On a call with reporters ahead of former President Donald Trump’s speech to a National Rifle Association gathering in Harrisburg, U.S. Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.) and U.S. Rep. Maxwell Frost (D-Fla.) said the choice between President Joe Biden and Trump is clear when it comes to guns.
“We have a very, very stark choice here and it’s very, very simple: Do you want your next president [with] more assault weapons and more deaths of gun violence in our nation? Or do you want a president that wants fewer assault weapons and fewer tragic gun deaths in our nation?” Fetterman said on the call, which was organized by the Biden-Harris 2024 reelection campaign. “And that’s really where we’re at.”
Fetterman called the Friday NRA event “a jamboree for gun nuts,” but acknowledged that Trump has support in Pennsylvania. “Trump is definitely going to … connect in Pennsylvania. He is popular in my home state,” he said. The decision would come down to “what kind of four years do we want?”
Frost, who has said he ran for office in response to school shootings, said there were too many politicians who valued campaign contributions more than students’ lives.
“I’m 27 years old, and my life has been pretty much defined by seeing far too many folks in my generation shot down due to a lack of safe gun laws,” Frost said. “We live in a country where the leading cause of death for children and teens is bullets – is to be shot. And I think it’s unacceptable. And now what makes me even more livid is the fact that we have Republican politicians like Donald Trump, who are all too willing to stand by and watch kids die, because he’s bought and paid for by the NRA.”
Kimberly Mata Rubio, whose daughter Lexi was killed in an elementary school shooting in Uvalde, Texas in 2022, spoke about meeting Biden when he visited the community.
“President Biden shook our hands. His wife Jill comforted my teenage daughter as she cried,” Rubio said. “In that moment, he wasn’t just a president. He was a father, a father who had walked with grief and empathized with the loss of our sweet girl. He showed us a picture of his late son, which he carried in his wallet, and he reminded us to lean on each other as we fought through the depths of our grief.”
Rubio added that she wanted the issue to be top of mind for voters. “There are a number of major issues on the ballot this election but the safety of our children should take priority,” she said. “Now’s not the time to stay quiet or neutral on the subject of gun violence.”
Frost responded to a question about a 2023 letter from members of Congress to Biden urging him to direct the Department of Justice to review how it interprets the Tihart Amendment, which restricts the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) from releasing information from its firearms trace database. Frost signed the letter.
The Biden administration has taken good steps, he said.“There’s things that can be done on the executive side and we want them done and we’ve seen it done,” he said. “But Congress also needs to pass legislation.”
Fetterman responded to a question about an incident in 2013, when he was mayor of Braddock, and pulled a shotgun on a Black man he said he thought was fleeing the scene of aa shooting, which turned out not to be true. The incident is frequently referenced when Fetterman speaks about guns or public safety; the man says Fetterman aimed the gun at his chest, which Fetterman has disputed.
“I’m actually very proud of my [record on] gun issues,” Fetterman said. “When it comes to Braddock, you know, because I worked with the police in Braddock. We went five and a half years without any gun violence or any deaths as mayor, and that’s never happened before or since.” He added “I’m proud of my record, I ran on it, Pennsylvania delivered, and I’m here right now on this call to stand with President Biden as well, too.”
Frost added that while the gun-safety movement wanted to see more action from Washington, Biden was more responsive than his predecessor had been. If he sends a letter to Biden, Frost said, he’d receive a response and know that someone in the White House was working on it.
“If I sent a letter like that to President Trump or for President Trump, he’d wipe his ass with it,” Frost said. “And those are the two choices. We have someone who actually is going to consider things and work with us to end gun violence or someone who is not even going to listen or hear us out.”