The President met recently with Members of the House and Senate in a special “listening session” at the White House to discuss gun violence and what we can do about it. Some good ideas were shared, and some not-so-good ideas bandied about.
Will anything come of it?
It’s important to mention that two of the participants of the meeting were Congressman Steve Scalise and Senator Dianne Feinstein, who was sitting on the President’s left.
Scalise was injured when a shooter carrying an SKS rifle and handgun, both legally purchased, targeted congressmen practicing for a charity baseball game. Feinstein was targeted in 1969 by a domestic radical group who shot out the windows of her home. She was also in San Francisco City Hall when then-mayor George Moscone was assassinated by a rival, who then killed Harvey Milk, member of the Board of Supervisors and noted gay rights activist. Senator Feinstein found Milk, and the death of Moscone elevated her to San Francisco Mayor.
These are two people who have direct experience with gun violence.
One of the things the President said was that he was drafting an Executive Order to ban bump stocks, and we applaud this decision. He also bemoaned so-called “gun free zones” and expressed his desire (again) to arm teachers, which we don’t support. He encouraged those gathered to work together. He told them that the right legislation should and could garner 100% support in their respective chambers, making his signature a virtual guarantee. We would also encourage this bipartisan cooperation.
But questions remain after the meeting.
The President had a similar gathering early in his term to talk about healthcare. Everyone there expressed a desire to do something good for people, but political differences derailed the process. He again held a bipartisan meeting where things seemed to move forward on immigration. Bipartisan legislation was crafted, but arguments between the far-Right and far-Left combined with voices in the White House to stall any progress there. The President told Congress, “You craft a bill. It has to be bipartisan. I don’t care what it is – I’ll sign it.” And then it didn’t happen.
On Gun Violence, the President also floated several ideas that suggested that he hadn’t fully fleshed out his thoughts in this issue. After praising the NRA as “fine people” who really want to do something to stop gun violence, he told those at the White House that they were too afraid of America’s largest gun lobby, but he wasn’t. When the debate took on mental health, the President interjected that law enforcement should just take people’s guns away. “Take the guns first. Due process later.” Anyone supporting Second Amendment rights or the restrictions on unlawful Search and Seizure would have a hard time swallowing that pill.
The members of Congress invited by the President, however, had a number of ideas and proposals. Two of the participants, Senators Joe Manchin (D) and Pat Toomey (R) had proposed a bill in 2013 that seemed to have broad support. It eventually received 54 of the 60 votes needed to pass. They received encouragement from the President to try and reform and renovate their prior bill, then bring it back for a new vote.
Now it’s up to our elected officials to do the hard work.