3:02 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, everybody. Thank you very much. So, good afternoon. This is a very important subject, and it’s happening, I think, at a critical time. And this is a very different period than we’ve experienced. We have to do something about it. We now have to do something. We have to act. We can’t wait and play games and nothing gets done.
And I really believe that the people — this is bipartisan. It’s a bipartisan meeting. And we’re going to discuss safe schools. And we can really get there, but we have to do it. We don’t want to wait two weeks, three weeks, four weeks, and people, sort of, forget. And then we go back on, and then we have another problem. We want to stop the problems from happening.
So as we continue to mourn the loss of so many precious young lives in Parkland, Florida, we’re determined to turn our grief into action. I really believe that. I think that the people at this table want it. I mean, I see some folks that don’t say nice things about me, and that’s okay. Because if you turn that into this energy, I’ll love you. I don’t care. We’re going to be able to do it.
Sadly, these horrible mass shootings are nothing new. I asked for just a list of — I mean, when you look at Columbine, Colorado, Bill Clinton was President. Virginia Tech — George Bush. Fort Hood, Sandy Hook, San Bernardino, Pulse Nightclub, and so many more. It’s ridiculous.
So today we’re here in a bipartisan fashion to show leadership in an effort to end the senseless violence. It could be ended, and it will be ended.
First, we must harden our schools against attack. These include allowing people with a certified training, very talented people, to carry firearms. Now, some people are going to disagree with that, and I understand that. I fully understand that. And if you do, I want you to speak up today and we’ll listen.
But 98 percent of all mass shootings in the United States, since 1950, have taken place in gun-free zones, where guns were not inside the school — or, as an example, you take Pulse Nightclub: If you had one person in that room that could carry a gun and knew how to use it, it wouldn’t have happened, or certainly not to the extent it did where he was just in there shooting and shooting and shooting. And they were defenseless. So just remember that. Ninety-eight percent of all mass public shootings in the United States, since 1950, have taken place in gun-free zones. It’s terrible. You’ve got to have defense, too. You can’t just be sitting ducks. And that’s exactly what we’ve allowed people in these buildings and schools to be.
Second, we have to confront mental health. There’s never been a case that I’ve ever seen — I’m sure everybody would feel the same — where mental health was so obviously — 39 different red flags. I mean, everybody was seeing them. The local police, the state police, the FBI, everybody was seeing that this guy was sick and nothing happened.
Third, we have to ensure that when students, educators, family, neighbors — that when they warn authorities, that the authorities act quickly and decisively, unlike what took place in Florida, which was horrible.
Fourth, we have to pursue commonsense measures that protect the rights of law-abiding Americans while keeping guns. And we have to keep the guns out of the hands of those that pose the threat. And this really includes background checks. And I know, Senator, that you’re working on things. Joe, I know you’re working. And, I mean, I’m looking at a number of the folks around the table, and you’re working on different bills. We have to get them done. We have to get them done.
And they have to be strong. The background checks — hey, look, I’m the biggest fan of the Second Amendment. Many of you are. I’m a big fan of the NRA. But I had lunch with them — with Wayne and Chris and David, on Sunday — and said, “It’s time.” We got to stop this nonsense. It’s time.
So we’ve made suggestions to many of you, and I think you’re going to put a lot of those suggestions in place. You’re going to have your own ideas. Certain ideas sound good, but they’re not good. You know, you can harden the site to a level that nobody can get in; the problem is if the shooter is inside — if he gets in the door and closes the door, we can’t get people in. It’s going to cost hundreds of millions of dollars all over the country. And we’ll have nice hard sites, the door closes, and now we can’t get in. We have to send a tractor through the walls. So we have to be careful of that.
And we have to create a culture that cherishes life and human dignity.
So we’re going to all sit around, and we’re going to come up with some ideas. Hopefully, we can put those ideas in a very bipartisan bill. It would be so beautiful to have one bill that everybody could support as opposed to, you know, 15 bills — everybody has got their own bill. But if we could have one terrific bill that everybody — started by the people around this table. Special people. These are the people that seem to be just most interested, very interested, in this problem. And it’s a big problem.
So, with that, I think I’d like to start — maybe I’ll ask John, you can start off, and then we’ll go back and forth. We’ll leave the media for a little while and they can hear some thought.
But it’s something that can be done. There’s no reason for this. But again, I really believe that those people — it’s idealistic, it’s wonderful, it’s a beautiful thing — but if you think that somebody is going to be able to walk into a school, if they feel that they’re not going to have bullets coming at them from the other direction, you’re never going to solve the problem. I feel that. I feel that. But I’m certainly open to suggestions.
So, John, why don’t you start? You’ve put in your Fix NICS. And let’s see how it is, and — go ahead.
SENATOR CORNYN: Well, thank you, Mr. President —
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you.
SENATOR CORNYN: — for getting us together and for expressing your sincere concern about this and trying to get us to a solution. I agree with you that leaving this town and going home empty-handed is not acceptable. The public demands that we act. We know how hard it is to get people together on a bipartisan basis, but believe it or not, at least in one case, Senator Murphy and I — and we have 46 co-sponsors to the Fix NICS bill in the Senate. The House has passed its version of it. And I believe this is a good place for us to start.
As you know, Sutherland Springs, we lost 26 people when a guy who, while in the Air Force — a convicted felon; he was convicted of domestic violence, and he was less than honorably discharged from the military. None of which was uploaded into the background check system maintained by the FBI. And that’s only as good as the data that’s put into it.
So Senator Murphy and I, and 46 Senate colleagues on a bipartisan basis, have what we think is a start. It’s not the end-all be-all. There’s other things that people want to add to it. You’ve talked about the bump stock issue that Senator Feinstein, I know, cares passionately about.
THE PRESIDENT: And I’m going to write that out.
SENATOR CORNYN: But let’s get started —
THE PRESIDENT: Because we can do that with an executive order. I’m going to write the bump stock; essentially, write it out. So you won’t have to worry about bump stock. Shortly, that will be gone. We can focus on other things.
Frankly, I don’t even know if it would be good in this bill. It’s nicer to have a separate piece of paper where it’s gone. And we’ll have that done pretty quickly. They’re working on it right now, the lawyers.
SENATOR CORNYN: But we need to get started on things that only we can do, which would be this background check system. People have other ideas. They ought to offer those ideas. I’m not sure all of them will pass. But, in the past, we’ve acquiesced to failure and have not done things that we know are within our power to accomplish, like the Fix NICS bill. So I would just like to recommend to you, and to colleagues here, that we get that done and we build on it. We don’t stop there; we build on it. Because none of us want to look these families in the face, in the wake of another mass shooting, and say we failed to do everything within our power to stop it.
THE PRESIDENT: And, John, Fix NICS has some really good things in it, but it would be nice if we could add everything onto it. And maybe you change the title, all right? The U.S. background check bill or whatever. But your bill is really good and really important having to do with a certain aspect, but maybe we could make it much more comprehensive and have one bill instead of 15 different bills that nobody knows what’s happening.
SENATOR CORNYN: If we can get 60 votes for it, Mr. President, I’m all for it. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: I think you can. Honestly, I think — look, I really believe this is one of the things where you can actually get the 60 votes and, maybe, easily.
Dianne, do you have something?
SENATOR FEINSTEIN: Well, I do, Mr. President. You probably know this, but I became Mayor of San Francisco as a product of assassination. I’ve been the victim of terrorist groups. The department gave me a weapon. They taught me how to shoot it, and we proceeded through the 1970s that way.
