The Last Word | February 04, 2013
>>> we don't have to agree on everything to agree it is time to do something. that -- that is my main message here today.
>> that was president obama today in minneapolis, once again urging congress to make a move on gun control legislation. but over the last 36 hours we've seen some actual shifts within the gun control debate. first, there was chris wallace 's kind of amazing interview with the national rifle association frontman wayne lapierre , the 15-minute interview demonstrated he was not just out of step with the center but also some with the right. take the background checks , for instance, 92% of people favor the background gun checks, 85% support the gun checks. but lapierre called the background checks a fraud.
>> i think what they will do is turn this universal check on the law abiding on a universal registry of the law abiding people, they don't want that.
>> forgive me, sir, you take something that is here and you say it is going to go all the way over there. there is no indication, i mean, i can understand you saying that is the threat. but there is nothing that anyone in the administration has said that indicates they will have a universal registry.
>> that was really something, the nra getting smacked down by fox news for spinning weird conservative conspiracy theories by the obama administration's secret government plan to track law abiding citizens and under undermine the citizens, the times are changing, house and senate working on the bills to include background checks and limiting ammunition magazines. and no universal registry of all citizens. tomorrow, a bipartisan group in the house will also introduce a bill that will make the gun trafficking a federal crime and impose stricter penalties on "straw purchasers" or people who buy firearms for those who can't. they would only get in trouble of law enforcement was able to prove they bought a gun for a nonpurchaser, you had to have known they were a criminal. the new law, which mirrors one already introduced in the senate would make it illegal for straw purchasers to buy and transfer fa firearms to anyone banned from having one at all. but the question is where does congress stand on passing bans?
>> you should restore the military-style ban, and restore the ten-round magazines. that deserves a vote in congress, because weapons of war have no place in our streets or schools or threatening the law enforcement officers .
>> a deserves a vote in congress, they are important words, many looked at the quote and noticed that president obama was using different, arguably weaker language, on the gun control agenda than he has been using for other parts of the bill. that could be if senator harry reid 's argument -- that is essentially dead on arrival anyway.
>> if diane feinstein doesn't have the assault weapons at least let her have an opportunity to offer this amendment.
>> will you vote for it?
>> i don't know, frankly -- and she knows i didn't read her amendment. i didn't vote for the assault weapons last time because it didn't make sense, but i'll take a look at it.
>> joining me now to take a look at it. editor for the new republic, good to see you, my friend.
>> thanks for having me on the show, ezra.
>> so that didn't sound enormously encouraging from harry reid , kind of sounded like the assault weapons ban will get a bit of a pro forma vote and that is about it.
>> i think everybody knew going into the fight the different elements of the gun legislation agenda, that the assault weapons ban would be one that had the hardest road ahead. in part because you know you still need 60 votes to pass anything in the senate. and in part because the republicans control the house. and in part because the gun lobby has made this a very hard vote to have. now, i don't think it is a lost cause. i think if you believe, if you're a progressive, if you believe we need to take action to reduce gun violence and you think the assault weapons ban can make a difference, and i happen to think all of those things, then look, this is an opportunity. there is going to be a vote. i think right now if they had the vote today it probably wouldn't pass. but that doesn't mean it can't pass in a week or two and three weeks. it is really up to the people who care about this to organize and make something happen. and it is possible. is it likely to pass at this point? i don't know. but you hear reports it is dead on arrival , not going to happen. that feels a little premature to me.
>> and when we had the assault weapons ban in the '90s it was not an incredibly effective piece of legislation. it was by wide consensus, not incredibly designed. you have been talking to a lot of folks about what a better assault weapons ban would look like. what are the key features of that? if we could do this, what would it take to do it right?
>> right, so if you go back and history and look at the original assault weapons ban , one thing, when they put this together they didn't know as much about gun violence . and frankly they didn't write a very good law. it included a few weapons by name. update it also had this restriction that basically said, a gun had to have two characteristics of an assault weapon . it could be something like that a folding stock . it could be a flash suppresser. it had to have two qualifiers. people have learned, saying we're going to name a lot more guns by name. a little over a dozen, we're talking potentially over 150 guns. but if this gun has just one of those characteristics then it will qualify. if you put it in that context and the context of broader legislation, i think they look at this, saying it will not dramatically reduce gun violence , but it could make a difference at the margins and make a bigger difference than the last assault weapons ban did.
>> and the bigger difference, we're talking about lives here. and i think one thing, as there is more consensus around the background checks , people have sort of written off their importance. but almost every expert i talk to seems to think they're very important, a huge deal if we could get background legislations and more regulations on the straw purchasers, what do you believe on that?
>> i couldn't agree more. usually when we talk about the legislation is the part that is easy to pass is the law that won't do anything. the part that is hard to pass, will make a difference. the part that is easy to pass, the background checks are actually probably the most effective. that is what is probably going to make the most difference.
>> johnathan cohn, that is very nicely put, thank you for joining us.
>> thank you.
>> coming up, john boehner 's house of representatives is incensed that president obama will not give them a budget proposal they don't like and will vote down very quickly. come on.