A coalition of pro gun-control groups met with Obama administration officials at the Justice Department Tuesday to discuss ways to prevent gun violence.
The meeting at DOJ headquarters, the first in a series of meetings the administration is trying to schedule to address the issue, was led by Christopher H. Schroeder, Assistant Attorney General for DOJ’s Office of Legal Policy. Representatives of the White House, the Vice President’s office, the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) were also in attendance.
Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Campaign on Gun Violence, told TPM that the government representatives didn’t tip their cap for what direction they planned on taking to combat gun violence.
“We asked a lot of questions, and they indicated they don’t have any particular policies that they’re pushing or any particular legislation that they’re pushing, right now they’re basically out gathering pieces of information,” Helmke said.
The White House had invited the National Rifle Association (NRA) to the meeting, but NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre told the New York Times that he didn’t see a reason to “go sit down with a group of people that have spent a lifetime trying to destroy the Second Amendment in the United States.”
In a letter to President Barack Obama, LaPierre and NRA Executive Director Chris Cox wrote that for Obama “to focus a national dialogue on guns - and not criminals or mental health issues - misses the point entirely”. The said gun laws aren’t the problem.
The Huffington Post’s Sam Stein reported that administration officials are exploring potential changes to gun laws which can be secured through executive action alone. Wrote Stein:
Before the meeting, officials said part of the discussion was expected to center around the White House’s options for shaping policy on its own or through its adjoining agencies and departments — on issues ranging from beefing up background checks to encouraging better data-sharing.
A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment, saying he didn’t want to provide a “running commentary on how the meetings are going,” but said they might have more to say once the series of meetings have concluded.
The Brady Campaign previously gave the Obama administration a failing grade for failing to address gun violence, but Helmke said he’s hopeful that the meeting will lead to a substantive discussion on the issue.
“The fact that they’re spending this much time on the issue is very positive. I was very happy with the White House’s op-ed… and then to follow up so quickly with this kind of meeting, with this investment in staff time, I think shows that they’re serious in looking for ideas and doing something about it,” Helmke said.