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President Obama's Statement on Preventing Gun Violence
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
Return to part I or Part II
Q You mentioned the $700,000 and $800,000. Are you willing to move on income level and are there specific things that you would do --
THE PRESIDENT: I’m not going to get into specific negotiations here. My point is simple, Carol, that if you look at Speaker Boehner’s proposal and you look at my proposal, they’re actually pretty close. They keep on saying that somehow we haven’t put forward real spending cuts. Actually, there was I think a graph in The New York Times today that showed -- they’re the same categories, right? There’s a little bit of tweaks here and there; there are a few differences, but we’re right there.
And on the revenue side, there’s a difference in terms of them wanting to preserve tax breaks for folks between $250,000 and a million that we just can’t afford. I mean, keep in mind I’m in that income category; I’d love to not pay as much in taxes. But I also think it’s the right thing to do for us to make sure that people who have less -- people who are working, people who are striving, people who are hoping for their kids -- that they have opportunity. That’s what we campaigned about. That’s what we talked about.
And this is not a situation where I’m unwilling to compromise. This is not a situation where I’m trying to rub their face in anything. I think anybody who looks at this objectively would say that coming off my election, I have met them at least halfway in order to get something done for the country.
And so I noticed that there were a couple of headlines out there saying, oh, we’re now in the land of political posturing, and it’s the usual he said-he said atmosphere. But look at the facts. Look at where we started; look at where they started. My proposal is right there in the middle.
We should be able to get this done. Let’s get it done. We don’t have a lot of time.
Carrie. Where’s -- there you are.
Q Thank you, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: Yes.
Q What is your level of confidence that if you are able to reach a comprehensive deal with the Speaker, that he will be able to bring his members onboard and get it passed? Essentially, do you still trust Speaker Boehner in this process?
THE PRESIDENT: There is no doubt that the Speaker has challenges in his caucus, and I recognize that. I’m often reminded when I speak to the Republican leadership that the majority of their caucus’s membership come from districts that I lost. And so sometimes they may not see an incentive in cooperating with me, in part because they’re more concerned about challenges from a tea party candidate, or challenges from the right, and cooperating with me may make them vulnerable. I recognize that.
But, goodness, if this past week has done anything, it should just give us some perspective. If there’s one thing we should have after this week, it should be a sense of perspective about what’s important. And I would like to think that members of that caucus would say to themselves: You know what, we disagree with the President on a whole bunch of things. We wish the other guy had won. We’re going to fight him on a whole range of issues over the next four years. We think his philosophy is all screwed up. But right now, what the country needs is for us to compromise, get a deficit reduction deal in place; make sure middle class taxes don’t go up; make sure that we’re laying the foundations for growth; give certainty to businesses large and small; not put ourselves through some sort of self-inflicted crisis every six months; allow ourselves time to focus on things like preventing the tragedy in Newtown from happening again; focus on issues like energy and immigration reform and all the things that will really make a determination as to whether our country grows over the next four years, 10 years, 40 years.
And if you just pull back from the immediate political battles, if you kind of peel off the partisan war paint, then we should be able to get something done.
And I think the Speaker would like to get that done. I think an environment needs to be created within not just the House Republican caucus, but also among Senate Republicans that say, the campaign is over and let’s see if we can do what’s right for the country -- at least for the next month. And then we can reengage in all the other battles that they’ll want to fight.
Q If you don’t get it done, Republicans have said they’ll try to use the debt limit as a next pressure point. Would you negotiate with them in that context?
THE PRESIDENT: No. And I’ve been very clear about this. This is the United States of America, the greatest country on Earth, the world’s economic superpower. And the idea that we lurch from crisis to crisis, and every six months, or every nine months, that we threaten not to pay our bills on stuff we’ve already bought, and default, and ruin the full faith and credit of the United States of America -- that’s not how you run a great country.
So I’ve put forward a very clear principle: I will not negotiate around the debt ceiling. We’re not going to play the same game that we saw happen in 2011 -- which was hugely destructive; hurt our economy; provided more uncertainty to the business community than anything else that happened.
And I'm not alone in this. If you go to Wall Street, including talking to a whole bunch of folks who spent a lot of money trying to beat me, they would say it would be disastrous for us to use the debt ceiling as a cudgel to try to win political points on Capitol Hill.
