Freedom, Mental Health and Guns - Today's Qs for O's WH - 12/17/12

TAPPER: Jay, last night the president said in his speech, "are we prepared to say that such violence visited on our children year after year after year is somehow the price of our freedom?" When he referred to "our freedom," was he referring to gun rights? Was he referring to the difficulty that some societies have, some communities have now when it comes to committing people against their will? What exactly did he mean by "freedom"?

CARNEY: Well, I think that he meant broadly those and other issues, that, you know, we obviously have a society that is one based on laws, but it is a free society that creates a balance between the laws that we must abide and the freedoms that we enjoy.

TAPPER: So both. It -

CARNEY: I mean, again, I'm not going to get - I think that both could be encompassed within the meaning of what he said and other issues of freedoms and responsibilities more broadly. But - so I don't think - it wasn't - it wasn't a single specific meaning. I think it was broader than that.

TAPPER: OK, the president has been focused on the health care system in this country since he took office. Does he feel that the mental health care system in this country is adequate?

CARNEY: It's a - it's a very good question. And I would say that the Obama administration has taken action for the past four years to ensure that more Americans have access to mental health services. And we will continue to work with leaders across the country to help ensure people get the care and treatment they need.

As you know, the Affordable Care Act will ensure that 30 million more Americans have access to health care, including mental health services. And the law makes recommended health services available without a copay or a deductible. One of the reasons why the president explicitly talked about engaging not just with lawmakers and law enforcement officials and educators but mental health experts is because that's clearly a factor that needs to be addressed in some of these cases of horrific violence.

So what the Affordable Care Act has done - "Obamacare," if you will, has ensured that mental health services are integral and part of the services that the 30 million people who will be additional Americans who have health insurance, because of the Affordable Act - Affordable Care Act will receive and, in terms of the recommended services, receive them without a copay or a deductible.

So I think that reflects the administration's view on how important mental health services are. But when it comes to this broader - or rather, this more specific issue of mental health and the kind of violence that we saw in Newtown, I think that he believes it's important that experts in that field are part of this discussion.

TAPPER: OK, and lastly, Jay, after the Tucson shooting that left Congresswoman Gabby Giffords seriously wounded and six others dead, including a little girl, the president wrote an op-ed in 2011 in the Arizona Star, and he talked about the gun restrictions he favored.

He said that the laws on the books should be enforced more when it came to the background check. It relies on data supplied by states, but the data is often incomplete and inadequate; we must do better. Second, we should reward the states that provide the best data. And third, we should make the system faster and nimbler. So that was about - that was almost two years ago. So what's the progress -

CARNEY: Well, the fact is - I mean, I would refer you to the Justice Department for the specifics. But we have taken steps, specifically on the issue of background checks, to make the system more thorough and complete because this is a key component of an effort to enforce existing laws that, when properly enforced, do not allow weapons to fall into the hands of those who should not have them under existing law. So that's an important component. We have taken steps, and I'm sure that will be part of the broader discussion moving forward. But it is an issue that we have taken steps on because the background check system - making it more complete and thorough is an important component.

TAPPER: And lastly, Jay, in the October presidential debate, the president said - one of the debates - "weapons that were designed for soldiers in war theaters don't belong on our streets." Can you name one thing the president has done in the last four years to help remove weapons of war from our streets?

CARNEY: You know, there's no question, Jake, that the scourge of gun violence is a problem that has not sufficiently been addressed, because, as we saw in Newtown, we continue to have horrific tragedies that result in innocent victims. The president supports the assault weapons ban and the reinstatement of the assault weapons ban. But we have to -

TAPPER: I don't mean "supports." I mean, like, have you taken one measure, one act - one - to remove the weapons of war that he talks about?

CARNEY: Again, he supports legislation that is designed to ban some weapons, but as you know, this is a complex -

TAPPER: Anyone can support something.

CARNEY: - this is a complex issue, and - that requires complex solutions. And, you know, he looks forward to engaging the American people in an effort to do more. As he made clear last night, we need to change, we have not done enough - we as a nation. And, you know, he will in coming weeks use the power of his office to try to help make that change.

TAPPER: OK, so the answer is "no."

- Jake Tapper