Melissa Harris-Perry | February 03, 2013
>>> welcome back. i'm melissa harris-perry. this week, a few of us could turn our eyes on gun violence .
>> speaking is difficult but i need to say something important. violence is a big problem. too many children are dying. too many children. we must do something. she is right. we must do something. but, the question i am asking today, what? what is that something that will make a difference? to help answer that question, i have with me today, an editorial director of colorlines.com. a fellow at the nation's institute. he's the author of the upcoming book, "partisan priority"s, joy reid and the former president of p brady campaign , richard now the president of the citizens of crime commission of new york city . thank you all for being here. i want to start with you.
>> we are at a point where we are willing to say something must be done. what is that something?
>> something needs to be a lot. i think the big difference in the discussion is for the first time we are having an honest discussion about the complexities of gun violence . we can no longer pursue this peace meal approach, one bill at a time. the president is making that point repeatedly. he's proposing a large series of executive actions, many of which will help, much of which he can do on his own. legislati legislative pieces, each one is very important.
>> what can the president do on his own? when i hear someone say we need comprehensive big reform, have you noticed who is going on in america ?
>> he can charge the executive branch . the health people can do research about the dangers of gun not being kept locked up. the executive branch can encourage the department of justice to step up their law enforcement activities. there's an enormous amount we can do. we are living in a country that violent crimes were record highs in the '90s driven to a record low. we can do that again. we can have lots of research done. we need research to understand the relationships in the gun violence area. these are all things the president can do.
>> there are nearly 300 million firearms in the united states , basically how many people there are. we are a heavily armed people. it feels to me like there are different kinds of gun violence and certain policies impact them. there's the individual on the rampage. it's the thing that gets us moving. the persistent daily violence. there's issue of suicide, which one is more effective and efficiently able to do when one has a firearm. there's domestic violence and the extent where it turns into murder when you have someone who is armed in the household. so, those feel like very different policies. what are our ideas around those?
>> i think that as you said, it's very different. if you talk inner city violence, it's being done with assault weapons and illegal. they are drive by shootings being done not with the ar-15, which is the pep of choice for mass murders . in a lot of cases with ak-47s. there was an issue in miami where people had gold plated aks. it's a sign of a gang. people who can pass the background check themselves and turn around and sell them to people who couldn't. it's an enforcement issue. a lot of day-to-day violence is handguns, people with handguns in the home. there's no way to regulate that. you have a right to have those. there's a range of things that can be done. background checks are the thing everyone agrees on and would dent the spree killing and the drive byes.
>> i think even in the urban violence, it's handguns. it's the ease of which inner state gun trade takes place. so, if you look at a place like new york and look at the neighborhoods where it remains gun violence in spite of the rapid climb of violence crime, the guns were purchased legally in virginia .
>> and we have enormous, we have very good gun laws in new york city and new york state. they were purchased legally in virginia . if you go to brooklyn and talk to 16-year-olds about guns, they will tell you, yeah, so and so goes to virginia , buys them legally in the state of virginia .
>> then you are able to transport them across the state line on i-95.
>> they are illegal once they are here. they were legal in the state of virginia . you see the same relationship between places that have big cities with gun problems with good gun laws and surrounding our nearby states that aggressively defend their ability to initiate an inner state gun trade.
>> it's part of the idea of the challenge we face in federalism. the decisions made at the national level, if they are not supported by 50-state solutions as ridiculous as that sounds to say, really, when talking states that are abutting each other and close to each other, the choices impact the crime in new york city .
>> they do. that's federalism. we are both political scientists. we know about federalism. you have a strange situation where a city like new york or chicago , which is experiencing gun violence , you have all those residents in favor of all kind of gun control but they are at the mercy of constituents down state and out of state who are less supportive of the idea.
>> here is my worry. sometimes when americans get to moment whe re we say 9/11 happened, we are terrified. newtown happened, we are terrified. the kind of policy we make behind that can be exactly the wrong kind of policy. how do we guard against terror based policy?
>> it's different this time. a couple observations. when you say there are 300 million guns in america , that number can scare people saying if there are 300 million there, there's nothing we can do.
>> and i better have one.
>> so there's 301 million in america . is fast number do so lawfully and have nothing to do with the criminal problem. we have a two-part issue with gun violence . illegal gun trafficking which is described and mental health issues, people prone to suicide, teens and adults. we have that issue as well. that's where we need to drive our focus. the big thing that is changing now is after the first time you see responsible gun owners saying hey, the nra leadership is not in touch with what we want to do. we have to do something. we gun owners have a responsibility like non- gun owners and we intend to be part of the conversation. we are going establish the principle to have the second amendment but keep criminals from having guns.
>> that sounds best to me. i think about the war on drugs and anti-terrorism. we move toward a profiling of certain kind of people. i worry, do we end up in our terror actually creating more of a police state for our young people , you know, in these cities?
>> at the same time, i totally agree with you, stop and frisk is one of the big things african-americans in new york have against michael bloomberg in new york . it's an issue. go into a community with gun violence and gang violence . the residents would like police to be kicking in doors and taking down gangs. if they do it, they say if we start doing that, the community is going to come at us and say we are profiling that neighborhood. it's a catch 22.
>> also, the war on drugs grew out of black leaders in the siege neighborhoods saying help.
>> after lynne bias' death, we passed all these mandatory minimums and all the things that have been a rallying cry in the civil rights community since then. but it's also how you do it, let's be clear. nobody asked the nypd to show up and stop everybody coming out of public housing . there is the how you do it question. backing up on your initial question is that i think that there are some basics we all do agree on. we agree on background checks , right?
>> even that alone, if we have universal background checks , if you couldn't walk into a gun show in virginia and buy a gun in five minutes with no background check , that slows it down.
>> stay right there. we are going to talk more on it. we have more on this. it is a complicated question. we are going to go to chicago when we get back. the chicago team who was gunned down one week after performing at the president's inauguration leads us to ask, will her death finally change things in that city?