What I’ve watched and seen is the development of weapons that I never thought would leave the battlefield that are out on our streets. And the latest and newest, Mr. Chairman, is the AR-15. It’s got a lot of assets to it, and it’s misused. And it tears apart a human body with velocity.
And I’ve watched the school shootings, in particular, which you pointed out. And I thought Sandy Hook — and I’m delighted that Senator Murphy is here today — we thought Sandy Hook would be the end. And he and I introduced another assault weapons bill after the first one. We didn’t succeed with it. But the killings have gone on, the number of incidents have gone up. And I put my case in writing, which I will give you, if I may —
THE PRESIDENT: Good.
SENATOR FEINSTEIN: — in letter form.
THE PRESIDENT: Good. Thank you.
SENATOR FEINSTEIN: And secondly, the assault weapons legislation — this is the number of incidents before and — of incidents and of deaths.
THE PRESIDENT: Right.
SENATOR FEINSTEIN: This is when the 10-year assault weapon ban was in — how incidents and deaths dropped. When it ended, you see it going up.
THE PRESIDENT: Okay.
SENATOR FEINSTEIN: So Senator Murphy —
THE PRESIDENT: So we’ll take a look at it.
SENATOR FEINSTEIN: — and 26 of us have co-sponsored a new bill. I would be most honored if you would take a look at it.
THE PRESIDENT: I will. I will.
SENATOR FEINSTEIN: And we will get it to you, and let us know what you think of it.
THE PRESIDENT: I will. Thank you.
SENATOR FEINSTEIN: Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much.
Chris? Go ahead.
SENATOR MURPHY: Mr. President, Mr. Vice President, thank you very much. Thank you for taking this seriously. Our hearts go out to Parkland. We know, having gone through this in Sandy Hook, that that community will never, ever be the same.
And I want to bring us back to this issue of background checks, if I could, because I think there’s real opportunity.
THE PRESIDENT: I agree.
SENATOR MURPHY: There is no other issue out there in the American public today like background checks. Ninety-seven percent of Americans want universal background checks. In states that have universal background checks, there are 35 percent less gun murders than in states that don’t have them. And yet, we can’t get it done. There’s nothing else like that, where it works, people want it, and we can’t do it.
THE PRESIDENT: But you have a different President now.
SENATOR MURPHY: Well, listen —
THE PRESIDENT: You went through a lot of Presidents and you didn’t get it done. You have a different President. And I think, maybe, you have a different attitude, too. I think people want to get it done.
SENATOR MURPHY: Well, listen, in the end, Mr. President, the reason that nothing has gotten done here is because the gun lobby has had a veto power over any legislation that comes before Congress. I wish that wasn’t the case, but that is. And if all we end up doing is the stuff that the gun industry supports, then this just isn’t worth it. We are not going to make a difference.
And so I’m glad that you’ve sat down with the NRA, but we will get 60 votes on a bill that looks like the Manchin-Toomey compromise on background checks, Mr. President, if you support it. If you come to Congress, if you come to Republicans and say, “We are going to do a Manchin-Toomey-like bill to get comprehensive background checks,” it will pass. But if this meeting ends up with just, sort of, vague notions of future compromise, then nothing will happen.
THE PRESIDENT: I agree. We don’t want that.
SENATOR MURPHY: And so I think we have a unique opportunity to get comprehensive background checks, and make sure that nobody buys a gun in this country that’s a criminal that’s seriously mentally ill, that’s on the terrorist watch list. But, Mr. President, it’s going to have to be you that brings the Republicans to the table on this because, right now, the gun lobby would stop it in its tracks.
THE PRESIDENT: I like that responsibility, Chris. I really do. I think it’s time. It’s time that a President stepped up, and we haven’t had them. And I’m talking Democrat and Republican Presidents — they have not stepped up.
And maybe before I call on Marco, I’d like to have Pat Toomey and Joe Manchin. Could you just, sort of, detail your bill? Because I have heard a lot about it, actually.
SENATOR TOOMEY: Thank you very much. Absolutely, Mr. President. And I do think our bill has the best chance of moving forward. We got 54 votes in 2013 — the most that any bill in this space got. It had several components.
The first title is a title that is very similar to what John Cornyn and Chris Murphy’s bill does: It strengthens the reporting of information into the background checks.
THE PRESIDENT: Can you merge it in?
SENATOR TOOMEY: Absolutely. Easily.
THE PRESIDENT: It’s better to have — one bill is nicer than having seven bills.
SENATOR TOOMEY: Right. The second part has a provision that would require background checks on all commercial sales. See, one of the big gaps in our background check system today is sales at gun shows and sales over the Internet are not necessarily subject to a background check, and we think they should be. These are, essentially, commercial in nature, and they’re on the scale that really matters. So our bill would require those background checks.
We also have a number of provisions, which we’ll —
THE PRESIDENT: Do you have support for that?
SENATOR TOOMEY: For?
THE PRESIDENT: Do you have bipartisan support for what you’re saying?
SENATOR TOOMEY: We had 54 votes in 2013. And most of those 54 voters are still in the Senate.
THE PRESIDENT: And you didn’t have a lot of presidential backup?
SENATOR TOOMEY: President Obama did support it. But —
THE PRESIDENT: But that was your problem.
SENATOR TOOMEY: But there was a worry that he wanted to go further, frankly, and that was a concern for some of our guys.
I’ll just say there’s two other items. One is a list of ways in which a law-abiding citizen could have greater freedom to exercise the Second Amendment; for instance, allowing an active-duty military person to be able to buy a firearm in his home state. Today, that’s against the law. It shouldn’t be. Our bill would correct that. A number of other small things.
THE PRESIDENT: Positives (inaudible).
SENATOR TOOMEY: And then, finally, we create a commission to look at the sources and causes of these terrible mass killings.
THE PRESIDENT: What are you doing in the schools?
SENATOR MANCHIN: We have a school safety program in this bill, also. When I was governor, we fixed a lot of schools. We remodeled our schools and built our schools, and not one other student ever (inaudible) said, “Governor Manchin, you’ve got to make sure you have the first-floor windows all bullet-proof.” We never knew that. No one ever came to me with that concern. And that’s how (inaudible) Sandy Hook shot his way in.
So we made sure that we addressed all that. Mr. President, the difference is, there’s not a person in West Virginia who believes that you’re not going to defend their Second Amendment rights — not a person. With you taking a lead on something like this, it gives them the comfort that something reasonable — and this bill has been vetted for over five years, and over 70, 80 percent, even, of gun owners, say, “We like your bill, Pat and Joe, but we’re just afraid that President Obama would take it further and take more rights away.” That’s what I was running into in West Virginia.
THE PRESIDENT: Or use that as an excuse not to sign it. But Schumer is not proactive in getting a bill signed, in all fairness.
SENATOR MANCHIN: Well — and in all fairness, this is a bill that basically, with your support, it would pass. It would pass. And we think — basically, it takes commercial sales. Any commercial transfer —
THE PRESIDENT: And maybe — to that bill, if we use that as a base, you could add some of the things that are going to be said in the room or you may not want to. But there are going to be things that are going to be said today that I think will be — you know, in addition to yours, John, which you can add almost everything, because you know what involves. I think it would be a very positive thing in terms of background checks.
SENATOR MANCHIN: If I could just say, Mr. President —
THE PRESIDENT: Go ahead.
