All-Star Panel: The gun control debate on Capitol Hill

All-Star panel weighs in


This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," January 30, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


GABRIELLE GIFFORDS, D - FORMER ARIZONA REPRESENTATIVE: Violence is a big problem. Too many children are dying. We must do something.

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER, D – N.Y.: Not including guns when discussing mass killings is like not including cigarettes when discussing lung cancer.

SEN. TED CRUZ, R - TX: The reaction to this tragedy at Newtown is for a lot of elected officials in Washington to rush to reenact a law that according to Department of Justice did absolutely nothing to reduce gun violence. The assault weapon ban, if it doesn't ban machine guns, what does it ban? And what it bans, I would suggest to you, are scary looking guns.  


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Well, a big hearing up on Capitol Hill today. The Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, and one of the guests was former Congresswoman from Arizona Gabby Giffords testifying, saying that Congress must act in the wake of Newtown and obviously the shooting in Tucson.

We're back with our panel. Steve, it was an emotional hearing, today, one at times fiery. You look at the votes up there. What do you think is going to happen?

STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: I think the Feinstein bill is going nowhere.

BAIER: That's the assault weapons ban.

HAYES: The assault weapons ban is going nowhere. There are now a number of other pieces of legislation that have been offered. There was a piece in the Senate looking to stop black market gun activity by Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois and Kirsten Gillibrand from New York. There are all sorts of other gun proposals that are coming to life. I don't see Senator Feinstein's bill going anywhere.

BAIER: At one point, Nina, Senator Schumer said "One of the things we should do is a universal background check. That is something we can all agree on." It seemed to be almost that Democrats were starting to do a fallback position that we need to get at least this done.

NINA EASTON, COLUMNIST, FORTUNE MAGAZINE: Yeah and I wouldn't give up – I wouldn't say that anybody is giving up on an assault weapons ban or something that at least limits magazine size. And yes, I think the background check if you look at the polls has wide support. But so does banning assault weapons and limiting the size of magazines. That's well over half the population supports that. So I think --

BAIER: In the polls. But on Capitol Hill --

EASTON: On Capitol Hill --

BAIER: If you took a head count of votes even among Democrats --

EASTON: But I also think this is one of those cases where the White House is going to put capital behind it and make an effort to move it forward.

HAYES: I think it is very tough with Senator Feinstein not even wanting to comment on Harry Reid and his position. You have optimism or skepticism from somebody like Pat Leahy, he's a senior Democrat. I think there are a number of reasons to believe what the Senate Democrats and White House are doing are putting this forward in effect to allow Democrats to say that they voted for, or that they voted against some gun control proposal, in this case, it would be the Feinstein Bill, which would maybe free them up to vote for other things.

BAIER: Nina, you see the White House actively putting enough capital behind it to push it across the finish line? It seems like they are putting the focus on immigration now and taking it away from gun control, at least publicly.

EASTON: The president has said, he is on record saying Newtown was the worst day of my presidency.

BAIER: I understand that, but politically and optically.

EASTON: I think optically, what you've got -- I think the optics actually favor the White House in this case because what you have got is the stories of people who have been attacked in mass murders – killed in mass murders. You've got the children of Newtown, you have Gabby Giffords, and you've got that lined up against this theoretical argument about the Second Amendment. I think the optics play in the president's favor. It's early in this debate. I would not give up on this happening.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: But there is a second argument which isn't a theoretical one, and that is an empirical one. We tried this for 10 years and it had no effect. So what is going on here is a competition between the emotional reaction -- what happened in Newtown which wears off over time, the way it always does, and the rational response is what can we do that will actually work?  And as long as you've got a diminishing strength of influence number one, on the second one the more you look at this, it's not had an effect. It's not going to have an effect.

BAIER: One of the back-and-forth events was the NRA, Wayne LaPierre appearing, had a back and forth with Senator Durbin from Illinois.


SEN. DICK DURBIN, D - IL: Your NRA members say you don't get it. It's not just about hunting. It's not just about sports. It's not just about shooting targets. It's not just about defending ourselves from criminals, as Miss Trotter testified. We need the fire power and the ability to protect ourselves from our government.

WAYNE LAPIERRE, NRA PRESIDENT: What people all over the country fear today is being abandoned by their government. If a tornado hits, if a hurricane hits, if a riot occurs, if they're going to be out there alone. And the only way they're going to protect themselves in the cold and the dark when they're vulnerable is with a firearm.


BAIER: Steve.

HAYES: Yeah, that was one of the several times where I thought that Wayne LaPierre was sort of on the hot seat. He had a similar fiery exchange with Dianne Feinstein. It was an interesting argument to hear from the head of the NRA basically that people were worried about not enough government at those times of crisis and they wanted a firearm. I think it was certainly something that will appeal to the NRA membership.

BAIER: Much more to talk about this. The president, by the way, heads to Minneapolis on Monday to talk about gun control. That's it for the panel, but stay tuned for the difference between cats and dogs.

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