NOW with Alex Wagner | February 05, 2013
>>> we should restore the ban on military style assault weapons and ten round limit for magazines, and that deserves a vote in congress because weapons of war have no place on our streets or in our schools or threatening our law enforcement officers . our law enforcement officers should never be outgunned on the streets.
>> president obama is not backing down from the most controversial aspects of his gun safety recommendations. renewing the ban on assault weapons and high capacity making sfwleenz, but already senate democrats are recordly preparing to sacrifice the assault weapons ban to give broader reform a chance at survival. a top aid to majority leader harry reid told the " wall street journal " that the bill will not include a ban on military style weapons. members continue to vilify efforts at increasing gun safety in a way that only they can.
>> they demonize people who are legal gun owners and obama, oh, look at hem. he cares about the children. screw you. you think we don't care about the children? you're the one who won't do anything about the mentally ill .
>> 99.99% of the gun owners of america are wonderful people that you are hanging around with here today. wo the hell alone? go after the nut jobs. go after the murderers because i don't know any.
>> joy, let's talk about this. when you lead in with ted nugent and ann coulter --
>> doesn't get much better.
>> always so much to talk about. insofar as we need to come together to get anything enacted. it does seem like the republican party or those in the conservative wing of the republican party have dug their heels in in a firm fashion.
>> gin that, what did you make of the president's, we'll call it, push on the assault weapons ban yesterday?
>> no, you know what, i think it's important theme atically because everyone understands the ar-15 is now the weapon of choice of mass murderers, and i think that symbolically a lot of people who want gun control say, you know, you have to get at those guns. how can you not? if you talk to democrats on the hill, i think people mostly will tell you that the most likely thing probably is background checks . that's something everyone agrees on, and we have to remember, look, assault weapons like the ar-15 are right now the top-selling product in the gun industry. if you are a harry reid or a republican with a lot of gun retailers in your district or in your state, they're telling you, this is what we're selling. we're not selling more shotguns. we're selling more handguns, and we're selling a lot of ar-15s. you can't come at them because the nra is there to represent the people who sell guns for a living.
>> luke , you're still here with us, my friend. in terms of the sort of realities, the legislative realities here, it sounds like the assault weapons ban is going to be the sacrificial lamb , and it sort of has to be to give moderate "democrats -- "moderate democrats" cover to get further reform enacted. so are you bullish on the idea of universal background checks making its wau through congress?
>> bullish on the term of universal background checks ? i don't necessarily know about that. i think you will see the terminology be expanded background checks in some capacity moving forward. what those look like we're still unclear. again, i go back to house majority leader eric cantor who runs the floor and is in charge of what legislation radio go before the house gop . he recently said he would be open to sort of changing federal law to match up with what you have seen in the state of virginia , which after the virginia tech massacre , you saw more on the lines of trying to get mental health and mental health records tied into gun background checks . you can move on that area. again, though, i think it's very much of a piecemeal approach from anything out of the house gop , and the big sweeping gun reforms that some folks even thought were possible after newtown was speaker boehner. he said he would be open to putting some of biden's proposals moving them forward in the house. i don't think you're going to see anything sweeping. there's a lot of rank-and-file members on the republican side that don't want to see any changes to the status quo, except for maybe new enhanced background check system and what does that look like? we're still unclear.
>> wow. that is a decidedly -- i mean, if you are an advocate for gun safety laws in this country, especially in the wake of newtown and aurora, that's not a particular pessimistic read on what we're going to get. i do think it's probably worth going into the assault weapons ban and there's a lot of talk about how effective or ineffective it was. i mean, one of the -- we sort of went back into the archives as we are want to do on this show, and if you kind of look at the holes in the assault weapons ban , it was sort of -- and the fact that it was only enacted for ten years, it was almost guaranteed not to fail, but not to be that effective. the justice department review concluded the banned exemption of millions of preban assault weapons and large capacity magazines insured that the affects of the law would occur only gradually. it expired in 2004 , so we'll never really know. that almost -- it seems like that's insured its demise even now when we're talking about it again. it's sort of this going back to this old chestnut that it didn't work then, so how could it now?
>> absolutely. i think also the political support for it is just not there at the same level that it is for background checks or universal background checks . 93% of people want that kind of a background check .
>> given that, michael steele , if 93% of the public, nine in ten americans want background checks mosh scrutiny on who can buy a gun, then why is congress so far behind on this?
