Newly elected House Speaker Mike Johnson said in the wake of a mass shooting in Lewiston, Maine, that access to firearms was not to blame for gun violence.
Mr Johnson spoke in an exclusive sit-down interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity, who noted how Democrats immediately called for new gun legislation after a gunman entered two locations in Lewiston, killing 18 people and injuring 13 people.
But the newly installed speaker brushed off questions about tightening gun laws.
“The problem is the human heart. It's not guns, not the weapons,” he said. “At the end of the day, the problem is the human heart. It’s not guns, it’s not the weapons.”
Mr Johnson said that the government should protect the right of citizens to protect themselves.
“And that’s why our party stands strongly for that,” he said, adding that it was not the time to talk about legislation. “We’re in the middle of that crisis right now. But I just want you to know and the American people to know that all of the members of the House here are deeply concerned about the families involved and everyone.”
Mr Johnson noted other countries have mass violence.
“In Europe, and in other places, they use vehicles to mow down crowds at parades,” he said, adding that he wanted to focus on mental health instead.
In response, Sen Chris Murphy (D-CT), one of the staunchest voices advocates for gun control, posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, that the United States should regulate guns the way it does automobiles.
“This is idiotic, but…if the new Speaker thinks that guns and cars are equally dangerous weapons, let’s just treat guns like cars,” Mr Murphy said. “Licenses. Training. Insurance.”
House Republicans unanimously voted to make Mr Johnson speaker this week, after three weeks of infighting without a leader at the top. Mr Johnson beat out several candidates in a multi-round contest after Rep Matt Gaetz (R-FL) filed a motion to defenestrate Speaker Kevin McCarthy earlier this month.
Mr Johnson also said on Fox News that he likely would continue the impeachment of Mr Biden that Mr McCarthy initiated.
“We’re going to follow the truth where it leads, we’re going to engage and do due process, because again, we’re the rule of law party,” he said. “I know people are getting anxious and they’re getting restless and they just want somebody to be impeached, but we don’t do that like the other team.”
But Mr Johnson seemed to indicate he opposed expelling Rep George Santos (R-NY), who faces multiple criminal charges. Fellow New York Republican Rep Anthony D’Esposito called for his colleague’s expulson on Thursday.
“We have to allow due process to play itself out,” he said. Mr Santos will appear in a federal court on Friday. “That’s what our system of justice is for.”
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