The Debate Gun Question

I was a bit surprised that the issue of firearms even came up in the debate last night as I would have thought the Democrats wouldn’t want to touch it with a 10 foot pole. I wasn’t surprised by Obama’s answer but was pleased that Romney did try to bring up Operation Fast and Furious before being cut-off by CNN’s Chief hack Political Correspondent Candy Crowley though he didn’t push it far enough.

The questioner, identified as Nina E. Gonzalez, is probably this woman – Nina Fedirko-Gonzalez, Licensed Clinical Social Worker. The person on Facebook appears to be the same person as in the Media Matters’ picture from the debate. As far as I can tell, she is not a contributor to any candidate in state, local, or national elections. I checked the NY State campaign contribution database, OpenSecrets.org, and the Federal Elections Commission.

If you read the transcript below you will see that both candidates are relatively ignorant about firearms. Romney said automatic weapons are illegal which they aren’t and Obama conflated semi-auto weapons with cosmetic similarities into full-auto/select-fire military-grade firearms. The best I can say about it is that Obama come out in favor of a new AWB and Romney said we don’t need new laws as well as merely mentioned Operation Fast and Furious. As to Romney and gun bills in Massachusetts, here is what the Gun Owners Action League said about it in 2007.

QUESTION: President Obama, during the Democratic National Convention in
2008, you stated you wanted to keep AK-47s out of the hands of
criminals. What has your administration done or planned to do to limit
the availability of assault weapons?



OBAMA: We’re a nation that believes in the Second Amendment, and I
believe in the Second Amendment. We’ve got a long tradition of hunting
and sportsmen and people who want to make sure they can protect
themselves.



But there have been too many instances during the course of my
presidency, where I’ve had to comfort families who have lost somebody.
Most recently out in Aurora. You know, just a couple of weeks ago,
actually, probably about a month, I saw a mother, who I had met at the
bedside of her son, who had been shot in that theater.



And her son had been shot through the head. And we spent some time, and
we said a prayer and, remarkably, about two months later, this young man
and his mom showed up, and he looked unbelievable, good as new.



But there were a lot of families who didn’t have that good fortune and whose sons or daughters or husbands didn’t survive.



So my belief is that, (A), we have to enforce the laws we’ve already
got, make sure that we’re keeping guns out of the hands of criminals,
those who are mentally ill. We’ve done a much better job in terms of
background checks, but we’ve got more to do when it comes to
enforcement.



But I also share your belief that weapons that were designed for
soldiers in war theaters don’t belong on our streets. And so what I’m
trying to do is to get a broader conversation about how do we reduce the
violence generally. Part of it is seeing if we can get an assault
weapons ban reintroduced.
But part of it is also looking at other
sources of the violence. Because frankly, in my home town of Chicago,
there’s an awful lot of violence and they’re not using AK-47s. They’re
using cheap hand guns.



And so what can we do to intervene, to make sure that young people have
opportunity; that our schools are working; that if there’s violence on
the streets, that working with faith groups and law enforcement, we can
catch it before it gets out of control.



And so what I want is a — is a comprehensive strategy. Part of it is
seeing if we can get automatic weapons that kill folks in amazing
numbers out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill.
But part of
it is also going deeper and seeing if we can get into these communities
and making sure we catch violent impulses before they occur.



CROWLEY: Governor Romney, the question is about assault weapons, AK-47s.



ROMNEY: Yeah, I’m not in favor of new pieces of legislation on — on
guns and taking guns away or making certain guns illegal.
We, of course,
don’t want to have automatic weapons, and that’s already illegal in
this country to have automatic weapons.
What I believe is we have to do,
as the president mentioned towards the end of his remarks there, which
is to make enormous efforts to enforce the gun laws that we have, and to
change the culture of violence that we have.



And you ask how — how are we going to do that? And there are a number
of things. He mentioned good schools. I totally agree. We were able to
drive our schools to be number one in the nation in my state. And I
believe if we do a better job in education, we’ll — we’ll give people
the — the hope and opportunity they deserve and perhaps less violence
from that. But let me mention another thing. And that is parents. We
need moms and dads, helping to raise kids. Wherever possible the — the
benefit of having two parents in the home, and that’s not always
possible. A lot of great single moms, single dads. But gosh to tell our
kids that before they have babies, they ought to think about getting
married to someone, that’s a great idea.



