White House spokesman Josh Earnest struggled to answer direct questions Thursday about whether any of President Obama's proposed gun control measure would have prevented the recent mass shootings seen in the U.S.
Reporter Byron Tau brought up Sen. Marco Rubio's (R., Fla.) remark that no recent mass shootings would have been prevented by gun legislation, a statement rated "True" by the Washington Post fact-checker.
"If not a single recent mass shooting would have been stopped by the kind of gun control measures you champion, are those the right approach to this problem?" Tau asked.
"Well, Byron, I think we've been pretty direct and upfront about the fact that there is no piece of legislation that Congress can pass that would prevent every single act of gun violence," Earnest said. "I think the case that we have made is one that rests primarily on our concern about national security and our careful consideration of common sense."
Earnest brought up the "no-fly list" and the Obama administration's view that anyone "deemed by the government" too dangerous to fly should be banned from buying guns.
"The president believes it's common sense and it is in our national security interests to prevent those who are deemed by the government too dangerous to board an airplane that we should pass a law that prevents those people from purchasing a gun, until such time as they can resolve the concerns that the government has about their potential links to terrorism," Earnest said.
The "no-fly list" has been criticized for being overly broad and doing an end-around on due process rights. As the Los Angeles Times editorial board argued in an op-ed opposing this White House position, no one is on the list for being convicted of any charges. On numerous occasions, people whose names simply sound similar to suspected terrorists have been placed on the list. Even the late Sen. Ted Kennedy was questioned at an airport in 2004 because a terror suspect had used the alias "T. Kennedy."
The Free Beacon reported that 72 employees from the Department of Homeland Security itself were on the list.
Earnest asked rhetorically whether Rubio was suggesting the U.S. wait for someone on the no-fly list to purchase a gun and kills innocent Americans before that kind of law was passed.
"Can the White House point to a recent mass shooting that would have been stopped by a expanded assault weapons ban or stricter background checks?" Tau asked. "The evidence seems to be that in all these recent mass shootings, these folks either passed background checks or were very determined to circumvent the strict gun laws that are already on the books. Can you point to any that would have been prevented or stopped by the kind of proposals the White House is championing?"
"Again, Byron, I think the same thing applies here, which is it's not our view that we should wait until somebody who's on the no-fly list walks into a gun store, legally purchases a gun and kills a bunch of innocent Americans before we pass a law preventing it," Earnest said. "That's a common-sense view. The president believes that's in our national security, and that's why we believe quite strongly that Congress should take action to address it and close the no-fly, no-buy loophole."
Tau asked whether any of the mass shooters were on the no-fly list.
"Not that I'm aware of," Earnest said.