Obama Discusses Gun Violence With Law Enforcement Leaders

President Barack Obama met this morning with Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey and a dozen of his fellow police chiefs and sheriffs:

  • Police Chief Daniel Oates, Aurora, CO (scene of 2012 movie theatre shooting) seated two to Obama’s right,  
  • Police Chief Michael Kehoe, Newtown, CT (scene of 2012 Elementary School shooting) seated next to Biden,
  • Police Chief J. Thomas Manger, Montgomery County, MD (scene of many of the 2002 Beltway sniper attacks),
  • Police Chief Robert Villaseñor, Tucson, AZ (scene of 2011 attack on Rep. Gabby Giffords),
  • Police Chief Chris Burbank, Salt Lake City, UT (scene of the 2007 Trolley Square shooting),
  • Police Chief Janeé Harteau, Minneapolis, MN (scene of the 2012 Accent Signage Systems shooting),
  • Sheriff Douglas Gillespie, Las Vegas, NV (scene of the 2010 Federal Courthouse shooting),
  • Police Chief John Edwards, Oak Creek, WI (scene of the 2012 Sikh Temple shooting),
  • Sheriff Richard Stanek, Hennepin County, MN (scene of the 2003 Court Tower shooting),
  • Superintendent Garry McCarthy, Chicago, IL,
  • Sheriff Paul Fitzgerald from Story County, IA, and
  • Sheriff Larry Amerson from Calhoun County, AL

They discussed gun violence prevention in the White House’s Roosevelt Room, along with Vice President Joe Biden, Attorney General Eric Holder, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Biden’s chief of staff Bruce Reed.

Obama spoke for roughly three minutes about the importance of hearing from law enforcement leaders on the issue of gun violence and what communities across the country need from the federal government in order to curb the number of mass shootings throughout the the country.

Mr. Obama thanked the police chiefs and sheriffs for coming to the White House today and recalled the executive actions he took earlier this month, as well as his legislative goals, and called on Congress to work with the administration to pass them.

Transcript follows the jump.

Vice President Biden and I just want to thank the police chiefs and sheriffs who are here today representing law enforcement officials all across the country who obviously share our deep concern about issues of gun safety and how we can protect our communities and keep our kids safe.

A couple of weeks ago, I appeared along with Joe to present the administration’s ideas in terms of steps that we have to take. And I issued a number of executive actions that should be taken unilaterally in order to improve our collection of data to make sure that we’re coordinating more effectively with state and local governments, and to do everything that we could to improve the issue of gun safety and to make our communities safer.

But, as we’ve indicated before, the only way that we’re going to be able to do everything that needs to be done is with the cooperation of Congress. And that means passing serious laws that restrict the access and availability of assault weapons and magazine clips that aren’t necessary for hunters and sportsmen and those responsible gun owners who are out there. It means that we are serious about universal background checks. It means that we take seriously issues mental health and school safety.

We recognize that this is an issue that elicits a lot of passion all across the country. And Joe and my Cabinet members who have been involved in this have been on a listening session over the last several months. No group is more important for us to listen to than our law enforcement officials. They are where the rubber hits the road.

And so I welcome this opportunity to work with them; to hear their views in terms of what will make the biggest difference to prevent something like Newtown or Oak Creek from happening again. But many of them also recognize that it’s not only the high-profile mass shootings that are of concern here, it’s also what happens on a day-in-day-out basis in places like Chicago or Philadelphia, where young people are victims of gun violence every single day. That’s why part of the conversation that we’re going to be having today relates not only to the issue of new laws or better enforcement of our gun laws, it also means what are we doing to make sure that we’ve got the strongest possible law enforcement teams on the ground? What are we doing to hire more cops? What are we doing to make sure that they’re getting the training that they need? What are we doing to make sure our sheriff’s offices in rural counties have access to some of the resources that some of the big cities do in order to deal with some of these emergencies?

So I’m looking forward to a robust conversation. I know that this is not a shy group, mainly because they’re dealing with life-and-death situations every single day. But I’m very grateful to them for their participation. This is a representative group. It comes from a wide cross-section of communities across the country. And hopefully, if law enforcement officials who are dealing with this stuff every single day can come to some basic consensus in terms of steps that we need to take, Congress is going to be paying attention to them and we’ll be able to make progress.

