Most of Tennessee’s Congressional delegation is either balking or staying silent in response to the gun control plan President Obama unveiled today.
The administration wants Congress to ban certain assault weapons and high capacity magazines and institute background checks for purchases made at gun shows. Johnson City Republican Phil Roe and Chuck Fleischmann of Chattanooga both countered with statements praising the Second Amendment and hints that they would not support any new restrictions. Brentwood’s Marsha Blackburn said much the same, but more forcefully.
The President also announced 23 executive actions that don’t require legislative approval. Anticipating that kind of move earlier this week, Jasper Republican Scott DesJarlais wrote that it would be a, quote, “clear defiance of the will of the American people” to enact gun policy without buy-in from the legislature. John Duncan of Knoxville called it a “power grab.”
In the Senate, Republican Lamar Alexander says he’d rather see attention paid to something other than guns.
“If you have broad scale use of violent video game which are nothing more than allowing people, especially children, to practice how to kill other people, it’s hard to see how good things are going to come out of that.”
Blackburn would also like a closer look at video games, along with mental health care and psychiatric drugs.
On the Democratic side, Nashville Congressman Jim Cooper says the President is on the right track. Steve Cohen of Memphis said last week that he supports a “comprehensive approach” to strengthen gun laws while at the same time protecting people’s right to bear arms. It’s not clear just where he draws the line between those two ideas.
Statements from Tennessee’s House Delegation:
Diane Black’s Congressional website has long included this statement, but has released no specific comments during the current gun control debate:
I am strong advocate of the Second Amendment and I believe the Constitution gives every citizen the right to bear arms. I am committed to safeguarding the rights of law-abiding citizens and I will be a constant advocate for protecting these rights from those who would seek to weaken them.
Marsha Blackburn, in an email to the press:
As a mother and grandmother, I believe we have an obligation to examine ways we can better protect our nation’s youth. We need to have a serious conversation about mental health, psychiatric drugs, and the potential impact violent video games and movies have on our kids. I will closely review the President’s proposals, however I am concerned his approach is a pre-determined attempt to redefine our Constitution. I am not going to allow this administration to trample on the Second Amendment or put new restrictions on the rights of law-abiding citizens to own firearms and ammunition.
Steve Cohen, in an email newsletter to constituents:
This week I appeared on Current TV’s “The Young Turks” to discuss gun violence and possible gun legislation in the wake of the Newtown, Connecticut shooting. It’s important that Congress take a comprehensive approach to reduce gun violence and strengthen our nation’s gun laws while protecting law abiding citizens’ right to own firearms…During the interview, I discussed the avenues Congress could pursue on gun legislation, the NRA and the influential gun lobby, mental health concerns, whether House Speaker Boehner would post a bill for a floor vote, recent comments made by President Obama and Vice President Biden, and the task force they have established to tackle our country’s concerns on gun safety and violence.
Jim Cooper’s in an email to press:
The President is generally on the right track. We need background checks and we need to keep weapons of war off our streets and out of our schools and workplaces. Armor-piercing bullets and large-capacity magazines are also deeply troubling. We also need to do more to improve mental health and reduce violence in the media.
Bottom line: We are obligated to defend the right to bear arms, while also doing a better job of keeping our children and our families safe.
Scott DesJarlais, as posted to his blog:
It is hard to imagine anything more horrific than the December shooting that took place in Newtown, Connecticut. By the end of that fateful day, we learned that 20 first-graders and six educators had been shot and killed by a deranged gunman. As a nation, we came together to pray and offer our deepest condolences to those who had lost a loved one. In the days and weeks following Sandy Hook, my office received numerous calls and letters from residents in Tennessee’s Fourth Congressional District. It was touching to read and listen to these heartfelt expressions of sympathy.
Many of the individuals who contacted my office were concerned parents who wanted to know what we could do to ensure something like this never happens again. As a parent with three school aged children of my own, I share their concerns. Our children are our greatest treasure and should be treated as such.
But while the overwhelming majority of parents I have spoken with recognize the need to enact sensible measures to protect our children, they are deeply concerned that this administration is using the tragedy at Sandy Hook as way to limit their Second Amendment rights.
It is not surprising that the issue of gun control has grabbed headlines, especially after President Obama tasked Vice President Joe Biden to lead a taskforce with the goal of developing a package of proposals to curb gun violence.
Unfortunately, so far it seems that the administration is more focused on attacking our Second Amendment rights than truly addressing the underlying causes of gun violence. In fact, the president has stated on numerous occasions that he has no problem bypassing Congress through the use of executive orders to achieve his gun control objectives.
Lawful gun owners in my district have good reason for concern. This administration has a long track record of circumventing the Congress. The president bypassed the Senate confirmation process in appointing his “czars,” allowed the IRS to re-write portions of ObamaCare, unilaterally changed federal immigration policy and instructed the Justice Department to stop defending the Defense of Marriage Act. The list goes on.
If the White House feels it must resort to the use of an executive order, it would signal that the president knows that his policies cannot pass Congress. Therefore, his actions would be in clear defiance of the will of the American people and our democratic process.
If the president seeks to violate our constitution and degrade our Second Amendment rights, I stand ready to look at any and all available legislative and legal options to protect and maintain our separation of powers. I sincerely hope that the president will abandon this autocratic approach though and instead engage in a meaningful conversation.
I am a proud supporter of our Second Amendment and believe strongly in our right to bear arms. But I am also a parent and want to ensure that our children are kept safe. I, along with the vast majority of my constituents, do not believe these views to be mutually exclusive of one another.
I am reminded of a statement made by former Congressman Bob Barr of Georgia that, “It’s not a gun control problem; it’s a cultural control problem.” There are in fact real issues that Congress should address to ensure our children are protected, but infringing on our Second Amendment rights will not prevent troubled people from committing terrible acts.
We can and must do a better job of ensuring those with mental health issues are identified and receive the support and counseling they need. That starts with making our mental health system more efficient and responsive. We can decide as a nation that we no longer want to promote a culture of violence and work with the key stakeholders to ensure our children are not being bombarded with violent imagery. Finally, we can do a better job of simply enforcing the laws that are already in existence.
President Obama stated that Sandy Hook was the worst day of his presidency. I believe him. But that is not an excuse for the president to use executive orders to push through controversial gun control measures that run counter to the wishes of the majority of the American people.
John Duncan, in video created by his office:
Chuck Fleischmann, in an email to press:
The horrific event in Newtown was heartbreaking and protecting our children must be at the top of the priority list as a nation. However, I will not support any measure that infringes on our Second Amendment rights.
Steven Fincher has issued no statements related to the Connecticut shooting or the Second Amendment.
Phil Roe, as posted on his Congressional website:
First and foremost, my thoughts and prayers go out to those around the country that have been victims of the senseless acts of violence the president mentioned in his speech today. I will give the administration’s proposal great thought and careful consideration, but our Second Amendment right is one of our most cherished freedoms and I will not support measures that infringe on our Constitutional right to bear arms.