On Target: RCP’s Wegmann Comes Armed With Tough Gun Questions for Psaki

Political News

Moments after President Joe Biden gave a lie-filled speech about gun control, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki held Thursday’s briefing with a room dominated by journalists supportive of the administration’s desire to harm millions of law-abiding gun owners. 

In contrast, Real Clear Politics’s Philip Wegmann repeatedly pressed Psaki on one of Biden’s key claims, the reasoning beyond Thursday’s orders, and whether they considered the impact a limit on stabilizing braces would affect those that already own them.

Wegmann began with a basic question: “I’m wondering, does the administration have data on how many crimes have been committed with these ghost guns that your team could share?”

Psaki predictably demurred, saying she would be “sure we can get you some data” and “experts” they had at the White House to support their gun control measures “could share” data “with you as well.”

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Wegmann moved to fact-checking Biden’s false claim about there being no background checks at gun shows, but instead of addressing his question or even doubling down on the lie, Psaki muddied the waters by acting as though she didn’t understand his question (click “expand”):

WEGMANN: Then following up the President said a moment ago, “You go to a gun show, you can buy whatever you want, no background check.” Is there a special exemption in federal law that he was referring to, or just do FLA dealers not have to do background checks when they’re at a gun show

PSAKI: Are you asking me if he was referring — [INAUDIBLE WEGMANN] — No. It’s okay. Were you asking me if he was referring to a specific circumstance or? I’m sorry, just tell me a little bit more about you question.

WEGMANN: Yeah, I mean, is it the President’s belief that you do not have to undergo a background check when you are at a gun show?

PSAKI: No, it’s not his belief. He believes that background checks should be universal.

WEGMANN: Right. But he says no background check.

PSAKI: Well, we know what his position is, right? So let me reiterate that, which is that background checks are something that should be universal. They’re supported by more than 80 percent of the public. He supported legislation, advocated for that and advocated against loopholes as well, so that’s his position and I appreciate you asking for the clarification.

With time not on his side, Wegmann wrapped with the issue of these stabilizing braces, which do nothing to make a firearm more deadly or hold additional rounds.

He wanted to know what the White House’s “message” was to “law-abiding folks who bought these and who weren’t criminals, according to the Congressional Research Service, there’s something like 40 million currently in circulation.”

“What should the law abiding American do as they await that regulation? I mean, should they expect buybacks or should they be prepared to turn those in? Or is this a confiscation situation,” added Wegmann.

Here again, Psaki didn’t offer an answer besides saying they’re not “suggesting” any of those things instead and that Americans should accept the measures as a way to “make the country safer and make communities safer.”

CNN’s Kaitlan Collins surprisingly broke free from the Zucker Borg and offered not one but two excellent questions about how exactly does the administration expect the ban on ghost guns to be enforced. Of course, Psaki didn’t have an actual answer.

Unfortunately, that was it in terms of difficult gun questions as many of the others on the topic were questions from the left (click “expand”):

ZEKE MILLER [AP]: So on the President’s gun announcement, he announced that he’s going to ask Congress to take action to repeal gun manufacturer liability protections. That had been a day one priority of his. When should we expect to see that text sent to the Hill? And, you know, if it was a priority, if it is as big a priority as he said it was for him just a few minutes ago, you know, why — why — how much effort is the President willing to put into gun control right now, when so much of the administration’s focus right now is on the infrastructure plan?

(….)

MILLER: A couple of weeks ago, at his press conference, President sort of said sequencing is important here, but essentially acknowledging that maybe the President can walk and chew gum. Maybe Congress can’t, and the President decided to put infrastructure before gun control, before climate change, before some of these other issues. Why is — why are guns now going before infrastructure?

(….)

MARY BRUCE [ABC]: Following up on Zeke’s question on the manufacturer liability bill, the President just said that if God granted him one item on his to do list, it would be to get this done, to make it so the gun manufacturers can be held liable. It is something he promised on day one. It is day 78. What’s the hold up here?

(….)

BRUCE: But the President promised to send his own plan. Yeah, it’s clear that you’re waiting to see how this works its way through Congress, but why not put out your own bill, lead the charge on this?

(….)

BRUCE: The President did suggest recently that, you know, tackling this as a long-term issue, as he put it. Given the recent shootings, does he still see it that way? Does he still see this as a long-term issue?

(….)

BRUCE: The President does actually have here the list of all the promises that he made during the campaign of gun actions that he wanted to take. Obviously, you’re doing what you think you can unilaterally, waiting for these measures to work its way through Congress. Does the President feel that he’s doing everything he can to meet the scope of these commitments right now?

(….)

ANNE GEARAN [The Washington Post]: Yeah, just back on the gun maker liability issue again, at the risk of flogging a dead horse. I’m just wondering if you can explain what changed between when as a candidate Biden said that he would send legislation himself on day one to now day 70, whatever it is, when your position is that Congress should do this on its own. Is that right?  What — what happened?

Outside of guns, McClatchy’s Francesca Chambers was effective in questioning both Psaki on cruise lines resuming trips and Florida’s lawsuit against the CDC and, earlier in the briefing, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm on energy workers.

To see those exchanges (as well as the full Wegmann-Psaki exchange), click “expand.”

White House Press Briefing
April 8, 2021
12:58 p.m. Eastern

FRANCESCA CHAMBERS: What do you say to Americans working in the oil and gas industry in California and elsewhere who say that these have been good paying jobs that have given them access to the middle class? And what, if anything, can the federal government do to ensure that these clean energy jobs like the ones that you described are as good as the ones that they’ll be replacing?

