NOW with Alex Wagner | January 25, 2013
>>> america bailed out the banks. will banc of america bail out the mra? it is friday, january 25th , and this is "now."
>>> joining me today two newbies. i mean that in the sense of being on the show. bloomberg white house correspondent hans nichols, and miamalika henderson is up here, and msnbc contributor, the wind beneath my sails, queen bee , joy reid. after press conferences and task force meetings about gun safety , it is time for congress to walk the walk. senator dianne feinstein unveiled an assault weapons ban that would block the sale and manufacturing of more than 150 firearms while excludeing more than 2,200 firearms used for hunt and sporting. assault weapons purchased prior to the ban would remain legal. and, yet, feinstein went a step too far for the nra , which responded in a statement "it's disappointing but not surprising that she is once again focused on curtailing the constitution instead of prosecuting criminals or fixing our broken mental health system. conservative columnist michelle malkin doubled down in the way only she can.
>> you talk about the root of this problem, the disrespect that the people on the left have for the constitution, that that's at the core of this, that it's about freedom versus tyranny.
>> vice president joe biden yesterday countered with that rare and prized thing, logic.
>> just as you don't have an individual right to go out and buy an f-15 if you are a billionaire with ordinance on it, just like you don't have a right to go buy an m-1 tank, just like you don't have a right to buy an automatic weapon , those judgments have been made that there are no societial -- reasonable societial justification or constitutional justification for owning that.
>> right now the vice president is in virginia attend aing round table discussion on gun violence with homeland security secretary janet napolitano , and health and human southwests secretary. as a reminder, a new poll by the washington post and abc news finds 53% of americans support the gun safety measures proposed by president obama , and nearly six in ten voters support an assault weapons ban , including 45% of gun owning households. joining us now from washington is a survivor of the virginia tech shooting and assistant director of federal legislation for the brady campaign , colin goddard . colin , it is always great to see you. before we start our conversation, i should note we are expecting the president to announce some personnel appointments, including that of dennis mcdonough at 12:10 , and we will cut to that when it happens. first, colin , you are in many ways, my friend, the star of the white house push towards gun safety reform. don't think we didn't notice when the vice president name-checked you as the president announced his proposals. as you are at the center of the beating heart of this thing, i want to know what you make of the renewed talk about the assault weapons ban . i think a lot of people thought it wasn't going to happen. the fact that the vice president brought it up yesterday, what do you give its chances in terms of actually passing, and how much is it a setback if it doesn't pass?
>> i think the assault weapons ban is a critical piece of the broader comprehensive plan that the president has put forward. i mean, we think that background checks on all gun sales, for example, should be right up there as well. rather the xrens i approach that the president put forward and what the vast majority of americans are coming behind and supporting.
>> colin , i was thinking about the logic that joe biden put forward in terms of meeting certain kinds of weaponry and not needing certain kinds of weaponry, which led me to thinking and questioning and wondering how guns make it to market. there are certain laws that are in place that sort of make illegal the possession of machine guns , but in terms of things like the ar-15, in terms of a lot of these some automatics this are on the market, there is actually no regulation, it sounds like. gun manufacturers get to decide what they want to market to the consumer. is that right?
>> right. guns are the only consumer good that is not regulated by the federal government . there are actually more federal regulation on manufacturing bb guns than there are real guns, so it really is, you know, francly ridiculous when you look at it like that, and i think what you brought up of guns making it into the illegal market, which is a big problem, we have to realize that 40% of all gun sales in this country every year go unchecked. i mean, that's a really easy way for a legitimate gun to fall into the hands of an illegitimate person, and we need to fix that problem, and the president's proposals will do just that.
>> let me bring in our wonderful panel here in new york. hans, harry reid is bringing to theoretically going to bring this legislation forward to the floor of the senate and open amendment process, which a lot of people think is going to fundamentally water down some of the provisions because basically everybody gets to throw their 2 cents in. your read on that and your sort of optimism with regard to real reform.
>> well, most of those serious reform efforts right now will have a ledges lafsh process, and we can game out how it's going to go. you're going to have moderate democrats that will take tough votes, and you'll see republican communities talk about forcing him to take tough votes. rahm emanuel going after their funding. to me that seems not quite a game changer, but at least it's coming at it at a different angle. that to me seems more interesting than the normal legislative process and whatever the president is going to put forward and go step by step .
>> i sort of mention that in the intro. the fact that rahm emanuel is going after td bank and bank of america and saying, look, you guys can't give these guys extended credit to manufacture weaponry, the fact that he circumventing the nra and going right to sort of the financial institutions that fund the manufacture of these weapons seems creative and also a way of drumming up real grassroots support. what do you think of that?
