White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Monday repeatedly deflected reporters’ questions about gun control, saying “there will certainly be a time for that policy discussion to take place, but that’s not the place that we’re in at this moment.”
During the same media briefing, however, Sanders weighed in on the exact “policy discussion” that she said the White House would not engage in on “a day of mourning.”
“I think one of the things that we don’t want to do is try to create laws that won’t create — or stop these types of things from happening,” Sanders said. “I think if you look to Chicago, where you had over 4,000 victims of gun-related crimes last year, they have the strictest gun laws in the country. That certainly hasn’t helped there. So, I think we have to, when that time comes for those conversations to take place, then I think we have to look at things that may actually have a real impact.”
This is the White House not talking about gun control.
As fact checkers have consistently pointed out, the claim that Chicago has “the strictest gun laws in the country” — one that Trump himself used in a presidential debate last fall — is outdated and has not been true since 2013. It is true, however, that the city’s gun-control regulations remain among the strictest in the nation, yet there were 4,368 shooting victims in Chicago last year, and there have been 2,877 this year.
Later, Sanders responded to Hillary Clinton’s suggestion that a House bill that would ease restrictions on gun silencers could make attacks like the one Stephen Paddock carried out in Las Vegas even more deadly by dampening an audible cue that alerts potential targets.
“I haven’t spoken with the president about that specific issue, but I don’t think that that is something that would have changed” the outcome, Sanders said. (An expert The Washington Post’s Philip Bump consulted suggests Sanders is probably right on this point.)
“Again, I think before we start trying to talk about the preventions of what took place last night we need to know more facts,” Sanders continued. “And right now, we’re simply not at that point. It’s very easy for Mrs. Clinton to criticize and to come out, but I think we need to remember the only person with blood on their hands is that of the shooter.”
During the briefing, NBC’s Hallie Jackson noted that “after the Orlando shooting, the president that day was out on Twitter talking about policy; he was talking about his travel ban.”
Jackson was right: It is hard for the White House to say the immediate aftermath of a mass shooting is not the time to talk about policy because of the precedent set by Trump.
Apparently it also is hard for Trump’s team to resist talking about policy, even when it insists that “today is a day for consoling the survivors and mourning those we lost.”
There is nothing inherently wrong with Sanders stating the president’s positions on gun control. Democrats are certainly declaring their own. But the idea that the White House refuses to discuss the issue so soon after tragedy does not match reality.