SENATOR MANCHIN: On this piece of legislation here, without background checks on commercial transactions — so if a person, basically, when the terrorists basically say, “Hey, go down to the local gun show and get whatever you want,” because you can be in a gun show, and two-thirds of the gun show could have a licensed dealer — federal licensed dealers that have to have background checks if you buy it from them. If you go to the next table over, there was not one. It’s a loophole. Interstate, intrastate. If you’re selling outside the state on the Internet, you have to have a background check. If you sell in state, in one part of New York versus the other, it doesn’t have to. This closes all those loopholes.
THE PRESIDENT: We could work on that. And we have to do something about the mentally ill not being able to buy a gun. I mean, they have so many checks and balances that, you could be mentally ill, and it takes you six months before you can prohibit him. So we have to do something very decisive. Number one, you can take the guns away immediately from people that you can adjudge easily are mentally ill, like this guy. You know, the police saw that he was — the problem, they didn’t take any guns away. Now, that could have been policing. I think they should have taken them way anyway, whether they had the right or not.
But I’ll tell you this: You have to have very strong provisions for the mentally ill. Now, a lot of people are saying, oh, I shouldn’t be saying that. I’ll tell you what — I don’t want mentally ill people to be having guns.
SENATOR RUBIO: Mr. President, thanks for bringing us here, because I think we all agree — we all know what the issues are that are fought over on this issue, but I think what everyone agrees on is we never want to see this happen again, anywhere in America.
And you mentioned something about the shooting that I think is critical. This was a multi-systemic failure. And without pointing fingers or laying blame on anyone in particular that may or may not be here to defend themselves — the sheriff’s office knew this was a problem. The school districts knew this was a problem. The FBI had been alerted to a problem. The Department of Children and Families in Florida knew that this was a problem. But the big problem is none them talked to each other. Nobody told the others what they knew.
And there is a bill out there that Senator Hatch is going to file very soon, and Congressman Rutherford and others here have already filed, and it’s call the STOP School Violence Act. And I’ll let them describe it more in detail. But one of the things that it does is it incentivizes the creation of this sort of synergy where all these people are talking to each other so then can compare notes and get ahead of this.
The best way to prevent these is to stop it before it even starts. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t harden schools. That doesn’t mean we should have a debate on some other issues. But the best thing that can happen is know who these people are and get on them, and get them the services they need, and deny the right to buy any gun.
And I think that is something that holds tremendous bipartisan promise if we can come together on the things we agree on.
And I would say one last point. In the state of Florida, they have a very different process than we do. But they are already moving on legislation, the Governor and the legislature. They’re going to pass something, perhaps by the end of this week, on a series of things that we move a lot slower over here. But nonetheless, I think that’s an example to us of what I hope we can do in Washington — get done what we can agree on. We can still debate and try to act on some of the other things, but there are things we agree on. We owe it to these families to do those things.
THE PRESIDENT: I agree, Marco. Chuck, we have anything?
SENATOR GRASSLEY: Yeah. I would like to comment from this standpoint. First of all, a caution on mental health, because there’s a lot of people that have mental health issues that are not dangerous to themselves or to others. So I think we got to concentrate on those not just that have mental health issues, but the ones that show danger to themselves or others — because otherwise it’s not fair to other people that have mental illness that isn’t.
I’ll comment on the culture within the schools, but I can’t say it any better than Senator Rubio will say it or Senator Hatch will say it. But it seems to me, we have to have a culture in our schools where people are attuned to people that have problems that could create this massacre sort of things, or anything else that is even connected with bullying.
As just one example, we have to do things at the federal level that will give schools the resources to do that. So that, kind of, fits in with what Senator Hatch is thinking.
Then, I’ll end with more of a process. As chairman of the committee that will deal with a lot of this legislation, we’ve got to do something. I want to help facilitate those things and move them along, and see what we can do —
THE PRESIDENT: You’d be great hope, there’s no doubt about it.
SENATOR GRASSLEY: — to get a consensus.
THE PRESIDENT: You’re going to be a great help. Thanks, Chuck.
I’d just like to ask Joe and Pat. In your bill, what are you doing about the 18 to 21?
SENATOR MANCHIN: We didn’t —
SENATOR TOOMEY: No change to that.
THE PRESIDENT: Okay. Are you going to leave that?
So you have a case right now where somebody can buy a handgun at 21. Now, this is not a popular thing to say, in terms of the NRA. But I’m saying it anyway. I’m going to just have to say it. But you can’t buy — I mean, think of it. You can buy a handgun — you can’t buy one; you have to wait until you’re 21. But you can buy the kind of weapon used in the school shooting at 18. I think it’s something you have to think about.
SENATOR MANCHIN: It’s a no-brainer.
SENATOR FEINSTEIN: Would you sign this?
THE PRESIDENT: So — I’ll tell you what, I’m going to give it a lot of consideration. And I’m the one bringing it up. And a lot of people don’t even want to bring it up because they’re afraid to bring it up.
But you can’t buy a handgun at 18, 19, or 20. You have to wait until you’re 21. But you can buy the gun, the weapon used in this horrible shooting, at 18.
You are going to decide — the people in this room, pretty much, are going to decide. But I would give very serious thought to it. I can say that the NRA is opposed to it. And I’m a fan of the NRA. I mean, there’s no bigger fan. I’m a big fan of the NRA. They want to do it. These are great people. These are great patriots. They love our country. But that doesn’t mean we have to agree on everything. It doesn’t make sense that I have to wait until I’m 21 to get a handgun, but I can get this weapon at 18. I don’t know.
So I was just curious as to what you did in your bill.
SENATOR TOOMEY: We didn’t address it, Mr. President, but I think —
THE PRESIDENT: You know why? Because you’re afraid of the NRA, right? (Laughter.)
SENATOR MANCHIN: It was an issue back then, five years ago.
SENATOR TOOMEY: No, the NRA didn’t —
SENATOR MANCHIN: And it never came up for a vote.
THE PRESIDENT: It’s a big issue right now. A lot of people are talking about it. But a lot of people are afraid of that issue — raising the age for that weapon to 21.
SENATOR TOOMEY: I would suggest — because my reservation about it, frankly, is that the vast majority of 18-, 19-, and 20- year-olds in Pennsylvania who have a rifle or a shotgun, they’re not a threat to anyone. They’re law-abiding citizens. They have that because they want to use it for hunting or target shooting, and to deny them their Second Amendment right is not to going to make anyone safe. So that’s my reservation about changing the age.
THE PRESIDENT: I know where you’re coming from.
SENATOR TOOMEY: (Inaudible.)
THE PRESIDENT: No, I understand that. I think it’s a position. It’s a position. But I think if we’re going to use you as a base, the two of you, I think you’re going to have to iron out that problem. Because I’m asked that question more than almost any other question: “Are you going to 21 or not?” Okay?
Anybody? Yes, Steve.
SENATOR DAINES: I’m sitting around this table, like many, as a father of four, as an uncle. I was with Congresswoman Esty when she won her election. We were campaigning at the same time, and Newtown happened while she was campaigning.
The first four words you said today, Mr. President, struck with me — says, “We need to act.”
THE PRESIDENT: Right. True.
SENATOR DAINES: But the only worse thing than doing nothing is doing something that doesn’t achieve the intended results. You were in business your entire life. I was in business for 28 years. Business is not about activities and doing things; it’s about our results. The act of shooting kids is cowardly. Moms and dads want to know that when they drop off their kids, they are safe.
