President Barack Obama held a CNN town hall meeting in George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, and he was confronted by a Republican sheriff from Arizona who is seeking office.
Arizona Sheriff Paul Babeu, who is known for his anti-immigration stance and is seeking the Republican nomination for Arizona’s 1st District seat in Congress, went after Obama on gun control.
At one point before the exchange, Obama said, “You sure you want to go to Congress?”
Amid laughter, Babeu responded, “I don’t want your endorsement!”
“I’m sure that’s true,” Obama added.
He specifically challenged Obama to identify exactly what shooting his recent executive actions would have prevented.
Here’s the transcript, per Media Matters:
SHERIFF PAUL BABEU: Mr. President, you’ve said you’ve been thwarted by, frustrated by Congress. As a sheriff, I often times get frustrated, but I don’t make the laws and I’ve sworn an oath to enforce the law to uphold the Constitution. Same oath you’ve taken. And the talk, and why we’re here is all these mass shootings, and yet you’ve said in your executive action it wouldn’t have solved even one of these —
BARACK OBAMA: No, I didn’t say that.
BABEU: Well —
OBAMA: I didn’t say that it wouldn’t solve one.
BABEU: What would it have solved? Now, knowing —
ANDERSON COOPER (HOST): None of the recent mass shootings, I should point out, none of the guns were purchased from an unlicensed dealer.
BABEU: Correct. And that’s what I’m speaking to the executive action that you mentioned earlier. Aspirin, toys,or cars. They’re not written about in the Constitution. I want to know and I think all of us really want to get to the solution and you said don’t talk past each other. What would you have done to prevent these mass shootings and the terrorist attack, and how do we get those with mental illness and criminals, that’s the real problem here, how are we going to get them to follow the laws?
Obama added that “it’s really important for us not to suggest that if we can’t solve every crime we shouldn’t try to solve any crimes.”
“The problem when we talk about that guns kill people, people kill people. Or it’s primarily a mental health problem. Or it’s a criminal and evil problem. And that’s what we have to get at. All of us are interested in fighting crime. … That’s a huge priority to us,” Obama told Babeu.
“The challenge we have is that in many instances you don’t know ahead of time who is going to be the criminal. It’s not as if criminals walk around with a label that says, ‘I’m a criminal,'” Obama added. “And by the way, the young man who killed those kids in Newtown — he didn’t have a criminal record. … But he was able to have access to an arsenal that allowed him in very short order to kill a classroom of small children.”
Obama then added: “And so the question then becomes, are there ways for us, since we can’t identify that person all the time, are there ways for us to make it less lethal when something like that happens?”
CNN interviewed Babeu after the exchange, and he said he’s still waiting for an answer.
“We already know that all of these gun restrictions that have failed, we can’t ignore that information, and that’s what I was trying to get at with the president, that we have to look to solve these issues,” Babeu said on CNN’s “New Day” show.
Obama honed his answer on preventing criminals from getting guns in the first place, preventing children in cities from turning to a life of crime.
“What we do have to make sure of is that we don’t make it so easy for them to have access to deadly weapons,” Obama said.
Babeau said he wasn’t happy with how Obama responded.
“Clearly he didn’t answer that. When you’re looking at all these mass shootings, everyone, especially those of us in law enforcement have a passion to protect people and save lives, what are we going to do to stop these mass shootings?” Babeu told CNN.