Eric Holder: White House did not silence me on guns

Attorney General Eric Holder said the White House did not tell him to back off after he called for the reinstatement of the assault weapons ban in late February.

In an interview with CBS that aired on Wednesday, Holder said, “No one’s told me to back off. I understand the Second Amendment. I respect the Second Amendment.”

Yet, Holder’s comments on gun control were more tempered than his remarks in Mexico six weeks ago when he said that “there are just a few gun-related changes that we would like to make, and among them would be to reinstitute the ban on the sale of assault weapons.” Holder added at the time that the reinstatement of the ban, which expired in 2004, would have a positive impact on the drug-related violence in Mexico.

Asked if the gun issue has become political and if Democrats are getting cozy with the National Rifle Association (NRA), Holder responded, “I don’t think it has and in fact, I look forward to working with the NRA to come up with ways in which we can use common-sense approaches to reduce the level of violence that we see in our streets and make the American people as safe as they can possibly be.”

Holder initially dodged a question on “closing the gun show loophole” but when pressed, he said, “These are issues that we’ll have to discuss. The president will be the one who will ultimately set policy — things that are politically saleable and things that will ultimately be effective.”

Asked if the gun show loophole falls in those categories, Holder said, “That’ll be one of the things that I’ll discuss with the president.”

After Holder made his comments in February, the White House declined to comment, referring reporters to the Department of Justice. Newsweek reported earlier this month that White House aides subsequently told Justice Department officials to drop the issue.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) in February said she has no plans to reinstate the assault weapons ban.

In the CBS interview, Holder rejected former Vice President Dick Cheney’s recent criticism that President Obama’s policies have made the U.S. less safe.

“I think that’s totally false,” Holder said. “It’s inconsistent with the facts.”

He added, “I think the former vice president’s remarks are way off the mark.”

Holder declined to directly criticize Cheney for speaking out early in Obama’s term, but pointed out that both former President George W. Bush and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice have refrained from making public comments on the new administration’s policies.

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