Martin Bashir | January 30, 2013
>> the time for speeches and press conferences has ended. today for the nirs time since the mass shootings in newtown, congress took action on gun regulations. the senate convened hearings to consider new laws to counter gun violence . the witnesses and attendees included safety experts, second amendment advocates, and survivors of recent shootings. as soon as the hearing was gavelled into session, an unannounced appearance by gabby giffords who was shot in the head two years ago underscored the stakes.
>> too many children are dying. too many children. we must do something.
>> giffords was joined by her husband mark kelly . he explained why the couple decided to start an organization devoted to gun regulation .
>> gabby is one of roughly 100,000 victims of gun violence in america each and every year. one of our messages is simple. thebred and complexity of gun violence is great, but it's not an excuse for inaction.
>> president obama would later meet with giffords and kelly at the white house . but the rest of washington has not been as welcoming. nra chief wayne lapierre who's expressed some sympathy for the victims also told the senate he has no interest in collaborating even on laws that restrict the gun access of convicted criminals or the mentally unstable. lapierre resit rated that the nra still opposes basic background check rules. that puts him at odds with the constituency he claims to represent. nine in ten gun owners support background checks .
>> let's be honest. background checks will never be universal because criminals will never submit to them.
>> many policy makers, however, object to that logic which is basically an argument for scrapping post of the penal code . and the top cop from baltimore county pushed back on the nra 's view.
>> the best way to stop a bad guy from getting a gun in the first place is a good background check .
>> while all the senators examined for preventing gun violence , news of another shooting was reported this afternoon. three people were shot at a business center in phoenix. and the suspect currently remains at large. it's another reminder that any action or inaction on capitol hill . let's get to our panel. julian epstein and stephen barton . a survivor of the aurora shooting. thank you both for being here.
>> good to be with you.
>> stephen , i want to start with you. you attended today's hearing. senator blumenthal at one point mentioned you by name. and affirming the sandy hook promise to honor those lost by working to curb this gun violence . he put to wayne lapierre a question and a thought. take a listen to this response.
>> senator, there is not a law-abiding firearms owner across this united states that wasn't torn to pieces by what happened in sandy hook . they just don't believe that their constitutional right to own a firearm and the fact they can protect their family with a firearm resulted in the problem.
>> stephen , i wanted to give you a chance to respond to that.
>> i mean, it's frankly no surprise to me that wayne lapierre wouldn't commit to taking this promise that is devoted to finding common sense solutions to violence in our society. i mean, there's a big difference between, you know, the people that wayne lapierre was talking about. the rank and file members of the nra and him and his gun lobby buddies. that was fully on display this afternoon during the hearing.
>> julian , what do you make of that? this notion has been discussed at length. the constituency that we talked about in the open that the nra claims to represent and what stephen is talking about. which is other people who own guns but have a different view of the road ahead.
>> well, i think it's very clear through a number of different things we've learned since the newtown tragedy that wayne lapierre represents the interests of gun manufacturers, not of gun owners . i think it's clear there's a lot of daylight between the two. one of the things that became clear today in the hearing, i think, was that lapierre 's credibility is quickly evaporate evaporating. even amongst republicans who are squeamish about the lunatic things this guy has said from time to time. not just going after the president's children. not just the idea we ought to be marketing assaults to 10-year-old kids. when chairman leahy today exposed the fact lapierre is opposing closing of loopholes that in 1999 he supported, i think he's becoming increasingly the lobbyist that people are not taking seriously. as a colleague said to me, he's becoming like the sacha baron cohen of this debate. so i think that was clear that lapierre is in trouble in terms of his credibility on the hill. and i think with republicans although that may not be showing as it will. we will get a universal background check . it seems clear there's an emerging consensus on that. if that's all we get, i think this is going to be a disappointing exercise. as important as universal background checks are, there are lots of crimes with guns that are committed that do not necessarily involve people that would have been picked up by background checks . not people with criminal records or records of mental instability or records of being a terrorist. and the public is still overwhelmingly supporting going after assault clips and assault weapons . so i think it's very clear that the people that want to get something done are going to need to buck up this debate and going to need to take this case to the people particularly parents, teachers, and law enforcement . and we should not settle for universal background checks . they are very, very important. but there are other things we have to do if we really want to prevent the kind of tragedies we're seeing.
