House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said today that congressional Republicans are “looking at all of our options” to challenge President Obama’s executive actions on guns.
Obama unveiled the proposals in a tearful speech at the White House on Tuesday surrounded by family members of people killed in shootings.
The orders include expanding the definition of gun dealers to therefore expand required background checks, new spending on mental health programs, new ATF agents and easing access to mental health records during the background check process. The Social Security Administration is also crafting a rule to include information in the background check system about beneficiaries who are prohibited from possessing a firearm for mental health reasons.
Ryan was asked at a media availability on Capitol Hill if the GOP would sue to block the executive actions. He replied that “we will look at all of our options, but we will not take this distraction for more than it is, a distraction.”
“Look, first of all, if you are buying and selling guns, you have to have an FFL [federal firearms license], whether or not you do so at a gun show or anywhere else. There isn’t a loophole. This is a distraction. The president clearly does not respect the second amendment rights for law-abiding Americans,” Ryan said.
“I think it’d be nice if he would actually focus on defeating ISIS, on calling radical Islamic terrorism what it actually is instead of talking about how we can intimidate and frustrate the 2nd Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens.”
At the White House today, press secretary Josh Earnest called Ryan response “quite alarming.”
“I did note that, in his news conference today, he said there isn’t a loophole,” Earnest said. “So as confusing as his declaration about a distraction is, it’s a quite alarming reversal of opinion for him to say that the gun show loophole’s a reasonable issue, and it’s, quote, ‘obvious that it should be addressed,’ and now three years later, he’s denying that it even exists. So I guess there are a lot of questions that are raised by Mr. Ryan’s comments today.”
That refers to statements Ryan made to the editorial board of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel in January 2013: “I think we need to find out how to close these loopholes and do it in such a way that we don’t infringe upon people’s Second Amendment rights,” Ryan said then. “We had this issue, 2001, 1999 I think … when I first got into Congress. At the time I remember thinking, ‘You know, there is a loophole here. We should address that.'”
Of the relationship between Ryan and President Obama, Earnest said there’s still “an indication that there is an actual ability of the two leaders to work together.”
“But there’s no denying that there are significant differences on a range of policy issues, and you know, certainly a commitment to reducing gun violence would be one of them,” he added.
“But you know, Speaker Ryan, at the same time, has noted a couple of things. We need to more to enforce gun laws and we need to expand access to mental health care to address this problem. We agree and there will be an opportunity for Speaker Ryan to actually do what he says, and hopefully he will when it comes to those issues.”