The White House on Friday blasted new Speaker Mike Johnson’s (R-La.) suggestion that the “human heart” is to blame for mass shootings after a gunman in Maine killed 18 people this week.
“We absolutely reject the offensive accusation that gun crime is uniquely high in the United States because of Americans’ ‘hearts,'” deputy press secretary Andrew Bates said in a statement.
“Gun crime is uniquely high in the United States because congressional Republicans have spent decades choosing the gun industry’s lobbyists over the lives of innocent Americans,” Bates added. “Gun violence is now the main reason that American children’s hearts stop beating. Not cancer, not car accidents — gun violence.”
He said a root cause of gun violence is Republican lawmakers’ unwillingness to act to prevent “weapons of war” from being used by civilians, calling the shooting in Lewiston, Maine, “the latest proof point that gun crime is an urgent national security crisis.”
“It’s not the result of an imagined deficiency in the hearts of the American people; nor is it because women have the right to make their own health care decisions, as the Speaker once claimed,” Bates said.
His comments mark one of the White House’s most direct criticisms of Johnson since he was elected Speaker this week following a roughly three-week scramble by Republicans in the House to replace Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).
The White House was responding to remarks Johnson made in an interview Thursday with Fox News host Sean Hannity in which the Louisiana Republican was asked about calls from the administration and Democrats for action on gun laws following the Maine massacre.
“At the end of the day, the problem is the human heart. It’s not guns. It’s not the weapons,” Johnson said. “At the end of the day, we have to protect the right of the citizens to protect themselves, and that’s the Second Amendment. And that’s why our party stands so strongly for that. I agree with the comments of your guests there. This is not the time to be talking about legislation.”
Law enforcement is still working to locate and apprehend the gunman who killed 18 people and injured several others in Lewiston earlier this week. The shooting and subsequent search have forced several communities in Maine and neighboring areas into lockdown.
President Biden has repeatedly advocated for lawmakers to reinstitute an assault weapons ban in a bid to curb the alarming rate of mass shootings in the United States, and the White House repeated those calls following the Maine shooting.