This morning, I came in early. I bypassed the gym, gave me an excuse, perhaps, to bypass the gym and go in and spend some time thinking, when nobody else is in the office at 7:00 am. And I just put together a sheet of the 14 mass killings — and Congress defined “mass killing” following the Newtown incident. That means if there are three or more people that lost their lives, it’s considered a mass killing.
Since Columbine, we’ve had 14 of these in our country. And my staff put together a nice spreadsheet, but I was hand-writing this this morning, looking at where did it happen; what year; how many died, what was the age of the shooter; if under 21, how is that firearm obtained; what was the weapon used; and what was the status of the shooter. Most of these, by the way, are suicides.
THE PRESIDENT: And was there offensive firepower on the inside of those facilities so that when the gunman comes in, we have defensive capability? And one other thing — if he knew there was offensive power inside, of the 14 events, probably none of them would have happened, which is an important point for people to understand.
SENATOR DAINES: So a message of deterrence — Mr. President, a message of deterrence, I think, is very important as we think about stopping these homicidal, suicidal killers.
THE PRESIDENT: True.
SENATOR DAINES: There were meetings in here right after 9/11, after that horrible event occurred. There were meetings over in the Situation Room right after it occurred. And we made a decision, as a nation, we’re going to secure our skies. We can never let that happen again. We had to restore the trust of the public to get back on airplanes.
Mr. President, we need to secure our schools, because parents want action now. We have some huge society issues, demographic. I mean, these shooters, typically, are males, they’re white, and they’re suicidal.
THE PRESIDENT: And they’re cowards.
SENATOR DAINES: And they’re cowards. And cowards can be stopped with deadly force. That’s why I agree with you that we need to secure our schools and allow the states and the schoolboards to figure that out. I think there’s a role in the federal government, but I agree with that.
And second, Marco talked about what happened in Florida. Last week in Montana, I was just north of a school the day after they stopped and arrested an 18-year-old in Darby, Montana because he put on Snapchat he was going to shoot up a school. The sheriff, Steve Holton, of Ravalli County, arrested that young man and most likely prevented another mass shooting. That’s what we need.
THE PRESIDENT: Good. Thank you, Steve.
REPRESENTATIVE DEUTCH: Thank you, Mr. President. I spent a lot of time, since the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas, with the students who survived. And they have been very clear that what they want is action. And I am heartened by what you say about the need for presidential leadership. You can do this.
I understand, Mr. President, that you met with the NRA. What matters here is not the NRA; what matters here is preventing another one of these mass shootings. And so I’m so grateful to hear that Senator Toomey and Senator Manchin’s bill might be — I would suggest, must be a part of this for universal background checks. There are so many things that we can do right now.
The only thing I would add: You started out, Mr. President, by pointing out that there would be differences of opinion. Please know that there are great differences of opinion on the question of whether having teachers armed with guns firing back at a potential mass shooter is the answer. I don’t think it is, and many others don’t.
Please also know that there are — the majority of people in this country now understand that there are limitations on the Second Amendment. You cannot own an automatic weapon. You cannot own a bazooka. And so there is no reason to continue to sell to people a weapon of war like this. I know there are differences of opinion. I just hope that we can act, that we can show the American people and the kids, and their grieving families in my district that, with presidential leadership, it doesn’t matter what Congress says; that you can help push this forward and that we will consider everything, including those issues.
THE PRESIDENT: Good. I like that, and I appreciate that.
The fact is, a lot is up to the states. And that’s good. And the states are going to feel differently. Texas, as an example, is very much as to what I’m saying. And you’ve done very well. You haven’t had this problem.
SENATOR CORNYN: Eight states. Six more considering.
THE PRESIDENT: So we have eight states, yeah. And we have another six or seven or eight considering. And that’s okay. And you may be different, and you may have a very good thing for your state.
So I don’t think the states have to be the same. What does have to be the same are the background checks and all of the data — whether it’s Fix NICS or all of the things that we’re going to be adding. That has to be very much the same. You have to be able to share with states and share with localities and all of that.
But I agree with you. I do think this: I think that some states are different. Some states are going to do what Texas does. And some states don’t want that program. I think it’s a good program. But some states don’t want that program. The reason I like it is that I really believe it’s going to prevent it from ever happening. Because they are cowards, and they’re not going in when they know they’re going to come out dead. They’re not going into a school when they know they’re going to come out dead.
When you look at this guy in Florida, he walked out with everybody like it was a fire drill. He walked out and he got away. And a policeman did a fantastic job, two towns away. That policeman wasn’t given much credit, but he found him, he saw him. And he looked like the description, and he got him. That was a great job.
So you have to give them some credit because this was not the finest day. This man, and probably two or three others, Marco, were not exactly very good. They didn’t do their job very well.
But I do agree with what you say.
SENATOR KLOBUCHAR: Mr. President, thank you for calling us together today. And I come from a proud hunting state, you know that.
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, you do. Yes, you do.
SENATOR KLOBUCHAR: So I have that hat, but then I also have law enforcement; I was a prosecutor for eight years. And I got involved in this issue from police coming to me. And one of the issues they raised for years was the fact that there was this gun show loophole, and there were issues with commercial purchases that didn’t allow them to get the information they need to make sure that the people were safe.
And that’s why I’ve been such a strong supporter of the Manchin-Toomey bill. It’s not going to fix everything, but it is a good base to start with. And I want to just make one more case —
THE PRESIDENT: It’s the best we’ve ever done, too. By far.
SENATOR KLOBUCHAR: Right. And I want to make one more case, and we appreciate your support for that bill from a different perspective. And, of course, I support Dianne’s bill — another thing. But the states that have these background checks, they have a 38 percent lower domestic homicide rate — this is domestic violence.
THE PRESIDENT: Right.
SENATOR KLOBUCHAR: And for those cases, especially, it makes a major difference. And this number, just for you to keep with you — 6,000 women in 10 years were killed by a partner, whether it was a spouse, a boyfriend. Six thousand. That is more than we’ve lost our brave troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
THE PRESIDENT: Big (inaudible).
SENATOR KLOBUCHAR: And so, just doing something on this background check issue and using that as a base — and then I would like to add some of these other things we’ve talked about — I think, would make a major difference, not just for schools —
THE PRESIDENT: So if you could add that to this bill, that would be great. Dianne, if you could add what you have also, and I think you can, into the bill —
SENATOR FEINSTEIN: Yeah, she already read —
THE PRESIDENT: Can you do that? Joe, can you do that? Pat? Can you add — some of the things you’re not going to agree with.
SENATOR FEINSTEIN: If you help.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, no, I’ll help. But can you add what Amy and what Dianne have? Can we add them in? And I know you can add what John has.
SENATOR KLOBUCHAR: Yeah, I have another domestic violence bill that’s very narrow, and it’s about dating partners. And a number of states have just enacted it with Republican support.
THE PRESIDENT: I would say this: We’re going to get it passed. We’re going to get it passed. If you can add domestic violence paragraphs, pages into this bill, I’m all for it. I think it’s terrific if you can do it. It could be done. That could be done too.
SENATOR CORNYN: Mr. President, can I respectfully recommend that —
THE PRESIDENT: Yes. Steve.
SENATOR CORNYN: Steve Scalise, the vote counter in the House, is going to be at a key role in all this, and he’s had a personal, near-tragic experience with one of these mass shootings himself.