More Foreign Policy Change Feared Following Lugar’s Loss

Senator Richard Lugar

Primary Election Defeat for Senator Richard Lugar

Although he was not considered to be one of Israel’s most outspoken supporters on Capitol Hill the defeat of Sen. Richard Lugar in the recent primary election has left many among the pro-Israel lobbyists concerned that there may be losing some key supporters in Congress.

More after the jump.

Shock Defeat

After 35 years in office the defeat comes as somewhat of a shock for the Republican senator. In that time Lugar has developed a reputation for independent thinking and many regard his exit as a door closing on that singular form of politics.

Consistent Support

During his time in office, and in his capacity as the top Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, Lugar consistently supported the campaign for defence assistance for Israel. It is also worth noting that, during the 1980s, he led the calls for freedom for Soviet Jews.

Maverick Brand of Politics

His maverick brand of politics meant that he had divided loyalties with regard to Middle East policy. Although he supported the pro-Israel stance he also pursued a more proactive approach to the brokering of peace in the Middle East by the US. His views on this issue stood at odds with many among the pro-Israel lobby. He was also in favour of cautious progress with sanctions on Iran.

Tea Party Candidate

With the prospect of Lugar being removed by a Tea Party candidate the pro Israel groups came to his aid with financial backing, giving his campaign the logistical a monetary support he requested. Unfortunately it was not enough to carry the campaign. The reasons that the Israel advocates offered for extending their support to Luger were that he was seen as the type of lawmaker who could benefit the cause and that his ability to ‘reach across the aisle’ meant that he was at least able to listen to both sides of the argument.

Loss for Foreign Policy

Counterterrorism consultant Mike Kraft, who, during the 70s and 80s, was a staffer on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, offers a commonly held opinion on Luger. He says “Lugar wasn’t actively pro-Israel, but he wasn’t anti either.”  He considers the senators defeat a loss, not just for the pro-Israel group, but on foreign policy in general. He added, “but generally losing a good, balanced, thoughtful guy on foreign policy is a real tragedy." Kraft considers the loss a blow to the system as a whole. He added, "It weakens the American political system.”

Support from NORPAC

New Jersey based pro-Israel action group, NORPAC , contributed $20,000 to Lugar’s campaign, the most sizable donation made to any individual candidate in this cycle of elections. The reasons they outlined were because Lugar had come to them and requested the support. Ben Chouake, the group’s president explained, “We sent extra money to Lugar because he called and asked.”

Referring to the 80yo candidate’s reputation Chouake accepted that he was not the most pro-Israel congressman, but had the kind of integrity which meant that he could not be easily influenced in other directions. He stated of the support, “Sometimes you have to back someone because of who a person is.” During the campaign Lugar also received financial backing from supporters of Israel at events in New York and Indiana.

Hard Working and Diplomatic

There is no doubt that Lugar also had a reputation for being a very industrious politician and even at his age he was not the kind of candidate that required an invitation to get off the sofa and into the office. Over the course of his career he had particularly developed a reputation for managing to get Republicans and Democrats to work together.

Inevitable Defeat

Defeat in the end was inevitable and the result in the May 8th primary was by a considerable margin. Lugar lost the seat to Indiana’s state treasurer Richard Mourdock by a resounding 61%-39%. Consequently Mourdock will stand against Republican Joe Donnelly in the general election.

Mourdock offers a much harder line and the premise of his campaign was an opposition to compromise. During a Fox News interview Mourdock summarised his point of view by stating, “I have a mind-set that says bipartisanship ought to consist of Democrats coming to the Republican point of view.”

Location May Have Been an Issue

There are those who think that the defeat was a direct result of Lugar’s vulnerability caused by where he has chosen to live. The senator had chosen not to remain in his home for the past three decades. It is this point which ultimately may have ultimately contributed to his political demise. Republican Jewish Coalition’s executive director, Matthew Brooks, summarised this issue by stating, “No matter how long you've been in office, politics starts at home — and maybe it would be a good idea to have a home in the state.”