The politics of the gun control debate

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report with Bret Baier," March 28, 2018. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN, D-CALIF.: I don't think it's possible. I think it's extraordinarily difficult to do. To change the constitution, I don't think it would be accomplished.

JOHN LOTT, CRIME PREVENTION RESEARCH CENTER: I think doing away with the Second Amendment would clearly increase violence. To the extent that you disarm law-abiding citizens, you make it easier for criminals to go and commit crime.


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Getting rid of the Second Amendment. All of these protesters, all of the people taking to the street said that was not the main purpose, but yet it has come up because former Supreme Court justice Stevens, John Paul Stevens, writing an op-ed in "The New York Times" "In 2008, the Supreme Court overturned Chief Justice Burger's long settled understanding of the Second Amendment's limited reach by the ruling in District of Columbia versus Heller that there was an individual right to bear arms. That decision, which I remain convinced was wrong and certainly was debatable, has provided the NRA with a propaganda weapon of immense power. Overturning that decision via constitutional amendment to get rid of the Second Amendment would be simple and would do more to weaken the NRA's ability to stymy legislative debate and to block constructive gun-control legislation than any other available option."

Well, what about all of that? Let's bring our panel: former CIA analyst and nationally syndicated radio host Buck Sexton; Catherine Lucey, White House reporter for the Associated Press, and Kimberley Strassel, a member of the editorial board at the Wall Street Journal.

Kimberley, when I saw this, I said, wait is this real? And sure enough, that op-ed did show up in the New York Times.

KIMBERLEY STRASSEL, WALL STREET JOURNAL: Yes, it's crazy. I think Justice Stevens got a little too use to only having to get five votes on the Supreme Court. Obviously repealing an amendment and repealing one that is as beloved in many states in the union as this one would require super majorities of the states to sign on. It's an impossible task. And for that matter, even getting some of the proposals that have been put forward by these groups that want gun-control, they are nowhere near it, as Dianne Feinstein has intimated in the Senate. Last time they tried to do it, they would have been lucky to have gotten 40 votes. So in that way, not much has changed politically in Washington.

BAIER: So Catherine, does this hurt somehow the effort that we just saw with the past few days that now this left, liberal justice who, by the way, was appointed and nominated by a Republican, is suggesting get rid of the Second Amendment?

CATHERINE LUCEY, ASSOCIATED PRESS: I think what we need to note is that none -- we haven't heard from organizers of the march or the leaders on this issue really backing this idea. I looked a little bit on Twitter to see who is getting on board, and one of the students who was a key member of the march organizers, he tweeted today that this wasn't something that he was looking for. So it's clear that there are people trying to put some distance between themselves and this statement.

That said, it does play into this argument you will hear from gun owners and the National Rifle Association, this anxiety that the real agenda from some of these gun-control advocates is to really try and repeal the Second Amendment.

BAIER: Yes, Buck.

BUCK SEXTON, SYNDICATED RADIO HOST: I have to say that there is a continued anxiety because we keep seeing instances like this with very prominent voices from the left or from the Democrat Party who say what we all think they actually believe which is that they would like there to be if not an outright ban, something very close to a ban on firearms in private hands of all kind.

Quite honestly, it's also the only intellectually consistent argument. We often hear about incremental changes, people will talk about common sense gun reforms. And then there won't be a consensus on what those reforms would be, Bret. If they are so obvious and so common sense, one would think they could all get on the same sheet of music.

I walked through one of these protest marches in New York over the weekend, and there were signs about banning AR-15s. There was a sign I saw that said "Trump kills kids." So the rhetoric is clearly way out of line and overheated.

And I would just also note that that New York Times editorial from a former Supreme Court justice, they misidentified the picture of a weapon at the very top of the editorial as a rifle when it was in fact a musket, which for those of us who watch the debate closely is not surprising from the New York Times.

BAIER: Here is some of the sound of a president bringing up the Second Amendment as we've heard over recent weeks.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: They will take away your Second Amendment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are not trying to take everybody's guns away. And the NRA wants people to think that. They're fearmongers.

TRUMP: There is nobody that loves the Second Amendment more than I do.

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS, D-CALIF.: I think of all these young people, these leaders, are making it very clear it's a false choice to suggest you're either in favor of the Second Amendment or you want to take everyone's guns away.


BAIER: So Kimberley, is there a way to get the debate to a place where something actually happens in Congress?

STRASSEL: In the short-term, no. And I think that that's the important thing for everyone to understand. In Congress, despite everyone talking about how these marchers signal some new front and some new change in the politics, the reality is in Washington this is probably the most pro-Second Amendment Republican Congress potentially in history. Nobody is going on the road of assault weapons bans. They passed the Fix NICS bill as part of the omnibus which does sure up some things in our background system. Many of them feel confident that that does provide them a way of saying they are doing something about this issue. But they are not going to take up any legislation on this.

The question is whether or not this plays some way in the midterms in the fall. Whether or not it potentially hurts Senate Democrats up for reelection in Trump states or whether it potentially hurts Republicans who are in suburban districts where there may be a lot of women voters or others who are watching this and they are not as committed to Second Amendment issues. We just won't know that until November comes along.

BAIER: How many times, Catherine, do you think we will hear do you agree with Justice John Paul Stevens?

LUCEY: I'm sure that's going to be a talking point going forward, absolutely. But yet, I think to Kimberley's point, in the short term we are not likely to see sweeping change. The omnibus had some incremental changes. And there's really no momentum right now for any kind of big major gun belt.

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