White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Tuesday that President Barack Obama is “always” looking for opportunities to act “unilaterally” again on guns, though he would prefer to work with Congress.
“The president’s goal is to look for opportunities to act administratively, unilaterally using his executive authority to try to make our communities safer,” Earnest said, responding to a question the day that a gunman opened fire at an Oregon high school, killing one student and injuring a teacher. “We’re always looking for those opportunities. But none of those opportunities when they present themselves is going to be an acceptable substitute for robust legislative action.”
Police said the shooter at Reynolds High School in Troutdale, Oregon, was later found dead.
After the December 2012 massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, Obama took 23 executive actions to restrict guns. However, an Obama-backed bill for stronger background checks for gun purchases could not even get enough support to pass the Democratic-controlled Senate.
Obama participated in a Tumblr question and answer session from the White House Tuesday. The question came from a student at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where a campus shooting occurred.
The president said that more executive actions would not be enough.
“If public opinion does not demand change in Congress, it will not change,” Obama said. “We don’t have enough tools right now to make as big a dent as we need to.”
Obama went on to say, “Now it’s hard to get even the most minor legislation passed and we should be ashamed.”
“Most members of Congress, I have to say to some degree this is bipartisan, terrified of the NRA,” Obama said, referring to the nation’s largest Second Amendment advocacy group.
During the press briefing, Earnest said Congress should work to prevent future shootings.
“There’s no doubt there has been an alarming frequency of tragic incidents of gun violence that are concerning to Democrats and Republicans in Washington but more importantly to people all across the country,” Earnest said.
“The question I think really facing lawmakers right now is what common sense steps can Democrats and Republicans take to reduce the likelihood of gun violence,” Earnest continued. “And there are some, and they have unfortunately been bottled up in Congress and that is a disappointment to the president. But that’s not going to stop the president from continuing to push for administrative steps that we can take to help reduce gun violence.”
(This story has been updated.)