President Obama needs armed security because he faces “serious, persistent and credible threats on a daily basis,” the White House said in response to a petition meant to undercut his push for new gun controls.
The “We the People” petition was submitted nine days after the elementary school shooting last year in Newtown, Conn. It called for the elimination of armed guards that protect the president and vice president and the establishment of "Gun Free Zones" around them — a reference to a federal law that bans firearms on school grounds.
The petition garnered more than 40,000 signatures, enough to trigger an automatic response from the White House.
The White House dismissed the call to disarm the president's security detail, noting that Congress mandated full-time protection of the president after the third assassination of a sitting president in 1901.
"Those who are the subject of ongoing threats must receive the necessary and appropriate protection," the White House wrote in its response. “At the same time, all of us deserve to live in safer communities, which is why we need to take responsible, commonsense steps to reduce gun violence, even while respecting individual freedom."
The White House said “our elected leaders and representatives are subject to serious, persistent, and credible threats on a daily basis."
"Even those who are mere candidates in a national election become symbols of our country, which makes them potential targets for those seeking to do harm to the United States and its interests."
In January, the National Rifle Association was criticized for a television commercial that dubbed Obama an "elitist hypocrite" for his daughters' security detail.
“Are the president’s kids more important than yours?” the ad’s narrator asked. “Then why is he skeptical about putting armed security in our schools when his kids are protected by armed guards at their schools? Mr. Obama demands the wealthy pay their fair share of taxes, but he’s just another elitist hypocrite when it comes to a fair share of security.”
White House press secretary Jay Carney responded angrily to the commercial when asked about it by reporters.
“Most Americans agree that a president's children should not be used as pawns in a political fight," Carney said. "But to go so far as to make the safety of the president's children the subject of an attack ad is repugnant and cowardly.”
The White House's response to the petition urges Congress "to pass gun safety legislation that closes loopholes in the background check system and makes gun trafficking a federal crime."
Democrats in the Senate were unable to garner enough votes for such a push in April, earning just 54 of the 60 necessary votes.
But Vice President Biden said earlier this summer that the White House had not "given up" on gun control.
“The country has changed,” Biden warned lawmakers during an event at the White House. “You will pay a political price for not getting engaged with dealing with gun safety.”