All-Star Panel: Debating the politics of gun control

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," July 23, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I hope that over the next several days, next several weeks, and next several months we all reflect on how we can do something about some of the senseless violence that ends up marring this country.


SHANNON BREAM, ANCHOR: The president in Colorado yesterday after visiting with families, victims, and loved ones of the shooting there, talking about what comes next. Let's talk about that with our panel because the debate about gun control almost always surfaces as part of the conversation as we look in the wake of these tragedies. David, it doesn't seem like though from the White House or anywhere on Capitol Hill there's really an appetite for reigniting that debate.

DAVID DRUCKER, REPORTER, ROLL CALL: I don't think so. The politics on this has actually been settled for quite some time. But I think let's look at this historically when we did have the debate over gun control in the 80s and the early 90s you generally had Republicans on one side who would side with the Second Amendment and not wanting to infringe upon that. You'd have a lot of Democrats who were in favor of more gun control, Bill Clinton famously, which helped lead to the 1994 Republican revolution if you really look at how that midterm played out.

And ever since the 2000 election which was the last time a Democratic candidate pushed for major gun control on the trail, most Democrats who have been elected to office in Washington have been very strong Second Amendment advocates. They have come from culturally conservative areas.  That's how the Democrats built their 2006 House majority and Senate majority. And have been just as pro Second Amendment, if you will as the Republicans.

So while the NRA gets a lot of credit and the gun lobby – so-called – is very strong and is definitely not going to let anything happen without a fight. I think the truth is you have Democrats as well as Republicans who have run saying they don't want to do anything more in terms of passing more gun control legislation. Most famously, last cycle you had Senator Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, using a gun to shoot a poster of ObamaCare on a tree. So there you have it. It's bipartisan. It's been settled. And unless there's a public outcry demanding this, I don't think you're going to see a change.

BREAM: One of the folks who has been a leader on discussing possibly more control I in this area has been Senator Dianne Feinstein. I want to play a little bit of what she had to say on "Fox News Sunday" as well as Senator Ron Johnson.


SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN, D - CA: We've got to sit down and really come to grips with what is sold to the average citizen in America.  I have no problem with people being licensed buying a firearm. But these are weapons that you're only going to be using to kill people in close combat.

SEN. RON JOHNSON, R - WI: This isn't an issue about guns, this is just really an issue about sick, demented individuals and it's a tragedy and I don't think there's a solution in Washington to solve this problem.


BREAM: But A.B. when she brings up -- Senator Feinstein brings up that issue about the type of ammunition that used here, do you think that's a conversation some people are interested in having?

A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, THE HILL: Well, David's right, not the Democrats, the dwindling culturally conservative Democrats who support Second Amendment rights and who are getting voted out of office at a rapid pace and the voters themselves who are rapidly supporting the Republican party more and more as the years pass, President Obama doesn't want to alienate any of the ones that are left.

Senator Feinstein is speaking to an issue that President Obama can only dance around now, which is that none of the legally obtained easily purchased online types of weapons that the Colorado gunman bought or the volume of ammunition that he stockpiled, none of this is used for sport. None of it is used for self-defense.

But President Obama pointed to an editorial he wrote in an Arizona paper as his clarifying statement this week that he wrote a year ago after Gabby Giffords and her constituents were shot saying that he supports the protection of Second Right Amendment rights that allow people to legally buy them.  This suspect was not a criminal. He didn't have -- he bought everything legally, and President Obama supports what he did. And he is not coming out and neither are other Democrats to change those laws.

BREAM: One independent senator -- he identifies as an independent, Joe Lieberman has said late this afternoon some comments from him saying, Charles, that nobody wants to take this on because, quote, "the gun lobby is that strong."

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, the problem for Lieberman is the gun lobby is the majority of the American people. It's not a lobby that starting all this, the reason that the lobby's strong is because it represents overwhelming opinion in the United States. And how do we know that? The President of the United States, who had this tremendous opening if he wanted to push the issue of guns after a tragedy of this magnitude, could easily have done it. And he assiduously stayed away from it because he knows it's a losing political proposition. Liberals in the country want gun control, Democrats don't. They normally overlap, but not on this. Democrats will not go near this because of the experience, as we heard a little earlier about in 1994, and they don't want to repeat that again. We're at the height of an election year and they're not going to go near it. So you're going to have a lot of discussion on the talk shows, you're going to have none in Congress and nothing will happen in terms of legislation.

BREAM: Well, something else Lieberman mentioned was buying all this ammunition over the internet, as you mentioned A.B. He said it worries him because if that amount of ammunition is being used and bought, it should be a concern and raising a red flag about terrorism so there might be something to be done about online purchases.  David, do you think there will be any appetite even for that segment of the argument?

DRUCKER: I don't know that there's going to be an appetite for it but I do think at some time if some lawmakers want to talk about how you legally buy ammunition and guns, it's possible to have that discussion without it being as damaging, if you make it clear that the issue is not so much whether you can buy it but just the venue and the quantities. There has been voter approval for background checks and things of that nature, and so I don't know that that's the problem. But anything in reaction to this tragedy, I think people are walking gingerly around it anyway because of the politics of it.

BREAM: Alright thank you very much, panel.

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