White House press secretary Jen Psaki on April 16 again called on Congress to strengthen background checks and called gun violence a public health crisis.
- To follow up on the issue of guns, by some measures, this is at least the third mass shooting of this president's young administration. He has described this as an epidemic of gun violence in this country. And we've seen, in terms of the response to COVID-19, what an all of government response from this administration looks like to a pandemic. Why not the same level of response to this ongoing issue of gun violence, the appointing of a senior czar, for instance, beyond just the efforts that are being made on legislation?
JEN PSAKI: Well, first, let me say, or reiterate, as you said and the president has said, he believes gun violence is an epidemic. It's a public health crisis. It's destroying communities across the country. He's also been working on this issue for decades. And if he were standing here-- and I know there's a press conference later today, and you all may ask him about this-- he would tell you that we can't give up just because it's hard, just because the politics are perplexing, which they are, given more than 80% of the public supports universal background checks, and yet the Senate has not moved forward, and because bills aren't sailing forward and we need to keep at it.
And so I would say the way he approaches this is one where he has used the levers of his presidency put in place. Already announced last week executive action, steps that the Department of Justice is going to take. We will continue to review additional options. Those are steps he can take. In order to put permanent changes in place, in order to put permanent gun safety measures in place, that is going to require Congress acting.
States can also take action. We've seen red flag laws put in place in 19 states across the country. More states than that have universal background checks. He also believes that working with advocates, many of whom he invited here last week to have those discussions, encourage them, lift up their efforts, is part of how we can move things forward.
I will tell you that this is a priority to him. It's a priority to the vice president. It's a priority to Susan Rice, who's leading the Domestic Policy Council, to Bruce Reed, who is a deputy chief of staff, to Ron Klain, who's the chief of staff and is from Indianapolis. And this is a constant discussion and issue around this White House. So it's not going to require a czar. It is ultimately a priority to the president of the United States, which is the most important fact.