All-Star Panel: Administration's new effort at gun control reform

All-Star panel weighs in


This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," January 9, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: The president is going to act. There are executive orders, executive action that can be taken. We haven't decided what that is yet. But we are compiling it all with help of the attorney general and all the rest of the cabinet members as well as legislative action we believe is required.


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Vice President Biden today, his first meeting of the task force to find some solutions on gun violence, said there are consensus on three to four things in the gun safety area is how he claimed that around that table of officials from the various groups, gun safety groups, also victims.  Thursday he meets with hunting group as well as an official from the National Rifle Association. That group, obviously, the NRA, staunchly opposed to any efforts to come after or restrict gun rights in any way.  Its president speaking out about that, saying there is more problem in Hollywood.


WAYNE LAPIERRE, NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION: We have blood-soaked films out there, like "American Psycho," "Natural Born Killers," that are aired like propaganda loops on splatter days and every single day. Rather than face their own moral failing the media demonized lawful gun owners.


BAIER: The thing that raised everyone's eyebrows today was the talk of executive action perhaps even before Congress acts on gun control or any other broad measure. Let's bring in our panel tonight, Steve Hayes, senior writer for The Weekly Standard, Charles Lane, opinion writer for Washington Post, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. OK Steve, thoughts on the vice president's comments and the overall effort?

STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: I think the first thing must be said is people who thought the creation of the commission would mean the White House was going to duck serious attempts at doing something were wrong. That is plainly not the case. The White House is proceeding. It seems to be taking what's a pretty aggressive path.

Nobody also should be surprised that the White House would pursue executive action to do the kinds of things that it's unlikely they'll be able to do with Congress. They have done this on a number of issues from immigration to a series of others. So I think that, it rings true when Joe Biden says that they're going to push that aggressively.

I think, you know, what they are likely to do is push for greater enforcement through executive action, things like background checks, encouraging other federal government agencies to provide information already in their possession to the FBI to help compile more information on people who could be threats to get guns, sort of the smaller, the lower hanging fruit as it were, of these debates. I think they are likely to pursue the bigger picture, the assault weapons ban through legislative action working through Congress.

BAIER: Chuck?

CHARLES LANE, EDITORIAL WRITER, WASHINGTON POST: It's interesting.  The politics of this are beginning to remind me a little bit of the politics of gay marriage. Gun control, like gay marriage, is an issue that is very popular in Democratic base but to which the president came belatedly and now is going all out on it. So I think in that sense it's consistent with his strategy for the second term, which has been to in a way tilt toward progressive wing of the party.

The difference is public opinion more broadly, which does seem to be flowing in the direction of gay marriage but it's a lot less clear with respect to gun control. And I think the handicap he's going to run into are a lot of red state Democratic senators who have a lot of gun owners in their states who wouldn't approve of this kind of legislation, many of whom are up for re-election in 2014.

BAIER: It does seem like a lot of politicians are going to their corners, Charles, at least in this time. At some point right after Newtown it seemed there was a moment where things were moving. But it seems like the bases on both parties are getting active.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: They are very active, but I do think the broad public opinion hasn't changed radically. It's not a left-right issue, it isn't a Democratic-Republican issue. There are a lot of the Democrats who are pro-gun, as you see as represented by many of the senators.

And I think we are going to end up exactly where we started. We're probably going to try an assault weapons ban, it will be a little bit tighter. But it didn't work. The numbers on it lasted for 10 years from the mid-90s and the statistics on it had no effect. And the reason is simple. If you really -- if we had honest debate, the gun owners would admit that yes, of course, guns contribute to homicide. The rate in Britain where they don't have any is 10 times as much as here. Japan had 11 gun homicides last year. That is a weekend in Chicago.

But where we are different, we have a 200-year history and culture of gun ownership, and we have a Second Amendment. And we have a system that believes that the rights, the Second Amendment – and other amendments -- predate the republic. And the point of having a government as in a declaration is to secure the rights. In Britain, you have no such right. The government will control gun ownership. So unless you are willing to confiscate, which would be unconstitutional, and would cause insurrection in the country, as Australia did, these things are not going have an effect except at the margins. And that is the tragedy here.

BAIER: There are, obviously, lawmakers in several states who are talking about confiscating. We heard a lawmaker in Iowa. There's a couple of other lawmakers. And then you had today, the state of the state address from New York Governor Cuomo who said he wants to enact the toughest assault weapon ban legislation in the nation. And he was very animated about it today.


GOV. ANDREW CUOMO, D – N.Y.: I say to you, forget the extremists.  It's simple. No one hunts with an assault rifle. No one needs 10 bullets to kill a deer. And too many innocent people have died already.


CUOMO: End the madness now! Pass safe, reasonable gun control in the state of New York. Make this state safer!


CUOMO: Save lives!


BAIER: Well-received there. Steve?

HAYES: Well, it depends on your meaning of "extremist." Governor Cuomo was one of those who initially talked about "confiscation." That is his word.  He used that word, "confiscation." I think confiscation is something that's on the extreme of the left side of the Democratic Party.

BAIER: There will be many talks about this at this panel. The panel weighs in on cabinet picks and confirmation fights next.

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