Because if there’s a two parent family, the prospect of living in
poverty goes down dramatically. The opportunities that the child will —
will be able to achieve increase dramatically. So we can make changes
in the way our culture works to help bring people away from violence and
give them opportunity, and bring them in the American system. The —
the greatest failure we’ve had with regards to — to gun violence in
some respects is what — what is known as Fast and Furious. Which was a
program under this administration, and how it worked exactly I think we
don’t know precisely, where thousands of automatic, and AK-47 type
weapons were — were given to people that ultimately gave them to — to
drug lords.



They used those weapons against — against their own citizens and killed
Americans with them. And this was a — this was a program of the
government. For what purpose it was put in place, I can’t imagine. But
it’s one of the great tragedies related to violence in our society which
has occurred during this administration. Which I think the American
people would like to understand fully, it’s been investigated to a
degree, but — but the administration has carried out executive
privilege to prevent all of the information from coming out.



I’d like to understand who it was that did this, what the idea was
behind it, why it led to the violence, thousands of guns going to
Mexican drug lords.



OBAMA: Candy?



CROWLEY: Governor, Governor, if I could, the question was about these
assault weapons that once were once banned and are no longer banned.



I know that you signed an assault weapons ban when you were in
Massachusetts, obviously, with this question, you no longer do support
that. Why is that, given the kind of violence that we see sometimes with
these mass killings? Why is it that you have changed your mind?



ROMNEY: Well, Candy, actually, in my state, the pro-gun folks and the
anti-gun folks came together and put together a piece of legislation.
And it’s referred to as an assault weapon ban, but it had, at the
signing of the bill, both the pro-gun and the anti-gun people came
together, because it provided opportunities for both that both wanted.



There were hunting opportunities, for instance, that haven’t previously
been available and so forth, so it was a mutually agreed- upon piece of
legislation. That’s what we need more of, Candy. What we have right now
in Washington is a place that’s gridlocked.



CROWLEY: So I could — if you could get people to agree to it, you would be for it?



ROMNEY: We have —



OBAMA: Candy?



ROMNEY: — we haven’t had the leadership in Washington to work on a
bipartisan basis. I was able to do that in my state and bring these two
together.



CROWLEY: Quickly, Mr. President.



OBAMA: The — first of all, I think Governor Romney was for an assault
weapons ban before he was against it. And he said that the reason he
changed his mind was, in part, because he was seeking the endorsement of
the National Rifle Association. So that’s on the record.



But I think that one area we agree on is the important of parents and
the importance of schools, because I do believe that if our young people
have opportunity, then they are less likely to engage in these kinds of
violent acts. We’re not going to eliminate everybody who is mentally
disturbed and we have got to make sure they don’t get weapons.



OBAMA: because I do believe that if our young people have opportunity,
then they’re less likely to engage in these kind of violent acts.



We’re not going to eliminate everybody who is mentally disturbed, and
we’ve got to make sure they don’t get weapons. But we can make a
difference in terms ensuring that every young person in America,
regardless of where they come from, what they look like, have a chance
to succeed.



And, Candy, we haven’t had a chance to talk about education much, but I
think it is very important to understand that the reforms we’ve put in
place, working with 46 governors around the country, are seeing schools
that are some of the ones that are the toughest for kids starting to
succeed. We’re starting to see gains in math and science.



When it comes to community colleges, we are setting up programs,
including with Nassau Community College, to retrain workers, including
young people who may have dropped out of school but now are getting
another chance, training them for the jobs that exist right now.



And in fact, employers are looking for skilled workers. And so we’re
matching them up. Giving them access to higher education. As I said, we
have made sure that millions of young people are able to get an
education that they weren’t able to get before.



Now…



CROWLEY: Mr. President, I have to — I have to move you along here. You said you wanted to…



(CROSSTALK)



CROWLEY: We need to do it here.



OBAMA: But — but it’ll — it’ll — it’ll be…



(CROSSTALK)



OBAMA: … just one second.



CROWLEY: One…



OBAMA: Because — because this is important. This is part of the choice in this election.



When Governor Romney was asked whether teachers, hiring more teachers
was important to growing our economy, Governor Romney said that doesn’t
grow our economy.



When — when he was asked would class size…



(CROSSTALK)



CROWLEY: The question, Mr. President, was guns here, so I need to move us along.



OBAMA: I understand.



CROWLEY: You know, the question was guns. So let me — let me bring in another…



OBAMA: But this will make a difference in terms of whether or not we can move this economy forward for these young people…



CROWLEY: I understand.


OBAMA: … and reduce our violence.


CROWLEY: OK. Thank you so much.


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