REPRESENTATIVE SCALISE: Well, I appreciate, Mr. President, you convening everybody. Thank you, Senator Cornyn, my Whip counterpart. The House did pass a bill — the bill dealing with fixing problems with our background check system. We also combined with it a bill that advanced concealed carry reciprocity. In other words, people that have concealed carry permits in one state being able to have that same ability in another state with concealed carry laws that are on the books.
And before that’s immediately discounted — because I know when we passed our bill, there was — number one, I did have to Whip that bill. It wasn’t a bill that just automatically passed. And there were a lot of our members that said, look, we want to close these problems and fix these problems with the background check system, and we came together and actually passed a bill.
But we also felt that, if you look at the concealed carry population, these are people, by and large, who are helping us stop crimes. These are people who are well trained, who actually go out there and help prevent crimes. So I would hope that that’s not immediately dismissed because there is a lot of talk of just putting that on the side and —
THE PRESIDENT: But, Steve, I do think this — you know I’m your biggest fan in the whole world, though, right? I think that maybe that bill will someday pass, but it should pass as a separate. If you’re going to put concealed carry between states into this bill, we’re talking about a whole new ballgame.
And, you know, I’m with you, but let it be a separate bill.
REPRESENTATIVE SCALISE: And I understand that.
THE PRESIDENT: You’ll never get this passed. If you add concealed carry to this, you’ll never get it passed. Let it be a separate thing.
REPRESENTATIVE SCALISE: Well, and there were other ideas that are being talked about that wouldn’t pass the House at all.
THE PRESIDENT: I don’t think — again, you’ll never get it passed. So we want to get something done. But what’s your second point?
REPRESENTATIVE SCALISE: Just to point out that we did pass it in the House, so at least please recognize that. Look at the data. I know a lot of people want to dismiss concealed carry permits. They do actually increase safety. So I understand your point.
I did appreciate some of the other points you brought up. Look, you talk about mental health problems. That is at the core of so many of these mass shootings. We, Congress, came together in a bipartisan way, as part of the 21st Century Cures Act, just a year and a half ago, and passed a major overhaul of our mental health system. It didn’t get much attention because it was very bipartisan.
But that bill — and you just appointed an Assistant Secretary of Mental Health, which was a position created in that law. Let’s make sure that the Assistant Secretary of Mental Health has the tools they need. They’re tasked with finding all of these loopholes — how are people slipping through the cracks.
And I’ll tell you the thing that makes me the most angry, is that when you see so many governmental institutions, federal and local, that broke down and allowed this kid not only to get a gun, but to let him slip through the cracks. It wasn’t just students. And, believe it, there were students saying —
THE PRESIDENT: But I think the people broke down.
REPRESENTATIVE SCALISE: — “we think he’s a shooter.” He said he was going to be a professional school shooter, and yet the FBI let him go. You know this: The people that protected me and my other colleagues on that field — the law enforcement — did their job that day. I appreciate that you gave them the Medal of Freedom, two Capitol Police officers.
THE PRESIDENT: If you didn’t have those two people —
REPRESENTATIVE SCALISE: We’d be gone.
THE PRESIDENT: — you wouldn’t be here —
REPRESENTATIVE SCALISE: We’d be gone.
THE PRESIDENT: — and 25 other people wouldn’t be here right now.
REPRESENTATIVE SCALISE: And so when you see those breakdowns, that is why you see so many millions of Americans that want firearms to defend themselves — not to use them for mass shooters, but actually to defend themselves and their communities. And that’s obviously one of the balances we have.
So the House did take action. Clearly, the Senate may have some issues with parts of the bill. But let’s not just discard that. Let’s at least have a broader conversation, and we’ll continue this.
THE PRESIDENT: Okay, I think that’s fine. Can somebody — Marsha? Yes, go ahead.
REPRESENTATIVE BLACKBURN: Yes, Mr. President. First of all, I want to say thank you for saying let’s go to the source of the problem. So many times, we react to symptoms.
Picking up on what the Whip said, with the new Assistant Secretary of Mental Health, this is somewhere that, yes, indeed we need to be looking at the tools that they have, and looking at these young adults — individuals who have crossed that 18-year-old threshold, and who, within their family or their caregiver, has access to those mental health records, and how law enforcement has the ability to get that information from children services.
So many of these have records through their teenage years. They have been on a Schedule II —
THE PRESIDENT: And John is working on that. That’s part of what we’re doing.
REPRESENTATIVE BLACKBURN: But, see —
THE PRESIDENT: In great detail.
REPRESENTATIVE BLACKBURN: And we need to have that visibility. And the House has wanted to fix that mixed system.
Another thing that has come up from some of the moms: I was a room mother when my kids were in school. And now, as a grandmother, I’m talking to a lot of young moms. They have said one of the things we need to do, as we review these issues, is look at entertainment, and the video games, the ratings system, the movies — how things are approved and what children are being exposed to, and especially children that have some of these mental health issues. And they feel that has a role to play.
Now, some of my sheriffs —
THE PRESIDENT: By the way, I think that’s a very important point. The video games, the movies, the Internet stuff is so violent. It’s so incredible. I see it. I get to see things that you wouldn’t be — you’d be amazed at. I have a young — very young son, who — I look at some of the things he’s watching, and I say, how is that possible? And this is what kids are watching. And I think you maybe have to take a look at it. You know, you rate movies for different things. Maybe you have to also rate them for terror, for what they’re doing and what they’re all about.
It’s hard to believe that, at least for a percentage — and maybe it’s a small percentage of children — this doesn’t have a negative impact on their thought process. But these things are really violent.
REPRESENTATIVE BLACKBURN: Some of the young moms have mentioned this — that they’re very concerned about that exposure in children being desensitized to violence.
THE PRESIDENT: Good.
REPRESENTATIVE BLACKBURN: So they would like that. One of my sheriffs, Sheriff Eddie Farris, had a great idea. He’s in Putnam County, Tennessee, and he said, as we talk about hardening the schools — you know, we have “Read to Me” programs in schools. How about “Protect Me” programs that some of our FOP retirees would take the lead on and go in. And as they volunteer, help to protect those while we work through this issue of how your local state and federal agencies are going to work together and find solutions for this.
So those are things that my constituents are saying and would like to have raised. And they want solutions to them, and I appreciate the leadership on it.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. I appreciate it. Thank you.
REPRESENTATIVE MAST: Mr. President, you’re absolutely right. You can lead on this in a way that nobody else can. Because for all of those Americans out there, that the Second Amendment is so critically important to them, they believe you that you’re not going to go into their home and take their firearms. So you have a credibility that nobody else can bring to this, and that’s why you can lead.
Maybe you’ve heard my call. You act when you see an opportunity to save life.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, we have to. We all — I mean, yeah, I’m going to lead, but we’re all going to lead. We’re going to get this done in a bipartisan manner. I’m not even worried about 60 votes. I really believe that 60 votes — 60 percent, meaning — should be so easy. It should be 100 percent.
Chris, did you have something to say?
SENATOR MURPHY: No, no, no, I just — I think you underestimate the power of the gun lobby. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: No, I tell you what — the reason I had lunch with the NRA on Sunday — I called them; I said, you got to come over. I said, fellas, we got to do something. And they do have great power, I agree with that. They have great power over you people. They have less power over me. I don’t need it. What do I need?
