POLITICS
01/17/2013 05:32 pm ET Updated Jan 18, 2013

On Gun Control And Immigration, 'Zero Discussion' At Republican Retreat: Rep. John Fleming

WILLIAMSBURG, Va. -- A day after President Barack Obama unveiled a series of proposals on gun control, Rep. John Fleming (R-La.) said House Republicans had "zero discussion" of gun legislation at their annual retreat Thursday and had no plans to address it over the two-day period.

"There's been zero discussion about that," Fleming told reporters. "We're only talking about what we're going to do over the next 120 days."

"The Speaker [John Boehner] is going to be very much engaged in what we have to say about it before forming any kind of plan or legislation that may come to pass," he added, before reiterating that the purpose of the retreat was not to address gun legislation.

Obama announced on Wednesday what has been deemed the biggest legislative effort on gun-control policy reform in a generation. HuffPost's Sam Stein and John Rudolf reported on the president's recommendations, which include the requirement of criminal background checks for all gun sales; reinstating the assault weapons ban and restoring a 10-round limit on ammunition magazines, among other policies.

These recommendations require congressional approval, and are accompanied by 23 executive actions to be taken immediately. Senior officials have estimated that the cost of the president's package would be roughly $500 million, some of which could come from already budgeted funds.

A source in the room with Fleming Thursday pushed back on his comments and said that the issue of gun control was raised briefly.

"The Speaker indicated that our committees of jurisdiction will continue to look at issues surrounding violence in our communities, but he believes that the Senate will move first on any legislation," the source told HuffPost on background.

In his Q&A with reporters, Fleming also dismissed Obama's effort, signaling the struggle the White House will face in seeing the president's agenda through Congress.

"His 23 executive actions are pretty much fluff. They really add up to nothing, and I don't think there's much a president alone can do on that," Fleming said. "This is the Second Amendment of the Constitution [and] it's very clear about the private ownership of firearms. With respect to assault weapons and things like that, we've done that before. It had absolutely no positive results."

The Louisiana Republican argued that gun laws would have had "zero impact and effect" on last month's shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., which resulted in the death of 20 children and six others. Instead, Fleming said he would support improving the mental health system, noting that in most mass shootings, the shooter is "someone who's severely mentally deranged."

"Why should we have a knee-jerk reflex to something and go out and do something that's proven not to work and not solve the problem?" he said. "Doing feel-good things in Washington that makes us all feel better but does nothing for the problem, I don't think is the direction we need to go."

Another topic that Fleming noted had not been discussed at the GOP retreat is immigration. The congressman said the issue didn't come up during the first day's proceedings -- even though there had been talk of minority outreach in 2014.

Fleming once spoke out against House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) for pledging that House Republicans would take a "comprehensive approach" to immigration reform after the election. The party's refusal to move forward on the issue was seen as one of the main factors that impeded its ability to make inroads with the Latino community during the 2012 cycle. Obama received over 70 percent of the Latino vote, according to exit polls.

But Friday's agenda offers some potential to broach the subject. It includes a session titled "Discussion on Successful Communication with Minorities and Women." Panelists include Ana Navarro, who served as the national Hispanic co-chair to the presidential campaigns of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in 2008 and former Gov. Jon Huntsman (R-Utah) in 2012, and Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.), a member of the Congressional Hispanic Conference.

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