>> because their interests lie elsewhere and write the campaign contribution that is they get to sustain themselves. you don't have to go that far. the senate just talk to harry reid . everybody focussing on house republicans. the democrats have their own issues in the senate. harry reid from the very beginning of this discussion was not out front going, oh, you know what, we really need to do this.
>> he was -- on sunday he didn't -- he read dianne feinstein 's --
>> he made it very clear that this was not going because of the interests in the state where they're building and manufacturing. the question i think that you ultimately come down to and luke and others may hear this on the hell is with this whole idea of the assault weapons ban per se , people are buying these guns. it's the number one seller, the ar-15. they're getting them in droves. they're not just buying one. they're buying three, four. does ban then lead to confiscation? you have now armed a significant portion of the gun population.
>> well, 300 more americans own guns than cars.
>> there were 1.5 million preban assault weapons . 25 million preban high capacity making sfwleenz, and 4.7 million high capacity magazines.
>> speaking to the concern that people have and what i hear from the gun owners that i know and some of them who own some of these weapons, that is their legitimate fear that this becomes a slippery slope and becomes the door that opens and allows the federal government to come in --
>> and grab your guns.
>> to grab your guns.
>> no one has proposed that. first of all, what happened either with the assault weapons ban ? first of all, praying matically, like there's no way they are going to start to send in atf agents. it's absurd. i mean, the other thing is when -- even when the first assault weapons ban happens, the industry, the lobbyists, come in and get so many guns exempted because the ar-15 is such a big seller, you know it will happen. the lobbyists will come in and get it excerpted. they'll get these different guns excerpted. it never happens that you have a total ban on assault weapons anyway, because, look, the gun industry is the only industry in the country that has a total liability exemption because they are the only -- every other defense contractor has a liability that they attach to them legally. they are exempt from lawsuits and everything because the lobby is so powerful at getting them just cleared off of the books in term of ow laws. it's absurd sfwloosh can i say one thing independent and parallel to this conversation about gun safety . the whole aim is to make our country safer, right? yet, the thing that we aren't talking about, this is such an important and lost point. reported by buzz feed. port was more highly correlated with gun deaths than almost any other state characteristic. more intensive interventions for mental illness might not have much affect on the overall gun violence rate given that severely mentally ill people are involved in only about 4% of violent crime. that is not something being described. there's a lot of analysis about how effective a gun ban would be of any kind. how effecttive mental health -- better mental health programs would be. at the end of the day -- the linkage tweej poverty and fwun violence is extraordinary, and it's not touched by in many your party, mr. steele.
>> yours too. what annoy medicine even further is that the link between race and gun violence is not touched. now, i appreciate the president and the whole thing and coming out with newtown and all that, but over 500 young black men especially were killed in chicago alone in 2012 . not between 2008 and 2012 . in one year. now we're having this conversation. to me let's get real and honest about what this really means to the country and the impact it's having on people who are of color living in communities where these guns are filtered through and they're just left at their own -- to their own devices, and mama has to show up at the funeral home and pray and weep over this child because all of a sudden --
>> nothing legislatively -- well, actually, luke , let me go back to you. the one piece of this that may actually affect sort of urban violence is the trafficking bill. which seems to have bipart sfwlan support.
>> that's correct. you could see that in terms of how guns are moved into communities. a lot of folks have seen just -- you mentioned that there's this fear that leads to more ush urban violence. ly going bah to what a republican told me a few weeks ago. there is a lot of fear among rank-and-file republicans on moving forward on anything related to guns because they're very weary of the pillars of what they believe are being taken out. a lot of them voted for a tax increase at the end of 2012 . a lot of them are not moving to protect defense cuts right now that are tied to this sequester. there's also a belief within the republican party that you're going to see something happen in regards to immigration. that pillar can be moved out. one thing that's a very strong pillar for house gop is this idea of guns and gun rights . any time you talk about background checks and assault weapons bans and trafficking and everything out there, there is a significant fear amongst republicans that their pillars are eroding, and the gun one is the easiest one for them to hold on to to save them with their base all throughout the country.
>> it is a -- this is a conversation really about the future of the republican party , i think, as much as it is about legislation.
>> luke russert , thank you, as always. we will work on the royalties for the next time.
>> take care.
>> coming up, the gop 's efforts to decide elections by unpopular vote, and the tyranny of the minority . we will look at gerrmandering and the divide just ahead. this is $100,000.