But I’ll tell you, they are well meaning. And I said to them very nice — I said, fellas, we got to do something. We can’t keep restricting, and we can’t keep — we have to do what’s right. When it comes to mental health and other issues, I said, we have to do what’s right.
And I’m telling you, I think they’re there. I think they’re there. Some of you people are petrified of the NRA. You can’t be petrified. They want to do what’s right, and they’re going to do what’s right. I really believe that. I think it was a very good lunch.
REPRESENTATIVE RUTHERFORD: I want to give you the perspective from 41 years of law enforcement, 12 as a sheriff, riding the streets of Jacksonville, Florida. I can tell you, one of the things that I learned during that 41 years, and a lot in this room can tell you as well, is security is always a multilayered approach. So as we talk about the background checks, who can buy a gun and who cannot — all of those things are important. And all of those are parts of the security that we can create for our country.
But know this — and you said it: All of that can break down, and someone can go into a gun-free zone and just kill — it will.
THE PRESIDENT: Defenseless, John.
REPRESENTATIVE RUTHERFORD: Defenseless people.
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah, defenseless.
REPRESENTATIVE RUTHERFORD: So, number one for security, from a law enforcement perspective, is you have to have — the only thing — and it sounds cliché, but it’s cliché because it’s true. The only thing that stops a bad gun with a gun is a good guy with a gun.
THE PRESIDENT: So true.
REPRESENTATIVE RUTHERFORD: And so you have to have those officers, or some armed security, at our schools.
Now, the issue is — and we talk about those are areas where there are no guns. The reason I carry a concealed firearm everywhere I go is because I don’t know where those gun-free zones are, that I may be walking through at the mall, or at the donut shop, or wherever I might be.
So that’s why I carry concealed, so I can protect myself; I can protect my family, who might be with me; and I can protect all of those around me who choose not to carry a firearm.
THE PRESIDENT: But you’re not allowed concealed in a gun-free zone.
REPRESENTATIVE RUTHERFORD: Well —
THE PRESIDENT: So what do you do?
REPRESENTATIVE RUTHERFORD: You can’t carry in those areas. And so you’re —
THE PRESIDENT: You’re the only experienced one here — maybe.
REPRESENTATIVE RUTHERFORD: I mean, I’m at will like everybody else.
THE PRESIDENT: Great —
REPRESENTATIVE RUTHERFORD: So that’s why —
THE PRESIDENT: They are the most dangerous places, gun-free zones.
REPRESENTATIVE RUTHERFORD: Exactly.
THE PRESIDENT: It’s true.
REPRESENTATIVE RUTHERFORD: And that’s why we need to look at, I think, going back to the concealed carry issue, of national reciprocity.
THE PRESIDENT: I just don’t think you’re going to get it approved. Look, you’re not going to get concealed carry approved.
Amy and Dianne and —
SENATOR FEINSTEIN: You’re right.
THE PRESIDENT: — and a lot of other people — people they — they’re never going to consider it. But people may consider it, but they’re not going to consider it in this bill. All it’s going to mean, if you —
REPRESENTATIVE RUTHERFORD: But we don’t want to do away with gun-free zones.
THE PRESIDENT: As far as I’m concerned, I would. And I would do it with the military.
REPRESENTATIVE RUTHERFORD: Because the gun-free zone goes away when I walk in.
THE PRESIDENT: In fact, I’m looking to get rid of gun-free zones in the military. We have military bases with gun-free zones. And we had five incredible soldiers, three of whom were championship shooters, that were nowhere near their gun, and this whack job walked in and killed all of them. And they were defenseless. And if they had their guns, he would have been gone in a second.
REPRESENTATIVE RUTHERFORD: And every time I walk into some place carrying concealed, I end the gun-free zone — whether it’s a restaurant, whether it’s a grocery store, or wherever it might be.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I want to get rid of them on military bases to start, because you know what’s happened there.
REPRESENTATIVE RUTHERFORD: And let me close with this, because the mental health piece, I think, is critical for law enforcement.
We actually take folks who are a danger to themselves or others, we Baker Act them — in Florida, it’s called the Baker Act; it’s a crisis stabilization process. They’re there for three days, 72 hours. They get stabilized, they get out, and we have to give them their guns back. I tried not to do that one time, and actually got sued, and lost the case. Had to give the guns back, and we got fined.
So the state of Florida has this bill that was mentioned earlier that the Senate just passed. It has the risk protection orders built into them.
THE PRESIDENT: That’s right.
REPRESENTATIVE RUTHERFORD: And there’s some states that already have that, I believe. And I think those are going to be critical for law enforcement to help take the guns out of the hands of these individuals who we know should not be carrying.
And then we need to make sure that those individuals get placed into the National Background Check System.
THE PRESIDENT: Right.
SENATOR KLOBUCHAR: And, Mr. President, the Vice President’s state of Indiana has done a good job with that.
THE PRESIDENT: Yes. Go ahead, Mike.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, the category you spoke about, Mr. President — the gun violence restraining orders. And they’re called — California, actually, has a version of this. And I think, in your meeting with governors earlier this week, individually and as a group, we spoke about states taking steps.
But the focus is to literally give families and give local law enforcement additional tools if an individual is reported to be a potential danger to themselves or others. Allow due process, so that no one’s rights are trampled. But the ability to go to court, obtain an order, and then collect not only the firearms, but any weapons in the possession of that individual.
THE PRESIDENT: Or, Mike, take the firearms first and then go to court, because that’s another system. Because a lot of times, by the time you go to court, it takes so long to go to court, to get the due process procedures.
I like taking the guns early, like in this crazy man’s case that just took place in Florida. He had a lot of firearms. They saw everything. To go to court would have taken a long time. So you could do exactly what you’re saying, but take the guns first, go through due process second.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: We just think about the tragedy in Sandy Hook —
THE PRESIDENT: That’s right. That’s right.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: — and Adam Lanza’s mother, who spoke to law enforcement, spoke to local officials. She was concerned, over and over again. I know our colleagues from Connecticut lived this and saw it.
But to literally give families the tools, law enforcement — as my state has done, as other of states have done — to be able to take action to remove those weapons for either a set period of time or longer to make sure that person can’t be a threat.
THE PRESIDENT: I like that. Marco.
SENATOR RUBIO: And just to add, obviously, that’s a state law provision. And I know there’s some people working on what we can do at the federal level to incentivize states to do this. But states are allowed to do it right now. And, hopefully, Florida will do that here shortly.
And it brings home this point, and the Vice President alluded to it and Congressman Rutherford just touched on it as well: there are people here that tried to do something. They called the FBI, they called the sheriff’s office. But legally, they had no recourse to sort of get ahead of this and stop it, in terms of taking away his guns and placing them in a facility or some other measure with a court order to prevent him from being able to do this. And even if law enforcement had gone to see him, they would have been limited, ultimately, in their options as well.
So this is an idea states can do. And I think we can –there may be something we can do to incentivize it. I know we’ve been talking to your office and Senator Blumenthal and others. But, ultimately, states can do that now, the way multiple states have already done it. And, hopefully, Florida will.
SENATOR CORNYN: Mr. President, in the 21st Century Cures bill Senator Murphy and I worked on, part of it involved Mental Health and Safe Communities Act. We provided additional grants through jurisdictions that used assisted outpatient treatments. This is sort of a variation on what the Vice President talked about.
