A group of gun control advocates gathered outside the White House Friday afternoon to protest in part Press Secretary Jay Carney’s statement that “today is not the day” to talk about new legislation aimed at preventing tragedies like the one that happened at a Newtown, Conn. elementary school earlier in the day.
But even as they begged President Obama and lawmakers for action, they ended up sounding a lot like Carney.
Organizers of the protest, made up of gun control advocates from across the country who were already in DC for another meeting on the day of the shooting, offered impassioned pleas for action from Obama. One even called on him to present a plan to curb violence by his next State Of The Union address. But they declined to offer specifics on what Obama or Congress should do, exactly.
“What I want is for the president to sit down with leaders in Congress and say, ‘OK, we’re losing 86 people [per day]. These horrific shootings are happening way too often. What are we going to do as policymakers?’” Andy Pelosi, a gun control advocate who said he lives “15 minutes” from the Newtown school. “We don’t want to wait for tomorrow or the next day. Today’s the day.”
(The 86 number comes from dividing the more than 200,000 people gun control advocates say have been killed by guns in America since 9/11 by the number of days since the terrorist attack.)
Pressed, Pelosi declined to offer specific reforms, saying it was too early into the Newtown investigation to figure out what legal changes could have prevented the attack.
“What’s happened today is that a number of young people were killed in a school as well as teachers,” he said. “We don’t know all the details about what types of guns were used, how they got the guns. I would just be speculating and I’m not prepared to talk about that.”
At the daily White House briefing Friday, Carney said that renewing the assault weapons ban “does remain a commitment” for Obama. But he declined to get into a policy debate with White House reporters while details of the Newtown shooting were still coming in.
“What I said is that today is not the day to — I believe, as a father, a day to engage in the usual Washington policies debates,” Carney said, according to the White House transcript of the briefing. “I think that that day will come, but today is not that day, especially as we are awaiting more information about the situation in Connecticut.”
Pelosi and other protesters at the White House event expressed a general outrage that talk of gun control has largely been banished from the halls of DC. Obama has spoken of reinstating the assault weapons ban and has said his administration has improved gun purchase background checks, but has repeatedly said new legislation on the divided Capitol Hill is a nonstarter.
In a statement reacting to the Newtown shooting Friday, Obama called on Washington “to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics.”
The protesters said the Newtown shooting should bring the Capitol Hill impasse to an end, and they called on Obama to make that happen. But they declined to say what they want him to do specifically. But they said Obama’s words were “not enough.”
Rev. Michael McBride, a pastor from Oakland and member of the grassroots PICO Network , led the protest in front of the White House and called on Obama to “by the State Of The Union Address, please lay out a plan of action of how we may address this scourge of gun violence.”
After the protest, he said it was time for a “bold, courageous outline strategy that can end this scourge of gun violence in this country.”
But he told TPM it wasn’t the right time to expand on what that plan should entail.
“Not today,” he said. “We don’t want to get into any specifics about a plan. We just want our president to provide us with leadership. We can talk about specifics at a later date.”
“I don’t want this to turn into a politicized event,” McBride said, with the White House behind him. “We just want leadership and we want action.”