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AT THIS HOUR WITH BERMAN AND MICHAELA
GOP Plot to Take Down Trump; Obama Speech on Gun Control. Aired 11:30-12p ET
Aired January 5, 2016 - 11:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[11:30:00] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: On one side, let's say, of the GOP spectrum, you have Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. On the other side you have this battle for the GOP establishment, Rubio, Christie, Jeb Bush. We were just talking about the ads these super PACs are putting out that are supporting these candidates. Rubio attacking Chris Christie, a super PAC for him. Ted Cruz's super PAC attacking Rubio from the Democratic side. What do you think of it?
PATTY SOLIS DOYLE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: First of all, I want to disagree with S.E. Cupp on one thing. This is not a small group of people anymore. If you add up Donald Trump, Carly Fiorina, Ted Cruz, the anti-establishment group of candidates running right now, they're over 60 percent. 60 percent of the Republican Party wants them, right? So I would argue this is no longer a small portion. And the rest of the field, the establishment field is really fighting for second or third place. And it doesn't bode well for them at all.
So I don't know, S.E., I hate to argue with you, but I think given the poll numbers --
S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Let me just answer that. The thing -- the thing we don't talk about enough is the thing people are talking about is registered Republican voters who answer phone calls from pollsters on land lines. It's a very self-selecting group of people that we have decided are determining the front-runners of these elections. And I just don't think it's an accurate representation. And I think that will play out. We don't have to guess at this. We'll find out in the primary months coming up.
BERMAN: 27 days.
CUPP: I don't think it's as accurate as we are --
BERMAN: Patty, I've got -- I've got to pull the plug right here on land line, cell phones and otherwise. People get to show up to vote in 27 days in Iowa. We'll know then.
S.E. Cupp, Patty Solis Doyle, Josh Holmes, thanks.
BOLDUAN: Thanks, guys. Any moment now the president will officially reveal his controversial
plan to take on guns in America. New gun control executive actions under way.
BERMAN: How much of an impact will this action really have? That's ahead.
[11:35:23] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer, in Washington.
We begin our special coverage with breaking news out of the White House. We're only moments, away from a stark demonstration of the power and the limits of the presidency of the United States. Long frustrated by the refusal of Congress to tighten U.S. gun laws in a meaningful way, President Obama is about to announce a series of what are called executive actions aimed at making current laws more effective, something only the president can do, but it doesn't necessarily make new law. And the next president could un-do it just as quickly. It centers on the criminal and mental health background checks that federally licensed gun sellers are required to perform on buyers. The Obama plan would clarify that you don't need an actual gun store to be considered a dealer. And if you're a dealer, you have to have a license and do background checks. It would beef up the database to which gun buyers are checked. It proposes $500 million to increase access to mental health care and orders the Defense, Justice and Homeland Security Departments to research and develop new gun- safety technology. Obama says, and I'm quoting now, "Each year, more than 30,000 American lives are cut short by guns, two-thirds coming from suicides. Too many Americans have lost loved ones." He goes on, and I'm quoting again, "The gun lobby may be holding Congress hostage but they can't hold America hostage. We can't accept this carnage in our communities."
While we await the president, I want to bring in our senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta; chief White House correspondent, Jake Tapper; CNN chief political analyst; Gloria Borger; and our chief national correspondent, John King.
Jake, this is an important moment for the president. It's his final year in office. He's trying to do now what he has so far failed to do over the first seven years.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Now, three years ago, after the Sandy Hook shootings, he also did -- took some executive actions, 23, in fact. But they were minor. There is a lot of build-up about what he is doing this week. When you look at the actual proposals, at least so far as we understand them, they are relatively minor despite the fact that gun control advocates are saying this is a big, historic moment and that gun rights activists are saying this is a horrible thing that's going to lead to the confiscation of guns. These are relatively minor steps, as far as we've been told so far. It gets a conversation going about an issue the president has felt very frustrated about dealing with Congress. He wasn't able when there was a Democratically controlled Senate, he wasn't able to get some bigger measures in terms of closing the so- called gun show loophole accomplished.