Adam Lanza’s mother, if he wasn’t compliant with his medications, wouldn’t follow doctor’s orders, and she needed some help, could go to court — a civil court — and get a court order that forced him to take his medication and follow his doctor’s orders. Many people with mental illness could be — if they take their medication, if they are compliant, can function productively in society.
So there are a variety of tools, and that’s one that’s already in law in addition to what the states are doing.
THE PRESIDENT: So let me just ask this: Chris and John, are you better off having a one-off bill, or can you merge it into Joe and Pat’s bill?
Because I like that much better, having a comprehensive bill. Some people don’t like the word “comprehensive” when they talk. I like the word “comprehensive.” You know, they say, “Oh, that’s a bad word because it represents things.” I mean, to me, I like the word “comprehensive.” I’d rather have a comprehensive bill.
Can you merge yours into this bill, or would you rather have a separate Fix NICS bill?
SENATOR CORNYN: Mr. President, the most important thing you said at the outset is that we act.
THE PRESIDENT: You have to act.
SENATOR CORNYN: That we don’t go home empty-handed. So whatever we can do to work together to act.
THE PRESIDENT: But you know what? It would be nice to act. Yeah, but it would really be nice to create something that’s beautiful, that works.
And you know the biggest thing, Chris, the biggest surprise to me? Because I’ve only been doing this for two years, right? Three years now. Time flies. But I’ve been here for a little more than a year.
What surprises me more than anything else is that nothing has been done for all these years. Because I really see a lot of common ground, whether it’s Democrat and Republican. I’m so surprised — I’m sitting here and I’m saying, you know, there’s a lot of commonality here. There’s a lot of people that agree with pretty much everything you guys are writing, and that you guys are writing.
I don’t understand why this hasn’t happened — for the last 20 years, nothing has happened. So we’re going to get it done.
SENATOR MURPHY: I think we can add anything to Fix NICS that has 60 votes. And I think our argument is that background checks can be added to this if it has your support.
And, Mr. President, I would just add, I hope we follow the data here. Because the data is going to tell you — we’ve talked a lot about safe schools, a lot about mental illness. The data tells you that America has a gun violence rate that is 20 times that of every other industrialized country in the world.
But we don’t have a higher mental illness rate; our schools aren’t less safe; we don’t spend less money on law enforcement. What’s different is that we have the loosest, most lax gun laws in the nation.
So I’m all for doing everything. But we should fix the mental illness system because it’s broken, period. Stop. Not because we think that it’s going to solve the gun violence that —
THE PRESIDENT: Have to do it. You have to do it, folks.
SENATOR MURPHY: We got to — the data tells us that the one thing that is different about the United States is our unbelievably loose gun laws. And I hope we follow it.
REPRESENTATIVE RUTHERFORD: And if you don’t have the background checks, you don’t have the data.
SENATOR MURPHY: That’s right. That’s right.
THE PRESIDENT: That’s why I think they work together. I like it together better.
But, Joe, you have to fix mental illness. If somebody is mentally ill, right now, they can go out, and they can buy — you can’t take it away. It’s ridiculous. You got to fix it. And you’re going to fix it. I’m sure you’re going to fix it. And I like a merger because I think the merger works out better.
Chuck, were you going to say one thing?
SENATOR GRASSLEY: Well, you’re showing leadership through this meeting. And following on what Marsha said about the incivility of our society and the culture of our society, the thought came to my mind that maybe you could show leadership about all the violence we have out in Hollywood and all these videos.
If you watch — you watch Fox News, probably, like I do. And every night you see all these films about everybody being blown up. Well, just think of the impact that makes on young people. And get them in here and preach to them like you’re preaching to us.
THE PRESIDENT: But, actually, Fox News does a very good job, relatively speaking. (Laughter.)
But you’re right. You’re right. No, it’s very violent. But the movies are violent and the videos are violent, beyond anything anybody has ever seen before. So I agree.
SENATOR GRASSLEY: Well, you had governors telling you this week the same thing, that the culture of our society has got to change if you’re going to stop this.
THE PRESIDENT: I agree with that. I agree. Elizabeth.
REPRESENTATIVE ESTY: Thank you very, Mr. President and Mr. Vice President. I’ve been wearing a bracelet like this for more than five years. I was with Steve — we were elected at the same time — and I was sitting with new member training when I got calls and texts about a school shooting, what turned out to be 20 6- and 7-year-olds and 6 educators in Newtown.
So I haven’t had a day I don’t think about it — that Chris and I don’t think about it. That’s been our nightmare for our — the people we represent. It’s now Ted’s nightmare and it’s now your nightmare.
THE PRESIDENT: So why didn’t they do something about it when that happened? I look — I mean, when you at Columbine, you look at so many of these horrible events — why didn’t they do something about it?
REPRESENTATIVE ESTY: I think people —
THE PRESIDENT: Why didn’t this group of people, plus others — and some have gone and some are going to be here —
SENATOR FEINSTEIN: We tried.
REPRESENTATIVE ESTY: Well, I think people tried. But I think your point is this, we’re at a tipping point. We’re at a tipping point and why we are, I don’t know, but I think it’s the students —
THE PRESIDENT: You know why we are?
REPRESENTATIVE ESTY: I think it’s the students.
THE PRESIDENT: Elizabeth, you know why we are? Because a week will go by, another week, another week, another week, and, all of a sudden, people are going to be onto other things. We can’t let that happen.
REPRESENTATIVE ESTY: We have the power to change that.
THE PRESIDENT: But that’s what — but you know, that’s what happened.
REPRESENTATIVE ESTY: So I think there are two things that we can do right now. I think the Manchin-Toomey — which has a companion in the House, that’s King-Thompson — has 200 bipartisan co-sponsors. Two-hundred. You only need 218 to pass. That is ready to go.
THE PRESIDENT: I think Congress is going to be fine. I really do. If we can come up with something that’s very strong, very heavy with mental illness, very heavy, and everything.
The background checks are so important. People are afraid to do background checks because you’re afraid of somebody. And you know what? You’re going to be more popular if you do — if you have a strong, good — but I don’t care who’s endorsing you or not endorsing you, you’re going to be more popular if that’s what you’re into.
I’m not into popularity, I’m into getting something done that’s good. I don’t want to just get it done. We got to get something good that’s done. Let’s do it properly.
Yes. John, real fast.
REPRESENTATIVE RUTHERFORD: Mr. President, let me talk about how to get guns — keep guns out of the hands of good folks — or bad folks.
One of the issues is, the gun show loophole that everyone talks about, but it’s also guns that are stolen out of cars are — you know, good gun owners are not storing properly. Stolen guns kill more people than guns that are bought legally.
One way to prevent that is through a background check, at the point of sale of every gun — FFL dealers, they do it — but I can buy a gun off the street from an individual that I’ve never met before and nobody does a background check.
THE PRESIDENT: That’s true.
REPRESENTATIVE RUTHERFORD: Here’s what you do: You require a purchaser’s permit at the point of sale of every gun in this country. At the point of sale, you have to have a buyer’s permit. And the way that you get your buyer’s permit is, if I want to buy a gun from Senator Rubio, I go to an FFL dealer, I have my background check run, I get my buyers’ permit, I take it to him, and he sells me his gun after I show him my permit.
THE PRESIDENT: I would think the NRA would love that. (Laughter.)
REPRESENTATIVE RUTHERFORD: Now, listen: If I don’t have my permit — if I don’t have my permit, it’s against the law for him to sell it to me, and it’s against the law for me to buy it.
