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Americans used President Obama’s Feb. 14 “Fireside Hangout” to blast him for his gun-control proposal, his plan to hike the federal minimum wage to $9 an hour and his use of drones to assassinate U.S. citizens.
For 45 minutes, participants interrogated the president about his policies and statements in Tuesday’s State of the Union address.
Blogger Kira Davis asked Obama if he believed handguns should be banned in the U.S., arguing that the “ban on so-called assault rifles” would not fix “the majority of deaths in this country,” since the FBI reports that more fatalities are caused by handguns every year.
“Well, I actually don’t think we should ban handguns,” Obama said. “Keep in mind that what we’re trying to do is come up with a package that protects Second Amendment rights but also makes a meaningful different in reducing violence. We’re not going to eliminate it completely. The package we will put forward will have an impact on handguns by instituting a universal background check system to make sure that people who shouldn’t have any kind of gun aren’t able to purchase them ….”
“When it comes to assault weapons and these high-capacity magazine clips, the concern is, for example, in Aurora, when a young person can go in a theater and shoot off 100 rounds in less than a minute, the potential for large-scale fatalities [is] increased. These are weapons of war.”
“For us to restrict some of those high-capacity magazines and some of those weapons that really belong in the war theater, that probably can save some lives.”
Social media expert Lee Doren reminded Obama that Vice President Joe Biden promised “that people have nothing to worry about in terms of the government coming in to take away their guns.”
“Right,” Obama replied.
However, Doren noted, Obama’s current gun-control proposals would actually confiscate guns legally owned by Americans.
“Well, no. People are going to be able to buy all kinds of guns and use them legally for protection, for sport, for hunting,” Obama answered. “What we’re saying is, there may be a small category of weapons that we think really can drastically increase the incidents of gun violence
“We already have some restrictions. We can’t purchase a grenade launcher from a store, although there may be some folks who want to buy those. The reason is, we think that, on balance, the Second Amendment does not automatically assume that any weapon that’s available you can automatically purchase.”
Obama said he recognizes “there’s a lot of passion” on the issue and “people in rural communities feel differently about these issues than folks in urban communities.”
On the issue of raising the minimum wage, Obama claimed doing so wouldn’t have an impact on employment but would help low-income workers. In his State of the Union address, Obama proposed hiking the federal minimum wage to $9.
However, Davis challenged that assertion that an increase wouldn’t hurt workers.
She told the president, “I’ve been in the situation where the minimum wage was raised and I had to let go of two employees from a nonprofit because we just couldn’t afford the wages anymore.”
“But as a mom, I wonder how that’s going to affect the bottom line when I go to the grocery store, when I go to get that Starbucks in the morning after dropping my kids off at school, or at the gas pump. How will the minimum wage affect what I buy, day to day, as companies are having to raise their prices to accommodate the minimum wage?”
Obama told Davis, “Corporate profits are at record highs” and an increase will simply “have some modest impact on their profits.”
He added, “What we want to do is make sure that, if you work hard in this society, you’ve got a living wage. Nobody’s going to be getting rich on $9 an hour. They’re still going to be struggling.
He then assured Davis, “My suspicion is you’ll still be able to get your Starbucks as a consequence.”
About 35 minutes into the “Fireside Hangout,” Davis and Doren asked the president what his administration can do to honor that increase transparency.
“In 2008, you ran on a platform of really trying to become one of the most transparent administrations in American history,” Davis said. “However, with recent leaked guidelines regarding drone strikes on American citizens and Benghazi and closed-door hearings on the budget and deficit, it feels a lot less transparent than we all hoped it would be.”
Nonetheless, Obama declared, “This is the most transparent administration in history. I can document that that is the case.”
The president also insisted the Benghazi affair is “not a good example” and “was largely driven by campaign stuff.”
“We’ve had more testimony and more paper provided to Congress than ever before, and Congress is sort of running out of things to ask,” he said. “But when it comes to things like how we conduct counterterrorism, there are legitimate questions there, and we should have that debate.”
Doren held Obama’s feet to the fire, telling him, “[A] lot of people are very concerned that your administration now believes it’s legal to have drone strikes on American citizens and whether or not that’s specifically allowed with citizens within the United States.”
He added, “What will you do to create a legal framework to make American citizens within the United States know that drone strikes cannot be used against American citizens?”
Obama shot back, “There has never been a drone strike used on an American citizen on American soil.”
He added, “We respect and have a whole bunch of safeguards in terms of how we conduct counterterrorism operations outside of the United States. The rules outside of the United States are going to be different than the rules inside the United States, in part because our capacity to capture terrorists in the United States [is] very different than in the foothills or mountains of Afghanistan or Pakistan.
“But, what I think is absolutely true is, it’s not sufficient for citizens to just take my word for it that we’re doing the right thing. I am the head of the executive branch, and what we’ve done so far is to try to work with Congress on oversight issues. … I’m not somebody who believes that the president has the authority to do whatever he wants, or whatever she wants, whenever they want, just under the guise of counterterrorism.”
The video of the “Fireside Hangout” event is available here: