Sen. Chuck Schumer challenges the NRA to support President Obama’s call for 200 more ATF agents in the battle to enforce gun control.
The NRA “should put its money where its mouth is” and get behind President Obama’s push for existing gun control laws to be enforced, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) demanded Sunday.
“The NRA has uttered the phrase, ‘enforce the gun laws on the books,’ so many times that for them to oppose the hiring of sorely needed ATF agents would be like shooting their own stance in the foot,” Schumer said at a Manhattan press conference.
“If they mean what they say, then it makes no sense for the NRA to oppose additional ATF agents,” he added. “These brave men and women help make sure our gun laws are being properly followed. In fact, ATF hiring, which allows us to enforce current laws, is one of the quickest, cheapest and fairest ways we can make progress on the NRA’s stated policy goal.”
“I am publicly calling the NRA out. If they really stand for enforcing the laws on the books, they should be in support of the President’s call for additional ATF agents,” he said.
Schumer’s announcement came less than a week after Obama announced a slew of executive actions to curb gun violence in the U.S., including the funding of extra ATF agents and closing certain background check “loopholes.”
The New York Democrat admitted that many of the actions, like requiring background checks for guns bought from dealers online and at gun shows, were never likely to get support from Republicans or gun enthusiasts.
But, Schumer said, the hiring of an additional 200 ATF agents to help enforce existing laws, a significant piece of the announced actions, aligns exactly with the only action the NRA, and Second Amendment-loving pols, have ever stated they were willing to support.
“It’s time for the NRA to put its money where its mouth is,” Schumer declared.
And if the NRA opposes increased ATF staffing levels, as many predict they will?
“It’s blatant hypocrisy,” Schumer told The News in a separate interview. “It means they’re not for any laws at all.”
“It’s cynical, it’s deceitful,” he added. “It will expose them as hypocrites.”
“Don’t ever say you wanted the existing laws enforced,” Schumer added, directing his comments at the group. “You can’t just have the words, you need the actions. And the agents are the action.”
President Obama speaks in the East Room of the White House in Washington on Jan. 5 about steps his administration is taking to reduce gun violence.
Agents for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) are charged with helping to enforce the gun background check system and the monitoring of, and in some cases, shutting down of, law-breaking gun dealers.
The agency, however, has, for years, been staffed well below levels necessary to enforce the gun laws currently on the books, due to an array of actions taken by congressional Republicans to withhold funding and stall critical personnel appointments.
“The NRA is well aware of the troubling fact that without a bare minimum number of ATF agents, gun violence is only going to be harder to stop,” Schumer said.
Despite the modest measures announced by Obama, which also included the hiring of 230 additional ATF staff to process background checks, a proposed $500 million investment to increase access to mental health care across the U.S., and a comprehensive upgrade to existing technology designed to help federal officials track stolen weapons, Schumer said the actions will have an impact.
“I think he’s going to make this campaign (the 2016 race) a crusade for the issue,” Schumer said. “But what he’s doing right now by executive action is being careful, and that’s justified.”
Sen. Schumer said he is “publicly calling the NRA out” and demanding they support the President’s call for additional ATF agents.
The actions have predictably generated a firestorm of criticism from gun-rights advocates, including all of the 2016 Republican candidates, many of whom weighed on the topic once again on Sunday.
“If he could, he would,” Florida Sen. Marco Rubio said on ABC’s “This Week” when asked if he felt Obama wanted to “take away Americans’ guns.”
“There’s a terrorist attack in San Bernardino; before even the facts are known, he immediately jumps and says, we need gun control,” Rubio said. “That is what he always resorts to. He knows he’s contained by the Second Amendment so what he tries to do is chip away at it every chance he gets.”
Chris Christie, meanwhile, repeated an oft-uttered line, calling Obama a “petulant child” for his executive actions.
“Dictatorship is not leadership and he’s acting like a dictator and a petulant child,” Christie said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”
“His policies have been rejected by the American people, but he doesn’t want to hear that,” he said.