ENERGY SECRETARY JENNIFER GRANHOLM: This is a great question. And this is why the American Jobs Plan is very specifically targeting communities in coal and power plant areas in gas and natural gas. There are billions of dollars in this bill for the technologies that will reduce CO2 emissions in those — in those industries. For example, carbon capture use and sequestration. I don’t mean to get too technical, but hydrogen deployment and demonstration projects. I’ve been talking with my counterparts around the world. There is a huge appetite for a partnership with America on these next generation technologies that will reduce CO2 emissions from that kind of baseline power. Those jobs in those kinds of technologies are good paying jobs. Those jobs that are going to be for welders and sheet metal workers and all of the trades. And we’re going to, as we put out funding opportunities, ensure that there are project labor agreements that the people who are working in them are paid, under Davis-Bacon, are paid prevailing wage. So we want to create good paying jobs all across the country. And there will be millions of them if this is passed. The opportunities, this is why we’ve been having a huge number of discussions with our brothers and sisters in the labor movement, in the building trades, to make sure that we do this in a way that gives their workers opportunity and it will and that’s why they’re supportive of it.

(….)

1:22 p.m. Eastern

CHAMBERS: Florida Governor Ron DeSantis announced a lawsuit today against the CDC and the federal government demanding that cruise liners be able to operate again. And Florida’s attorney general said the suit was filed this morning against those entities and HHS pushing to have the government’s conditional sale order declared unlawful. Does the White House have a response to Florida’s lawsuit?

PSAKI: We don’t have a direct response to a lawsuit nor a comment on a specific legal action. But I will just reiterate that the CDC guidance is based on data and health and medical guidelines hence that’s why they put it out and why they regularly update it.

CHAMBERS: Well, the President has set forth July 4th as the date he’d like to see Americans who are vaccinated to be able to gather in small groups. At the same time, the CDC said last week that there’s a low risk for vaccinated Americans who travel. So does the President think it’s an appropriate timeline of July 4th? That’s what the cruise industry, specifically Norwegian Travel is asking for, is a July 4th date here.

PSAKI: We would defer to the CDC on any updated guidelines, but I don’t anticipate that. But I would defer to them on any expectation they have of changing those guidelines. Again, they base them on health and medical experts who work at the CDC. They base them on data. The President’s announcement on July 4th has nothing to do with cruise lines as you know, it has to do with incentivizing, encouraging Americans to get access to the vaccine when they can get vaccinated. As we know, by the end of May, we will have enough vaccine supply to ensure every adult American can be vaccinated. So that’s more about gatherings, small gatherings in your backyards, which is quite different from cruises of course.

CHAMBERS: Well, the only reason I brought her July 4th is because that’s the date that Norwegian Cruise Line is asking for them to be able to allow vaccinated individuals to be able to cruise. So that’s where the July 4th date comes from. But also more broadly speaking, they’re asking in this industry for them to be able to be treated the same way that planes and airlines are able to be treated. So is there any specific concern that the White House has about allowing people who’ve been vaccinated to be able to resume?

PSAKI: Again, we rely on the guidance of the CDC, health and medical experts. There’s a return to science in this administration. They have guidelines they’ve put out on cruise lines. If they decide to update them, that is their prerogative to do, but that’s not a decision made by the White House.

(….)

1:30 p.m. Eastern

PHILIP WEGMANN: A couple of questions on the President’s gun safety executive orders. I’m wondering, does the administration have data on how many crimes have been committed with these ghost guns that your team could share?

PSAKI: I’m sure we can get you some data. Sure. And I bet you a range of the experts who are joining us here today have a bunch of data and — that they could share with you as well, even maybe on their websites.

WEGMANN: Very good. Alright. Then following up the President said a moment ago, “You go to a gun show, you can buy whatever you want, no background check.” Is there a special exemption in federal law that he was referring to, or just do FLA dealers not have to do background checks when they’re at a gun show?

PSAKI: Are you asking me if he was referring — [INAUDIBLE WEGMANN] — No. It’s okay. Were you asking me if he was referring to a specific circumstance or? I’m sorry, just tell me a little bit more about you question.

WEGMANN: Yeah, I mean, is it the President’s belief that you do not have to undergo a background check when you are at a gun show?

PSAKI: No, it’s not his belief. He believes that background checks should be universal.

WEGMANN: Right. But he says no background check.

PSAKI: Well, we know what his position is, right? So let me reiterate that, which is that background checks are something that should be universal. They’re supported by more than 80 percent of the public. He supported legislation, advocated for that and advocated against loopholes as well, so that’s his position and I appreciate you asking for the clarification. Go ahead.

WEGMANN: One more here. I know the DOJ is working on this regulation.

PSAKI: Sure.

WEGMANN: And then we’re going to have to wait. But with regards to the stabilizing braces, what’s the message to people who earlier on before this was an issue, law abiding folks who bought these and who weren’t criminals, according to the Congressional Research Service, there’s something like 40 million currently in circulation. What should the law abiding American do as they await that regulation? I mean, should they expect buybacks or should they be prepared to turn those in? Or is this a confiscation situation?

PSAKI: I don’t think that’s what we’re suggesting. There’s obviously going to be some time to put in place this regulation, as you refer to and take a close look at the most effective way to do that. And what the effort here is that’s under way is to put in place measures that make the country safer and make communities safer and obviously, there are impacts. We — every step that he announced today, we believe would do exactly that.

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