>> i mean, there are many ways for all of us to get involved in changing the current status quo of our gun policy. not just as political entities, but also as consumers and investors. i think that every angle that we take to try to reduce the gun deaths and injuries in this country is going to lead to a better safer country for all of us.
>> i will read a quote from scott lehigh in the boston globe . the gun absolutists and their allies have succeeded because they are better organize and more focus and pursue their objectives with single-minded zeal. if we are to pass sensible gun laws in this country, opponents will have to match the gun lobby 's discipline and determination at every step along the way.
>> you have seen from the gun lobby a sort of masterful plan over these last two decades. not only to coop republicans but also people like harry reid who got some donations from the nra , who essentially courted their endorsement, was disappointed that they didn't endorse him. i think so far what we've seen is sort of the usual suspects speaking out on gun control . we've had this amazing and very tragic, searing event that happened in sandy hook , but then you had the usual suspects , whether it was the mayors or from these different cities, liberals from california, and i think you are going to have to see some different tactics. things like emmanuel -- rahm emanuel trying. also, i mean, wal -mart is a big player in here, right? i mean, they sell guns, but they are also very cognizant of the sort of image that they have. remember, it was michelle obama around her obesity effort went to wal -mart and said, listen, you should sell different sorts of -- you have to have corporate buy-in, and wal -mart could be a sort of pressure point in this fight.
>> colin , in terms of that, in terms of something like this bank of america piece that rahm emanuel is pursuing, one would think that there are a lot of consumers that would want to get on board. people who bank at bank of america who want to participate in getting broader gun safety laws many this country. to what extent are you guys at the brady campaign working in concert with this or working with grassroots networks to insure that there is more of a sort of sea change in bringing in different actors into this debate, as nia said?
>> we've made unbelievable progress just in the last month and a half of bringing new people into this conversation. people who have never talked about guns before. we brought them directly to capitol hill to have meetings with their elected officials. we've been in the white house with meetings. you know, i think even just seeing now that the vice president is going to virginia and holding a roundtable, you know, shows that the administration understands that really the missing piece to this is the american public outrage and engagement, that we have to match what's been so prevalent on the other side for so long. we've begun to see that. it's been incredible. everyone is watching. let's keep this up because we can get this done.
>> i want to introduce to america ben smith .
>> we stopped any the hallway. joy, first, in terms of this moment in time, i mean, i think there was a sense of collective pessimism about whether anything would happen, but given the fact that this -- a, the conversation continues.
>> we are still on this television show , and many other television shows , talking about where this stuff is going. the nra seems to be relying on their sort of tyranny of the top, elitist gun grabbers. i am not sure that this time it is want different, which is a double negative. i think this time might be different.
>> no, and i was one of the pessimistic people. i think on this show i expressed extreme pessimism that it would last this long, and i'm pleasantly surprised it's still going. there are a couple of soft spots though, and nia touched on some of those. the nra themselves, i think they've made a lot of mistaez. they're trying to compete with more extreme gun groups like gun owners of america , and their rhetoric has started to move from personal protection and need it for our home to we need to be able to fight the government with equivalent force, we need to have the same kind of arma meant that is the government has because we're fighting tyranny. most people think that sounds crazy. they don't speak for me. then have you people like rahm emanuel . you have consumers, and you have michael bloomberg who said we're not going to go directly at the nra necessarily. we're going to hit the soft spots. retailers who are sensitive to public opinion , sensitive to potential boycotts. cities are a huge consumer of the gun product, so if cities say, you know what, to the gun manufacturers, well, we are going to use our buying power to make you curb to our wishes, that is a lot more powerful than simply saying we want more gun control .
>> ben, before you got here, while you were being -- while you were strip-searched in a busy hallway, we talked about the fact that 45% of gun owners favor gun safety reform. i mean, that -- it's one thing to say the public, right, but the fact that there are contich went -- the nra has constituents that want to see sort of tighter control on, let's say, semi-automatic assault weapons , would seem to suggest that they, too, could come out and maybe use their power to change things.
>> i think that's what nobody has quite figured out is how to make them care as much about the regulations as the other 55% care about not having them. i think it would be acceptable to them. they're fine with it. they're not on the streets marching for it. i do think, though, it's amazing amazing. people talk about how ineffective obama has been as using the bully pulpit and how little really happened.
>> change has come.
>> you also have wayne la pierre coming out from the crazy cave every couple of minutes.
>> they did kind of get rid of him for a while, and then he --
>> he is the human whack-a-mole.
>> thank you so much for joining us, colin . we hope you are going to spend your time camping outside of harry reid 's office in a sleeping bag medical we get many legislation on the floor of the senate, my friend.
>> absolutely. whatever we have to