Martin Bashir | February 26, 2013
>>> it's taken thm over two months and more than 2,000 gun deaths since the massacre at newtown , but this week the united states senate will begin to vote on common sense curbs against gun violence . patrick leahy has scheduled four votes for thursday. there's the ban on assault weapons introduced last month by senator dianne feinstein of california. there's the proposal to make gun trafficking a federal crime . a proposal to enhance security at the nation's schools. and, finally, another proposal to expand background checks on gun sales. of course, if you think back to when the president first introduced his gun law reform package, you'll remember that his proposals were just that, a package. so what signal is congress sending by adopting this piecemeal approach? are they losing their nerve in the struggle against the gun lobby . let's ask mayor michael nutter of philadelphia and " washington post " columnist dana milbank .
>> mayor nutter, you're going to washington tomorrow to testify in support of senator feinstein's assault weapons ban . i want to say this respectfully to you, but you must know that every single washington insiders tells me this bill has absolutely no chance of passing.
>> well, there are a bunch of washington insiders, and then there's the rest of america, and america will be watching, and the president has been direct. he's been forceful. he's been eloquent, and he's been very active on this particular issue, and i also commend senator dianne feinstein , and so until we actually have a vote, i'll let the insiders talk their inside game. i'm going to do what i can as the mayor of philadelphia , president of the u.s. conference of mayors, hundreds of mayors across the united states of america , and millions of americans who are watching what congress does, they're listening to what they say, they expect them to take action so that all of us can be safe. we don't have time for insider games. this is about the american public wanting to be safe.
>> so do you believe, sir, that a ban on assault weapons can be reignited as it was in '94. can that happen again?
>> anything is possible, martin. if folks would just vote their conscience and their heart, when they would think about whether it's 20 children in newtown or children on the streets of philadelphia or new york or chicago or baltimore or san francisco , atlanta, anywhere in the united states of america , they would stop worrying so much about the special interests and worry about the interests of their constituents and just do the right thing. then all of us can respect the second amendment but still enjoy the benefits of the first amendment that says that we have a right to peacefully assemble. these rights are not at odds with each other. they are complementary to each other. i believe in the second amendment, but we must have reasonable gun safety laws here in the united states of america and no one today has ever been able to explain why a civilian needs an ak-47 or an ar-15 other than the military or law enforcement personnel.
>> indeed, i'm sure that's right. dana , we were just talking about the 1965 voting rights act on this broadcast because of the supreme court case that's kicking off tomorrow, and i was stunned to discover that it took all of just four months, four months for president johnson to propose that big and for congress to pass it and get it onto his desk. and here we are more than two months since newtown and we're barely up to taking preliminary votes in committee. that doesn't surprise you?
>> well, martin, you're going to accuse me of being a washington insider now.
>> no, i'm not.
>> i can't say i'm terribly optimistic, and i'll be cheering for mayor nutter as he makes the case for the assault ban and the high capacity clips, but the very fact that they're now decoupling that from the rest of the legislation saying let's let that one go down so we can preserve the other pieces of it, the lesser pieces, barbara boxer 's school security piece that you mentioned, and maybe some form of background checks , even that seems to be getting watered down considerably, although it does look like some version of that may be able to pass, but we had talked about this back in december. if you don't strike while the iron is hot, these things tend to get away from the gun control advocates. i fear that's what's happening again despite mayor nutter's best efforts.
>> it was thought outside of the assault weapons ban there was enough territory agreement so republicans and democrats could find common ground on, say, expanding background checks on gun sales. in fact, there was a report in "the washington post " that a deal was almost at hand. but then we heard from senator tom coburn . take a listen to him.
>> i don't think we're that close to a deal, and there absolutely will not be record keeping on legitimate, law abiding gun owners in this country, and if they want to eliminate the benefits of actually trying to prevent the sales to people who are mentally ill and to criminals, all they have to do is create a record keeping and that will kill this bill.
>> mayor nutter, we thought tom coburn was going to be one of the relatively reasonable people, at least on background checks but there he is dangling some nra conspiracy theory about gun registry to sabotage the whole possibility of it passing.
>> well, as you mentioned, you know, sometimes that is a very inside process. so i don't know who the senator has been talking to or what else is maybe going on behind the scenes . there's often the one play, the other play, and then there's another play going on that you can't even see. again, i'm a former legislator. i was a member of philadelphia city council . you don't actually know what a legislator is going to do until their name is called or they push a button or stick their card in the machine or however it is that they vote. and so what i say is, make them vote. let's have a vote. let the american people truly see what's going on in realtime in public and say that you're willing to stand with the forces that would make our cities unsafe, that children won't be able to go to school or be in school or seniors walk down the street, and if you want to stand with the force% opposed to the will of the american people , then, god bless you.
>> dana , to that point, guns kill people every day. they maim them, they disfigure them. in fact, in the last 24 hours we've seen a double shooting in new orleans that left one man dead and another injured. in long beach, california, there was another double shooting that killed one person. police in rochester, new york, responding to several 911 calls last night discovered the dead body of a young man lying on the sidewalk. now, as washington insider of long standing yourself and yourself confessedly so, dana , perhaps you can tell us what it is that people in washington don't get about the gun lobby , that they don't understand that the appeasement of this lobby actually continues to bring death to the streets of this country.
>> well, i think it's the way power is structured here, martin, and that you have a lot of the democrats come from urban areas , and the ones who come from rural areas , those are the ones who are frightened. the problem is you need them to be on board from the rural states, even harry reid is relatively pro-gun and is very wary about bringing these things up before the united states senate . so what mayor nutter is saying is true in the aggregate. they're not following the will of the american people . the problem is this is all being decided in a bunch of rural states where there are vulnerable democrats and they're not having enough courage to get on board here. that's really what's going on.
>> dana milbank and mayor michael nutter , thank you. and mayor nutter, i send my best wishes to you, and i hope your meeting tomorrow is positive.
>> thank you, martin.
>> thank you, sir.