Now, everybody’s thinking, “Well, heck. Nobody’s going to do that. And who’s going to know?” Then what happens is law enforcement has the opportunity to go into the streets and buy and sell guns from people who are in there buying and selling guns right now, and we can actually make arrests and get those guys off the street who are selling guns illegally. Well, they’re not illegal sales, but they’re selling them to the guys that probably are illegal.
THE PRESIDENT: John, the problem with it is you have a real black market. They don’t worry about anything. They don’t worry about —
REPRESENTATIVE RUTHERFORD: That’s right.
THE PRESIDENT: — anything that you’re saying.
REPRESENTATIVE RUTHERFORD: That’s right. But —
THE PRESIDENT: They sell a gun, and the buyer doesn’t care, and the seller — and that’s one of the problems we all are going to have. And you have that problem with drugs.
REPRESENTATIVE RUTHERFORD: But then law enforcement —
THE PRESIDENT: You make the drugs illegal, and they come — well, you’ve never had a problem like this, we’re fighting it hard. But you’ve never had a problem like this.
So you have the same problem with guns. You have a lot of great people go out and register — who do all sorts of things — but you have a black market where they don’t even think about registering or — they’re not going to be looking at Joe and Pat’s bill, they couldn’t care less about it.
And we have to be very strong on that. I think you can have provisions on that, too. Big, big penalties. Strong penalties.
John, you got to finish up.
REPRESENTATIVE RUTHERFORD: Well, I’m just going to say, the purchaser’s permit allows law enforcement to then go on into that black market and buy and sell guns and make arrests of the folks who are in there doing it illegally.
THE PRESIDENT: We’ve got to be very tough on the black market.
REPRESENTATIVE RUTHERFORD: Exactly.
REPRESENTATIVE MURPHY: Hi, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, thank you.
REPRESENTATIVE MURPHY: I represent a district in central Florida, and we were deeply affected by Pulse. And I think in the aftermath of these types of tragedies, the American people really want to see us, their elected leaders, working together to do something. And so I’m heartened —
THE PRESIDENT: Hard to believe this didn’t happen after Pulse. I mean, how bad was Pulse? And nothing happened.
REPRESENTATIVE MURPHY: Well, so thank you for bringing us all together. I’ve heard a number of ideas, and I wanted to present one that I hadn’t heard yet.
I have a bipartisan bill to remove the so-called Dickey Amendment, which has prevented, over the last couple of decades, the CDC and other federal agencies, from researching gun violence. And I think that your Secretary of HHS, has said he thinks we should be able to research gun violence. It’s a key piece — having facts and scientific data is a key piece in helping us address this national public health issue.
And so I would hope that we, as lawmakers, can have opinions about policies, but we should all have good sets of facts. And it’s an easy fix. We just have to strike one sentence in the existing law to enable us to conduct the research that’s much needed.
THE PRESIDENT: Okay. Thank you very much. Are we — maybe we’ll sum up pretty quickly. Do you want to go really quickly?
REPRESENTATIVE DEUTCH: I do. Only because the Congresswoman Esty brought this up. This is the bracelet that Marjory Stoneman Douglas has been selling back home. I want to give it to you. And I — because I want this to be the last one of these that we ever have to have.
THE PRESIDENT: Good. Good.
REPRESENTATIVE DEUTCH: And if we can do universal background checks, and ban bump stocks, and increase the age to 21, and get rid of the Dickey Amendment, and do it now, and show the American people, and my constituents, the people in Parkland, the grieving families and the students that we’re actually ready to act, they’ll feel better. And you can get this done, Mr. President. And I want to give that to you.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Okay. Thank you very much.
So if I could just sum up — Chris and John, Pat, Joe, maybe you could all get together. You’ll start it from that standpoint. Other people, Dianne, you have some very good ideas. We all have — I think everybody — Marco, I know you have a lot. Fellas, if you could all get together and we could put it in one great piece of legislation.
Chuck, I think that you’re going to have an amazing result in the vote. The votes are hard to get in Congress. That’s what’s been happening. We’re going to have an amazing result. People are going to be shocked to see the numbers. It’s not going to be 60, it’s going to be way above 60 and it may be a number that nobody would even believe.
People want to see something happen. But they want to see something good happen, too. Not just another piece of — I mean, you didn’t pass anything, let alone some good stuff. We want to pass something great. And to me, something great has to be where you stop it from happening. And I think there’s only one way.
But again, if you feel not to have that — you understand, I want a counter. I want a very strong counterpunch because if you have a strong counterpunch, they’re not going in and you’re not going to have this problem anymore.
Remember the 98 percent figure. Ninety-eight percent of these attacks, gun-free zones. No backlash. No death to them. Death to everybody else.
But if you four could get together and do something and maybe set the foundation, add to the foundation with some of the great things said — we’re going to have a bill — Steve, it’s very hard to add the one thing that you want. I mean, I will tell you, I’m a fan.
REPRESENTATIVE SCALISE: Still worth considering.
THE PRESIDENT: It’s — consider it — let’s consider it for a separate bill.
REPRESENTATIVE SCALISE: And it increases safety. It increases safety.
THE PRESIDENT: We’ll consider it for a separate bill. But again, we also want things that can be approved. You have to look at the age of 21 —
PARTICIPANT: No problem.
THE PRESIDENT: — with certain types of weapons. I mean, some people aren’t going to like that but you’re going to have look at that very seriously.
And I think we’re going to have a vote. I think it’s going to be a very successful vote, and I will sign it. And I will call whoever you want me to if I like what you’re doing. And I think I like what you’re doing already. But you can add to it.
But you have to very, very powerful on background checks; don’t be shy. Very strong on mentally ill; you have to be very, very strong on that. And don’t worry about bump stock, we’re getting rid of it, where it’ll be out.
I mean, you don’t have to complicate the bill by adding another two paragraphs. We’re getting rid of it. I’ll do that myself because I’m able to. Fortunately, we’re able to do that without going through Congress.
So if the four of you could work together and come up with some beautiful foundation. Add and subtract to it, put it for a vote. Let’s get it done. That’s what we have to do.
SENATOR FEINSTEIN: Mr. President, what do we do about weapons of war, easily accessible on our streets?
THE PRESIDENT: What you’re going to have to do is discuss it with everybody. (Laughter.) And any solution — no it’s a very complex solution. You do.
SENATOR FEINSTEIN: (Inaudible.)
THE PRESIDENT: You have weapons on the street. That’s what we were talking about with black market. These are black market weapons. You know, the problem, Dianne, is that these aren’t where you walk into a store and buy. These are where somebody hands you a gun and you hand them some money.
SENATOR FEINSTEIN: Oh, no, you go into a store and you can buy an AR-15.
THE PRESIDENT: You can.
SENATOR FEINSTEIN: You can buy a TEC-9. I mean you can buy all these weapons.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, this is what you’re going to have to discuss, Joe —
SENATOR FEINSTEIN: Light triggers, many bullets —
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah. Joe and Pat, you’re going to have to discuss that. You’ll sit down with Dianne, and everybody else and you’ll come up with up something.
And I think it — I really believe it has to be very strong. I’d rather have you come down on the strong side instead of the weak side. The weak side would be much easier. I’d rather have you come up with a strong, strong bill. And really strong on background checks.
With that, I just — we’ll end it, but I just want to thank everybody. I really believe we’re going to — we’re on the road to something terrific. Thank you all very much. Thank you. Thank you very much.
4:06 P.M. EST