>> julian , just to drill down on what you said. why do you think lapierre has changed position on background checks ?
>> i remember in 1999 , this is an interesting point we should drill down on. i was the chief council for the democrats for that hearing when he testified. and he testified he was fore closing some loopholes particularly because of what happened at columbine. then he carefully when we put a number of proposals on the floor, he fought it. so he was very two faced at that time. so i think he is trying to calibrate what is a very -- what is very, very high disapproval rates he has. and i think will begin to impute to the nra . he has a pr disaster on his hands. he's trying to deal with that. not very well. he's made one misstep after the next.
>> julian , you're hitting an important point from the way that congress works. which is people want to support whatever they think they won't actually have to vote on or won't become law. that's the easiest thing to support as a distraction. stephen , i want to play one other interesting thing we heard from mark kelly today in the hearing which you attended. take a listen to this response regarding the idea of putting more armed guards in schools which of course has been a big claim of certain second amendment advocates.
>> from my experience of being shot at and what that actually feels like and how chaotic it is, i would suspect that not many members of this panel or in this room for that matter have been in any kind after a fire fight. it is chaos.
>> you have been the the room. and speaking as someone with that experience, which many of us can't even imagine, what's your take on this policy issue?
>> i mean, he hit the nail on the led. as someone who vividly remembers being in the same room, you know, 20 feet away from someone wielding an ar-15 with a hundred-round drum magazine clip, you know, i don't doubt that having security officers in schools is -- will add some security, some measure of security. but it's really a misdirection of resources. we can do such a better job as chief johnson said ensuring that the bad guy with the gun doesn't get the gun in the first place. and, you know, that involves strengthening our background checks system and adding records into the system as wayne lapierre supports. but more and more importantly been that it's about extending those checks to all sales. not just sales at gun shows but also all private sales. we have the empirical evidence that supports, you know, the safety that this brings about. states that already go beyond federal law and close this loophole through permitting or through other methods. you see a decrease in domestic violence , crimes, murders. you see a decrease in interstate trafficking. guns being exported outside the borders of those states i mean, we know it works. and have known it works since the brady bill was passed before that.
>> right. and we know -- just with the limited time left i would add to your point that 40% of the arms trafficking happening through that so-called loophole without any checks. i want to give julian a quick last word. running out of time . but if you listened to the hearing today what you heard is on the politics a lot. why do republicans seem to invoke the constitution so much more often than their colleagues on the other side of the aisle?
>> well, i think democrats are beginning to make it clear that the second amendment according to the supreme court and heller and the case dealing with the corporation, but really speaks only to the right to hold a hand handgun inside your home. in that case the court and justice scalia invited regulations on things much of which the obama administration is talking about. i think it's clear the second amendment arguments are poor when addressing this legislation. two your earlier point which i think was very good, ari, and you know this from working in the senate. the reason the republicans were so effective in 1999 in preventing the congress bill from coming to the floor is because many democrats were conspireing with them to do it. this time that's not the case. so if republicans now want to obstruct things like background checks , assault clips, assault weapons , they're going to be left out there to hang on their own. and there are many districts where the numbers we've been talking about, many republican congressional districts where those numbers hold. this will be a test of the progressive movement and moderate republicans to begin to use that public pressure and to martial it to effect change. if we can't do it here, i think it's a bad implication with other legislation. i think we will be able to do it here if the effort is focused.
>> the mark you put down is important. we'll look at that later with a democrat harry reid who fought the assault weapons ban in previous interrations of this fight. thank you sfr spending time with