School shooting renews gun control vs. mental health debate

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report with Bret Baier," February 15, 2018. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We are committed to working with state and local leaders to help secure our schools and tackle the difficult issue of mental health.

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL, D-CONN.: Mental health solutions are not going to stop gun violence. We need stronger gun violence prevention and background checks.

SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY, R-IOWA: We have not done a very good job of making sure that people that have mental reasons for not being able to handle a gun, getting their name into the FBI files. And we need to concentrate on that.

HOUSE MINORITY LEADER NANCY PELOSI, D-CALIF.: I'd rather pass gun safety legislation than win the election.

GOV. RICK SCOTT, R-FLA.: We're going to find out what happened here, and what we're going to do is we're going to have a real conversation about how we're going to stop it.


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: A lot of talk about action today after that horrible shooting in Florida yesterday, 17 killed. But what is real and what can potentially happen in the building behind us? Let's bring in our panel: Fox News senior judicial analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano; Jonah Goldberg, senior editor at National Review; A.B. Stoddard, associate editor at Real Clear Politics and host of "No Labels Radio" on Sirius XM, and Jonathan Swan, national politics reporter for Axios.

A.B., I'll start with you. What is real? You know, Nancy Pelosi says she would rather lose the election and pass something. But what's possible in this environment?

A.B. STODDARD, REAL CLEAR POLITICS: Oh, I don't know what's possible because we've been here before. They didn't even get bump stocks legislation out after the NRA supported it last summer. We're not looking at a real opportunity here. Both sides continue to dig in. If you want to actually change this, you have to actually take away the weaponry with the ability to kill so many people so quickly. That infringes on one constitutional right.

If you want to stop -- get in early and screen social media, you're infringing -- where people are describing these feelings and these plans and intentions of photographs and everything, you're taking away their constitutional expression of free speech.

BAIER: We hear what the president says. But behind the scenes what is the administration thinking? Is there thinking about a policy push do you think?

JONATHAN SWAN, AXIOS: One adviser said to me that this is theoretically a Nixon-to-China opportunity. Trump is probably the only guy who could because he is so solid on this issue. The NRA supports him, he could actually go there. But I don't think Trump wants to go to China. This is an issue where he actually instinctively understands. He said it in speeches, he says, Common Core bad, Second Amendment good. And this is something that he has internalized. He's seen it on the campaign trail, he understands it. And there was nobody who supported him more strongly during the campaign than the NRA. So I don't see Trump acting against the NRA's interests on this issue.

BAIER: Here's the president on making schools safer.


TRUMP: Later this month I will be meeting with the nation's governors and attorney generals. We're making our schools and our children safer will be our top priority. It is not enough to simply take actions that make us feel like we are making a difference, we must actually make that difference.


BAIER: Jonah?

JONAH GOLDBERG, NATIONAL REVIEW: I didn't get the audio in the first half, but I think he's right. But I should also say, you know, I agree with A.B. that we are in a political stalemate. And just the second this news broke, I think everybody who has to talk about these things professionally, their soul just got weighted down just at the prospect of the same arguments on both sides, which I think are valid arguments and important arguments and all the rest. But I do think because if there is a stalemate in the political system, that doesn't mean that the rest of society can't adjust to these things. There can be an Israeli style hardening of these schools. There are different tactics that people can take.

I agree with A.B. that if the government gets involved, and using AI or something to monitor comments on the web, that gets into serious First Amendment issues, and we'll have him set his hair on fire.

BAIER: Pointing to the judge next door.


GOLDBERG: But there are, you know -- this guy was saying, yes, he actually said in a YouTube comment section, I'm going to be a professional school shooter.

BAIER: Right.

GOLDBERG: That is a red flag. And it was sent to the FBI.

BAIER: So let's play that, special agent talking about what happened there with the FBI.


ROBERT LASKY, FBI SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE: In 2017, the FBI received information about a comment made on a YouTube channel. The comment simply said, "I'm going to be a professional school shooter." No other information was included with that comment, which would indicate a time, location, or the true identity of the person who made the comment. The FBI conducted database reviews, checks, but was unable to further identify the person who actually made the comment. We do not know if it's the same person.


BAIER: Judge?

JUDGE ANDREW NAPOLITANO, FOX NEWS SENIOR JUDICIAL ANALYST: I essentially agree with everything my colleagues have said. And my heart sank knowing that I was going to have to talk about this because it's such a tragedy. And I like the Israeli model. The school doors are locked and two or three of the teachers are trained to carry. You don't know which teachers they are. They do not carry openly. They carry silently and in a hidden way. And how many school killings are there in Israel? None. That all can be done by the Florida legislature. It does not require the Congress.

Congress can't do anything. Congress can't pass a budget. Congress can't agree on DACA. We're going to talk about that in a little while. The president I agree with Jonathan is very much wedded to the NRA as is more than half the House of Representatives. That's a nonstarter. And there's this thing called the Second Amendment which they've all taken a note to uphold and the Supreme Court has interpreted as it has in a very pro- individual rights way.

BAIER: Is the mental health push, you know, that talking about this something that they can get done with something else, and at least around the edges try to attack it?

SWAN: Well, they've already passed some legislation, I think Paul Ryan pointed that out, the 21st century cures act that touches on mental health issues. I don't know because you're going to have the left saying this is just a smoke screen for the real issue, which is background checks. Everyone retreats to their camps immediately. And as A.B. was saying, it's very hard to see where that common ground is.

BAIER: Look at this deal. He gets the AR-15 legally. He buys it legally. He passes the background check. I mean, something happened.

STODDARD: And that is why the gun control side will argue that the background checks are not restrictive enough, that you are still permitted to buy a firearm when you --

BAIER: Have been expelled from --

STODDARD: -- had problems. And that they would argue that if you can't drink alcohol, why are you carrying an AR-15 around at age 18?

GOLDBERG: I just want to point out, I know the NRA becomes the shorthand in these conversations. But the NRA, if you listen to some people on some other networks, they talk about how all these politicians are owned by the NRA and we talk about how Donald Trump is beholden to the NRA. The NRA actually doesn't give that much money into politics compared to a lot of other institutions. Their effectiveness is that they're -- and I'm critic of some of the things the NRA does, but their effectiveness is that they're actually organizing and communicating with actual voters. And that's what makes them so effective.

BAIER: If you poll in these swing states, it's through the roof. That's not NRA, that's --

GOLDBERG: That's not the NRA. That's being beholden to the voters who get you elected.

NAPOLITANO: I've got say that suggesting that this is a mental health issue is a diversion. It's an issue of not enough superior firepower to stop these killers. If he's crazy, he's going to find a way to kill. If he's irrational and wants to kill, he is going to find a way to kill.

BAIER: There are 300 million guns.

NAPOLITANO: Except in schools, like a sitting duck.

SWAN: I was talking to a senior White House official about this today and they said, what are we going to do? There is, whatever, 320 million guns in this country. Are we going to do what my country did and try to buy them all back? It's not realistic. Again, I don't see this heading in a gun control direction.

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