President Obama’s spokesman said Thursday that the record number of Americans seeking to buy guns in recent weeks is “a tragedy” that the White House is at a loss to explain.
“The more that we see this kind of violence on our streets, the more people go out and buy guns,” said White House press secretary Josh Earnest. “That is both ironic and tragic.”
The FBI conducted 185,345 firearms background checks on Black Friday, the most ever during a single day. The record number of gun sales came two weeks after the Islamic State’s terrorist attacks in Paris, but before the terrorist massacre in San Bernardino, California.
Asked why he thinks so many Americans are buying guns, Mr. Earnest replied, “I don’t know, I really don’t.”
“In some cases these are individuals who believe that they need to buy a gun so that they can better protect themselves,” he said. “In some cases because it’s Black Friday, they probably are going and purchasing a gift for a friend or a loved one who is a gun enthusiast. I’m just pointing out that there are already an astonishing number of guns on the streets of America and far too many innocent Americans who are being killed by them.”
At a vigil this week for victims of the 2012 mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, presidential adviser Valerie Jarrett said Mr. Obama has ordered his aides to quickly finalize gun control recommendations for executive action. White House aides said the proposals will be aimed at keeping guns out of the hands of people with criminal records, likely meaning expanded background checks, and preventing people who are mentally ill from owning firearms.
Gun Owners for Gun Control, a progressive group, responded with praise to the news that Mr. Obama is readying executive action on background checks.
“We applaud President Obama for reportedly preparing to expand background checks on gun sales without waiting for Congress,” the group said in a statement. “As gun owners, we wholeheartedly support executive action to strengthen background checks as a necessary first step to address the epidemic of gun violence in America.”
Mr. Earnest said America “is awash in guns.”
“It’s tragic that in the immediate aftermath of a series of high profile mass shootings, that people feel like they have to go out and purchase a gun,” he said. “That ready access to guns and that proliferation of violent weapons of war has not led to fewer gun deaths. It’s tragic that even in the situation where we have lots of guns on the streets that lead to lots of innocent Americans being killed, that the response to that is that a whole lot more guns end up on the streets. That’s tragic and ironic.”
Mr. Obama has called on Congress to ban semiautomatic “assault” rifles and to ban people who are on the government’s “no-fly” terrorist watch list from purchasing guns. Mr. Earnest said Thursday that he isn’t aware of any perpetrators of mass shootings in the U.S. who were on the no-fly list.