did advocate something different than what the president's already doing. most of the criticism that you hear from the president's critics, when you ask them what is it that the administration should be doing, they typically recite the list of things we have been doing for quite some time. that is what prompted the president to conclude that we need to be more effective and do a better job of helping all of
you and the american public understand precisely what our strategy is. james. >> thank you. i would like to focus on two subjects, guns and the middle east. do this quickly. you and the president have cited a great number of statistics in the run up to this moment. so i wanted to share some statistics with you and get your reaction to them. syracuse university's transactional records access clearing-house, or track, which uses the freedom of information act to pry loose statistics from the department of justice and other federal agencies, records that federal criminal convictions on firearms charges have decreased almost 6% from last year, 15.5% since 2010, and 34.8% since 2005. how do you explain this stark plunge year after year getting bigger year after year under this president of enforcing the
existing gun laws? josh: enforcement decisions are decisions made by prosecutors at the department of justice. so i'm certainly not going to be in a position to second-guess those prosecutorial positions. there are a couple things we could do to help. the first is devote more a.t.f. officers and investigators to investigating these crimes so that prosecutors have more material to work with. >> it you have such investigators now than president bush had? josh: i have to check. they reflect decisions made by career prosecutors. what i'm suggesting is there are steps we could take consistent with what the president announced today that could turn those numbers around, which include hiring more a.t.f. officers, or even clarifying what exactly the rule is for how people should be licensed and who should have to go through a background check. that's what the guidance that's been issued by the administration today. >> to that point, you were asked earlier in this briefing, if the issue if some of these executive actions in the form of guidance
as opposed to rules doesn't have the feature of making those particular actions less susceptible to court challenge. you didn't answer that question. perhaps the way to put it to you in a way that can be answered summarily with a yes or no is as follows. did president obama receive legal advice from anyone at the white house or the department of justice to the effect that the issuance of some of these actions as guidance rather than rules would have that feature of making it less susceptible? josh: i'm not able to give you much insight into the legal advice that's given to the president of the united states, but i do think that there are legal experts who would observe that the kind of guidance that the president issued today is well within his legal authority as president of the united states to offer -- >> the question is not whether it's within his authority. the question is whether he's choosing to use one vehicle rather than another to evade
court challenge. josh: what i would describes is the chief benefit of the approach the president has taken today is that it can be more quickly and effectively implemented. >> after the shooting of congresswoman giffords five years ago, which the president has been noting in some his remarks lately, there was a national discourse on the national discourse about guns and whether it's appropriate to use words like targeting, killing, and so forth in the way we discuss not only the gun issue but all kinds of national issues. today in his remarks president obama accused his political opponents on this issue, which e likes to characterize as the gun lobby, holding the congress and american people hostage. isn't that precisely the kind of divisive and violent continuinged language that the president hymn sem was against
after the arizona shooting? josh: the president is certainly not advocating violence, but i do think it is an apt metaphor for what is happening right now. there are members of congress who are quite concerned about the political influence that is wielded by the gun lobby. and that is the most powerful explanation about why they have refused to take action. if there is a more principled one, i'm opened to hearing it. given the toll that we know that gun violence has taken on communities across the country, these are not -- this is not just violence that occurred in democratic congressional districts across the country. that there are democrats and republicans all across the country who have been affected by gun violence. there are democrats and republicans standing on that stage with the president today and in the audience today who are concerned about this issue. and that is the point. the president wants to rally the american public to encourage
congress to respond. >> very quickly on the middle east. yesterday from the podium you called on both saudi arabia and iran to de-escalate their conflict. place pending by secretary kerry. is there any evidence those calls have been heeded today? josh: again, for -- positions or announcements that may be planned by the iranians or saudis, i would refer you to them. >> is there deescalation today is what i'm asking. josh: i haven't heard any new announcements from them that would appear to inflame or escalate the situation. but this is not something that, again, we are going to judge based on 24-hour increments but rather over the long term can this decades, centuries long sectarian conflict in this
region of the world that is being fueled by the leaders of these two countries that is having a terribly destabilizing influence on the entire region, can they change that path? it's not in the interest of either of those -- the leaders of either of those countries or citizens of either of those countries to continue to destabilize the region so violently. to continue to foment the kind of violence that often leads to radicalization and terrorism. it certainly is not the kind of path that will lead to greater economic prosperity for their citizens. so that's why we believe that we've got a strong case to make when we can go individually to the saudis with whom we have a close and strong relationship, but making a case to the iranians with whom we don't have official diplomatic relations that it is within their interest to try to change the path that they are currently on.
we won't be able to judge within 24 hours whether or not that message will be received or adhered to, but we are certainly hopeful that they'll get the message or at least arrive at that conclusion. >> last on iran. on december 7, my fox news colleagues broke an exclusive story reporting that back on november 21 iran had conducted a second illegal ballistic missile test. the united states government has yet to confirm that this second test occurred. are you ready to do so now? josh: i'm not, but if we have more information about those reports to share with you, we'll follow up. >> two forward-looking questions for you. rst of which is can you give us a general idea what else is on the president's agenda for this upcoming year? and whether there's anything in there that might perhaps have some political benefits, rallying -- >> we'll break away here with a reminder can you see this online at c-span.org. later in our program schedule,
the house is gaveling in momentarily. they'll begin this afternoon. the second session of the 114th congress and officially establish a quorum later this evening. let's go briefly now to the house floor. live coverage here on c-span. the speaker pro tempore: the house will be in order. the chair lays before the house a communication from the speaker. the clerk: the speaker's room, washington, d.c., january 5, 2016. i hereby appoint the honorable adrian smith to act as speaker pro tempore on this day. signed, paul d. ryan, speaker of the house of representatives. the speaker pro tempore: the prayer will be offered by our chaplain, father conroy. chaplain conroy: let