BLITZER: Jim Acosta, you're there over at the White House. Set the scene for us. Tell us what we can expect to see and hear from the president.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, first of all, just to set you up the theatrics here of this announcement, the press -- much of the press is not going to be in the East Room when the president makes this announcement, several minutes from now. They cleared many of us out so they can have people from the gun control community, family members of victims of mass shootings across the country and, as Jake said, this stops short of the president declaring there universal background checks across the country. It boils down to this, Wolf, this is ATF guidance to gun sellers across the country. Do I need a license to buy and sell firearms? That's what they're going to sell gun sellers across the country. You need a license to sell firearms and need to conduct background checks.
BLITZER: I want to go to the White House right now. The president is being introduced by someone who has a very, very painful history as far as gun violence is concerned. I want to listen in.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you.
Thank you, everybody.
Please have a seat.
Thank you so much.
Mark, I want to thank you for your introduction. I still remember the first time we met and the time we spent together, the conversation we had about Daniel.
And that changed me that day. And my hope earnestly has been that it would change the country.
Five years ago this week, a sitting member of Congress and 18 others were shot at at a supermarket in Tucson, Arizona. It wasn't the first time I had to talk to the nation in response to a mass shooting, nor would it be the last: Fort Hood, Binghamton, Aurora, Oak Creek, Newtown, the Navy Yard, Santa Barbara, Charleston, San Bernardino. Too many.
Thanks to a great medical team and the love of her husband, Mark, my dear friend and colleague Gabby Giffords survived. She's here with us today with her wonderful mom.
It was thanks to a great medical team, her wonderful husband, Mark, who by the way the last time I met with Mark -- this is just a small aside. You may know Mark's twin brother is in outer space.
He came to the office and I said how often are you talking to him. He says well I usually talk to him every day, but the call was coming in right before the meeting, so I think I may have not answered his call, which made me feel kind of bad.
That's a long-distance call.
So I told him if his brother Scott is calling today that he should take it. Just turn the ringer off.
I was there with Gabby when she was still in the hospital, and we didn't think necessarily at that point that she was going to survive. And that visit right before memorial, about an hour later, Gabby first opened her eyes. And I remember talking to her mom about that.
But I know the pain that she and her family have endured these past five years and the rehabilitation and the work and the effort to recover from shattering injuries. And then I think of all the American who aren't as fortunate. Every single year, more than 30,000 Americans have their lives cut short by guns -- 30,000. Suicides, domestic violence, gang shootouts, accidents.
Hundreds of thousands of Americans have lost brothers and sisters or buried their own children. Many have had to learn to live with a disability or learn to live without the love of their life. A number of those people are here today. They can tell you some stories. In this room right here, there are a lot of stories. There's a lot of heartache. There's a lot of resilience, there's a lot of strength, but there's also a lot of pain. And this is just a small sample.
The United States of America is not the only country on Earth with violent or dangerous people, we are not inherently more prone to violence. But we are the only advanced country on Earth that sees this kind of mass violence erupt with this kind of frequency. It doesn't happen in other advanced countries. It's not even close.
And as I've said before, somehow we've become numb to it and we start thinking that this is normal. And instead of thinking about how to solve the problem, this has become one of our most polarized, partisan debates. Despite the fact that there's a general consensus in American about what needs to be done, and that's part of the reason why on Thursday, I'm going to hold a townhall meeting in Virginia on gun violence, because my goal here is to bring good people on both sides of this issue together for an open discussion.
I am not on the ballot again, I am not looking to score points. I think we can disagree without impugning other people's motives or without being disagreeable. We don't need to be talking past one another, but we do have to feel a sense of urgency about it.
In Dr. King's words, the fierce urgency of now, because people are dying. And the constant excuses for inaction no longer do, no longer suffice. That's why we are here today. Not to debate the last mass shooting, but to do something to prevent the next one.
To prove that the vast majority of Americans, even if our voices aren't always the loudest and most extreme, care enough about a little boy like Daniel to come together and take common-sense steps to save lives and protect more of our children.
