19. Because of the increased politicization of firearms issues and the lack of any meaningful public safety component in many legislative proposals, the membership of the FOP adopted a resolution stating that it would not support additional “gun control” legislation beyond our support for the measures signed into law in 1994. Will your Administration seek to push any additional “gun control” measures? If so, what public safety benefit do you expect to achieve and why should the FOP overturn its resolution on this issue?
Obama: I believe, like the majority of Americans, that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right to bear arms and the courts have settled that as the law of the land. In this country, we have a strong tradition of gun ownership that’s passed on from generation to generation. In fact, my administration has not curtailed the rights of gun owners—it has expanded them, including allowing people to carry their guns in national parks and wildlife refuges.
However, tragedies like the one that occurred in Tucson, Arizona teach us that there’s room for our country to have reasonable laws that uphold liberty, ensure citizen safety and are fully compatible with a robust Second Amendment. I have called for us to begin enforcing laws that are already on the books and reward the states that provide best data to strengthen our background check system. We also need to make the system faster and nimbler, by providing an instant, accurate, and comprehensive and consistent system for background checks to sellers who want to do the right thing, and make sure that criminals cannot escape it. I welcome your input on this important issue, as we continue the discussion on how to we can keep America safe for all our people.
Romney: My administration will not advocate for additional “gun control” measures beyond those already enacted. The Second Amendment provides one of the most basic fundamental rights, and the right to bear arms is essential to our functioning free society. I believe we need to focus on enforcing the laws currently on the books rather than create new laws that burden the constitutional rights of law-abiding gun owners.
20. We certainly recognize the prevalence of the term ‘first responder’ to cover the gamut of public safety disciplines, but the reality is that law enforcement officers are usually the first to respond to any scene or incident. It is the responding law enforcement officer that assesses the situation and then calls for the appropriate public safety response, be it additional law enforcement officers, firefighters, emergency medical technicians or hazardous material response. Every public safety discipline is vital when responding to a critical incident, but we must recognize that, in almost every instance, it is the rank-and-file law enforcement officer who is the first on the scene. The FOP has consistently maintained, throughout the several debates on homeland security funding legislation, that the first priority of the homeland security effort is preventing a terrorist attack and that the “all hazards” approach of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) compromises this priority. The FOP believes that Federal funding does not sufficiently reflect the prevention goal and is geared instead towards purchasing equipment and training to respond to the aftermath of a critical incident. What is your view on the “all hazards” approach and how do you think it impacts law enforcement’s role in the war on terror in terms of access to Federal funds?
Obama: Even at a time of major fiscal constraints, my proposed budget for fiscal year 2013 provides a slight increase from the 2012 enacted level to continue our strong investments in core homeland security functions such as the prevention of terrorist attacks, border security, administration of immigration laws, aviation security, disaster preparedness and cybersecurity. My administration has made it a priority to eliminate duplicative, stand-alone FEMA grant programs so we can instead consolidate them into a new National Preparedness Grant program to better develop, sustain, and leverage core capabilities across the country while supporting national preparedness and response. My budget builds on this commitment.
Romney: The most important goal of our nation’s counterterrorism efforts must be the detection and prevention of a terrorist attack. Accordingly, I share the Fraternal Order of Police’s view that prevention must be the top counterterrorism priority, and my administration will remain focused on that priority in its efforts to protect the American people and communities from attack. I do not believe the “all hazards” approach to disaster and first responder planning was ever intended to distract from or diminish the key priority of incident prevention. As president, I would ensure that the relevant agencies, including the Department of Justice, DHS, and FEMA, strike an appropriate balance between planning and funding both prevention and response efforts, and that those agencies work closely with key stakeholders, including the Fraternal Order of Police, in determining where to draw those lines.