Oct 27, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Speaker Johnson on shootings: "Problem is the human heart, not guns"

Screengrab via Fox News

New House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) told Fox News' Sean Hannity in his first interview as speaker that now is not the time to discuss legislation to address the scourge of mass shootings, adding: "The problem is the human heart, not guns."

Why it matters: President Biden and Democrats in Congress are urging action in the wake of the shooting in Lewiston, Maine that left 18 people dead. Johnson argued that it was inappropriate to discuss gun control "in the middle of the crisis," and that he believes, "it's not the weapon, it's the underlying problem."

  • As speaker, Johnson would have a key role in shepherding any legislation that could pass both the Republican-controlled House and the Democrat-controlled Senate.
  • He told Hannity it was too soon to say whether there was any legislation he could support, but argued new gun control steps wouldn't be effective.
  • Johnson added that that in Europe, where guns are less accessible, people intent on mass slaughter use cars to "mow down" people.
  • Reality check: Such incidents are far less frequent than mass shootings are in the U.S.

Same-sex marriage

Hannity also asked Johnson about his opposition to gay marriage and his past comments — dug up by CNN and other outlets — that homosexuality was "inherently unnatural" and "dangerous."

  • Johnson referred to himself as a "rule of law guy" and said he accepts that legalized gay marriage is the law of the land. He also said he loves all people regardless of their "lifestyle choices."
  • As for his personal beliefs, Johnson said: "Go pick up a Bible off your shelf and read it — that's my worldview."

Joe Biden

Johnson said he respects the office of the presidency but disagrees with Biden on nearly every issue.

  • Asked by Hannity whether Biden appeared to be in "cognitive decline," he said: "If you look at a tape of Joe Biden making an argument in the Senate Judiciary Committee a few years ago and you see a speech that he delivers now, there's a difference. Again, it's not a personal insult to him. It's just reality."
  • Johnson also said he thought the impeachment inquiry against Biden would "very likely" find impeachable offenses.

Israel and Ukraine

Johnson said the consensus among House Republicans was that funding for Israel and Ukraine must be handled separately, rather than in the combined packaged proposed by Biden.

  • Johnson said he would bring forward a standalone $14.5 billion package for Israel's security.
  • As for Ukraine, Johnson said: "We can't allow Vladimir Putin to prevail in Ukraine because I don't believe it would stop there," adding that a Ukrainian defeat could embolden China.
  • Yes, but: He said he wants more "accountability" for the U.S. funding already provided to Ukraine, and seemed skeptical of the idea of providing billions more.

Go deeper: Biden's tough choice on Mike Johnson: Friend or foe?

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