Now, I want to be absolutely clear at the start. I have said this over and over again -- this also becomes routine. There is a ritual about this whole thing that I have to do. I believe in the Second Amendment. It is there, written on the paper, it guarantees a right to bear arms. No matter how many times people try to my words around, I taught constitutional law, I know a little bit about this.
I get it. But I also believe we can find ways to reduce gun violence consistent with the Second Amendment. I mean, think about it -- we all believe in the First Amendment, the guarantee of free speech. But we accept that you cannot yell "fire," in a theater. We understand there are some constraints on our freedom in order to protect innocent people.
We cherish our right to privacy, but we accept that you have to go through metal detectors before being allowed to board a plane. It's not because people like doing that, but we understand that is part of the price of living in a civilized society. And what's often ignored in this debate is that the majority of gun owners actually agree -- a majority of gun owners agree that we can respect the Second Amendment while keeping an irresponsible, lawbreaking feud from inflicting harm on a massive scale.
Today, background checks are required at gun stores. If a father wants to teach his daughter how to hunt, he can walk into a gun store, get a background check, purchase his weapon safely and responsibly. This is not seen as an infringement on the Second Amendment.
Contrary to the claims of what some gun rights' proponents have suggested, this has not been the first step in some slippery slope to mass confiscation. Contrary to claims of some presidential candidates, apparently before this meeting, this is not a plot to take away everybody's guns. You pass a background check, you purchase a firearm.
The problem is, some gun sellers have been operating under a different set of rules. A violent felon can buy the exact same weapon over the Internet with no background check, no questions asked. A recent study found that about one in 30 people looking to buy guns on one website had criminal records. One out of 30 had a criminal record. We're talking about individuals convicted of serious crimes -- aggravated assault, domestic violence, robbery, illegal gun possession; people with lengthy criminal histories buying deadly weapons all too easily. And this was just one website within the span of a few months.
So, we've created a system in which dangerous people are allowed to play by a different set of rules than a responsible gun owner who buys his or her gun the right way and subjects themselves to a background check. That doesn't make sense. Everybody should have to abide by the same rules. Most Americans and gun owners agree.
And that's what we tried to change three years ago after 26 Americans, including 20 children, were murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary. Two United States senators, Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, and Pat Toomey, a Republican from Pennsylvania, both gun owners, both strong defenders of our Second Amendment rights, both with "A" grades from the NRA -- that's hard to get -- worked together in good faith, consulting with folks like our vice president, who's been a champion on this for a long time, to write a common sense compromise bill that would have required virtually everyone who buys a gun to get a background check. That was it -- pretty common sense stuff.
Ninety percent of Americans supported that idea. Ninety percent of Democrats in the Senate voted for that idea, but it failed because 90 percent of Republicans in the Senate voted against that idea.
How did this become such a partisan issue? Republican President George W. Bush once said, "I believe in background checks at gun shows or anywhere to make sure that guns don't get into the hands of people that shouldn't have them." Senator John McCain introduced a bipartisan measure to address the gun show loophole, saying, "We need this amendment because criminals and terrorists have exploited and are exploiting this very obvious loophole in our gun safety laws."
Even the NRA used to support expanded background checks. And by the way, most of its members still do. Most Republican voters still do. How did we get here? How did we get to the place where people think requiring a comprehensive background check means taking away people's guns?
Each time this comes up, we are fed the excuse that common sense reforms like background checks might not have stopped the last massacre or the one before that or the one before that. So, why bother trying? I reject that thinking.
We know we can't stop every act of violence, every act of evil in the world. But maybe we could try to stop one act of evil, one act of violence. Some of you may recall at the same time that Sandy Hook happened, a disturbed person in China took a knife and tried to kill with a knife a bunch of children in China, but most of them survived because he didn't have access to a powerful weapon.
We maybe can't save everybody, but we could save some. Just as we don't prevent all traffic accidents, but we take steps to try to reduce traffic accidents. As Ronald Reagan once said, "If mandatory background checks could save more lives, it would be well worth making it the law of the land."