So we're not going to do that -- which is why I think that part of what I hope over the next couple of days we see is a recognition that there is a way to go ahead and get what it is that you've been fighting for. These guys have been fighting for spending cuts. They can get some very meaningful spending cuts. This would amount to $2 trillion -- $2 trillion -- in spending cuts over the last couple of years. And in exchange, they're getting a little over a trillion dollars in revenue. And that meets the pledge that I made during the campaign, which was $2 to $2.50 of spending cuts for every revenue increase. And that's an approach that I think most Americans think is appropriate.
But I will not negotiate around the debt ceiling. We're not going to do that again.
Q Sir, may I ask a question about Newtown, please?
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, I've got David Jackson.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. Getting back to the gun issue, you alluded to the fact that Washington commissions don't have the greatest reputation in the world. What makes you think this one is going to be different given the passage of time and the political power of gun rights groups like the National Rifle Association?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, this is not going to be a commission. Joe is going to gather up some key Cabinet members who have an interest in this issue. We're going to reach out to a bunch of stakeholders. We're going to be reaching out to members of Congress who have an interest in this issue. It's not as if we have to start from scratch. There are a whole bunch of proposals that have been thought about, debated, but hopefully also some new ideas in terms of how we deal with this issue.
Their task is going to be to sift through every good idea that's out there, and even take a look at some bad ideas before disposing of them, and come up with a concrete set of recommendations in about a month. And I would hope that our memories aren't so short that what we saw in Newtown isn't lingering with us, that we don't remain passionate about it only a month later.
And as soon as we get those recommendations, I will be putting forward very specific proposals. I will be talking about them in my State of The Union and we will be working with interested members of Congress to try to get some of them done.
And the idea that we would say this is terrible, this is a tragedy, never again, and we don’t have the sustained attention span to be able to get this done over the next several months doesn’t make sense. I have more confidence in the American people than that. I have more confidence in the parents, the mothers and fathers that I’ve been meeting over the last several days all across the country from all political persuasions, including a lot of gun owners, who say, you know what, this time we’ve got to do things differently.
Q What about the NRA?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, the NRA is an organization that has members who are mothers and fathers. And I would expect that they’ve been impacted by this as well. And hopefully they’ll do some self-reflection.
And here’s what we know -- that any single gun law can’t solve all these problems. We’re going to have to look at mental health issues. We’re going to have to look at schools. There are going to be a whole range of things that Joe’s group looks at. We know that issues of gun safety will be an element of it. And what we’ve seen over the last 20 years, 15 years, is the sense that anything related to guns is somehow an encroachment on the Second Amendment. What we’re looking for here is a thoughtful approach that says we can preserve our Second Amendment, we can make sure that responsible gun owners are able to carry out their activities, but that we’re going to actually be serious about the safety side of this; that we’re going to be serious about making sure that something like Newtown or Aurora doesn’t happen again.
And there is a big chunk of space between what the Second Amendment means and having no rules at all. And that space is what Joe is going to be working on to try to identify where we can find some common ground.
So I’ve got -- I’m going to take one last question.
Go ahead, Jake.
Q It seems to a lot of observers that you made the political calculation in 2008 in your first term and in 2012 not to talk about gun violence. You had your position on renewing the ban on semiautomatic rifles that then-Senator Biden put into place, but you didn’t do much about it. This is not the first issue -- the first incident of horrific gun violence of your four years. Where have you been?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, here’s where I’ve been, Jake. I’ve been President of the United States dealing with the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, an auto industry on the verge of collapse, two wars. I don’t think I’ve been on vacation.
And so I think all of us have to do some reflection on how we prioritize what we do here in Washington. And as I said on Sunday, this should be a wake-up call for all of us to say that if we are not getting right the need to keep our children safe, then nothing else matters. And it’s my commitment to make sure that we do everything we can to keep our children safe.
A lot of things go in -- are involved in that, Jake. So making sure they’ve got decent health care and making sure they’ve got a good education, making sure that their parents have jobs -- those are all relevant as well. Those aren’t just sort of side issues. But there’s no doubt that this has to be a central issue. And that’s exactly why I’m confident that Joe is going to take this so seriously over the next couple months.
All right. Thank you, everybody.
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