Earnest Struggles to Define What Assault Weapons Are: 'I'm Certainly Not an Expert'

June 13, 2016

White House spokesman Josh Earnest struggled to articulate Monday what exactly would be disallowed under a potential "assault weapons ban," admitting he was not an expert while praising the 1990s legislation he said stopped Americans from purchasing "weapons of war."

"When you say assault weapon, what exactly do you mean?" Politico reporter Sarah Wheaton asked Earnest.

"Well, these are weapons of war," Earnest said. "There was an assault weapons ban that was in place in the '90s that lapsed during the term of the previous president, and the president believes that that ban on assault weapons should be reinstated."

The 1994 federal assault weapons law banned certain semiautomatic weapons and set a limit on high-capacity magazines, according to the Wall Street Journal. It was not renewed in 2004 by the Republican-controlled Congress.

"The AR-15 is a pretty popular weapon, and it was tweaked in response to the assault weapons ban, so conceivably, with that ban this gun would still be out there ... What types of features would you want, would the president want banned in an assault weapons ban?" Wheaton asked.

"The president feels strongly—I will acknowledge that the technology behind some of these firearms and the way that they comport with certain aspects of certain pieces of legislation is complicated," Earnest said. "I'm certainly not an expert in them. But there'd previously been an assault weapons ban in place that took weapons of war off our streets. Certainly did not allow an individual to walk into a gun store and walk out that same day with a weapon of war, with a weapon that belongs on the battlefield."

Earnest reiterated Obama strongly supported that kind of legislation.

"I think the Congress would succeed in passing that if it weren't for Republicans who are blocking it," he said.

Earnest bristled when Wheaton mentioned that he was "demonizing" the popular AR-15 while trying to get that kind of gun control legislation through Congress.

"Well, again, I don't know that I'm demonizing it and I'm not sure that it's the most popular gun," he said, moving onto another reporter.