tv Firing Line With Margaret Hoover PBS July 16, 2022 5:30am-6:00am PDT
america's epidemic of gun violence and what can be done. this week,en "firing line," a supermarket in buffalo, new york. robb elementary school in uvalde, texas. a fourth of july parade in highland park, illinois. >> what are we doing? why are you here? >> senator chris murphy stood on the senate floor and begged his colleagues to act. >> if not to solve a problem as existential as this? >> 15 republicans joined him in passing the most significant gun reform in decades, with president biden signing it into
law. >> lives will be saved today and tomorrow because of this. >> it's a mission forged nearly ten years ago, when he was the congressman representing newtown during the sandy hook elementary mas massacre. >> i went to the first of too many funerals this morning. >> with nearly 40,000 americans killed by guns each year, and children too often in the crossfire, what does senator chris murphy say now? >> "firing line with margaret hoover" is brought to you by -- the acorporate funding is provided by stephens inc. senator chris murphy, welcome to "firing line." >> thanks so much for having me. >> you are the junior senator from connecticut and the member of congress representing
newtown, connecticut, on that day when 20 first graders were massacred at sandy hook elementary school. you have spoken openly how that moment and that experience really galvanized you and made you passionate about the issue of gun violence in this country. and you were were the lead democrat on the first federal legislative reform since 1994, just signed into law by president biden. we're going to get into the law and the details of the law. but first, what does this moment mean to you personally? >> my life changed on that day in december 2012. i will never forget it. there's lots of days i wish i could forget it. but i established a bond with those families. and weeks later, with families i met in hartford, new haven, that was angry that i was showing up, caring about this issue when 20 white children had died when black children die every day in
my state. that bond is something i never had before in my professional career. and i made a commitment to them that i was not going to give up until we passed legislation that made it less likely that those shootings and murders would happen. and there were a lot of days during the last ten years, where i wasn't sure whether we would ever be able to break the back of the gun lobby. whether we would ever be strong enough to pass laws that would save the lives of kids in this country. so, to be on the senate floor, delivering the passage of a bill that will save lives, it means something to me. all i care about is what does it mean to the families in sandy hook? in hartford, new haven, chicago and new orleans? to me, that's all that matters. >> you met this week with the parents of the children that were killed in uvalde and survivors from the recent highland park shooting. tell me about that meeting. >> yeah. it was awful.
it's something none of us can fathom. it's been ten years since sandy hook. maybe i had forgotten what the first few months were like. how dead inside the parents are, who have to go through this. and being in that room with the uvalde parents, who felt half alive to me. it was another reminder of how you never, ever recover from this. and i just, i hope there's a day when there's not this endless parade of parents of dead children walking into my office. i can't be confident of that. but i will seek out answers to get to that day. >> on the day you met with the parents and survivors, surveillance footage was revealed of the shooter in uvalde. what we saw in that footage, was the gunman walking down the hallway. police officers standing by for over an hour, before taking down the shooter.
and you took to twitter. you wrote, quote, the uvalde video puts to bed that the way to deal with bad guys with guns is more good guys with guns. now, we have the gut-wrenching proof. [ gunfire ] >> i thought about whether i wanted to watch that video. i don't know if it was the first of the kids' funeral. it was an open casket. this was a child that was unrecognizable. but his parents wanted political
leaders to see. an i chose not to go up to the casket and look at that child. and i thought about that when i was looking at it. that is as stunning and striking. but it was jarring to watch a young man, walk into a building and see law enforcement minutes later and do nothing for an hour and a half. as police officer after police officer arrive, with more heavy weapons, more body armor, more shields and they still do nothing, i understand their hesitancy. i understand why you wouldn't confront someone who has a high-powered milary style assault weapon that is willing to turn it on civilians. but that's their job. they should have walked into that classroom. they should have put their lives at risk. that's what they signed up for. it's frankly a reminder to all of us, if all of that high-powered machinery, all of those trained law enforcement
officers, were so scared of that one teenager with an ar-15 in that classroom, maybe the solution isn't more highly trained officers with guns. maybe it's that mil teenagers d get their hands on military style weapons. it's a solution to keep the guns out of the hands of bad guys rather than think you will solve the problem by giving good guys the guns. that didn't work in uvalde. >> president biden has signed into law, the bipartisan safer communities act. the bill incentivizes states to implement red flag laws, closes domestic violence loopholes and enhances background checks for people under 21 and allocates money for mental health services. what's the most important aspect of this law? >> i think it's important to understand that we intentionall pieces work together.
let's take what happened in highland park. that was an under 21-year-old buyer, who a long history of really dangerous behavior. and yet, he was able, four different times, after he had threatened to kill his family, to buy guns. this law could have changed what happened in highland park. one, because this law applies money to make red flag laws. second, our bill says, anytime someone under 21 tries to buy a gun, the local police department has to be told about it. in highland park, what could have happened here, the local police department would have gotten a phone call, four different times, that this young man, they knew to be dangerous, was buying weapons. and then, armed with better information about red flag laws, the police department could have started a red flag process, the minute this kid started to go arm himself, take those weapons
away and could have been prevented. >> red flag laws are relatively new policy innovation on the scene. what is a red flag law? >> a red flag law is a process you can temporarily take weapons away fro individuals, who have made threats of violence, against themselves, threatened suicide, or against others. you have to go to a court to get a judge to make a finding this is a dangerous individual. so, the individual has the ability in court to make their case. and the order is temporary. republicans have been able to support this, going to the state level and now federal level because it is targeting policy towards dangerous people. if you're a gun abiding gun owner, you shouldn't be worried because it's only for people
that made tangib, meaningful threats of violence. >> many states have red flag laws. what are the inconsistencies or the challenges with red flag laws that this federal legislation addresses? >> there's lots of states with red flag laws, including illinois. many states' red flag laws don't work. why? you need to do a robust campaign of education to let people know the red flag law exists and how to access it. you can have a law on the books. if your police department doesn't know it exists or how you go about filling out the forms and going to court to take someone's guns away, then the law is dead letter. so, in illinois, there was, you know, one county that did the red flag law well. but in the rest of the state, it was almost never utilized. in florida, a state run by republicans, they've got a very effective red flag law. a red flag law that's taken guns
away from thousands of dangerous florida residents. the difference between florida and other states, where the red flag isn't used, is education. telling people how to use it. making the system accessible. that's what the law does. it gives $1 billion to educate law enforcement, first responders, how to access red flag law processes. i know it will make an enormous difference. >> on the same fourth of july holiday weekend, in highland park, where seven people were killed, just 30 minutes away in chicago, 8 people were killed by gun violence and 68 people were injured. the trauma touches urban and suburban america. you wrote extensively about this in your 2020 book "the violence inside us." how will the new legislation address urban gun violence? >> listen. it's just a fact, we value white life in this country more than black life.
when white people are killed, this country pays attention in a way they don't when black people are killed. i was in baltimore one day, visiting an after-school program. i happened to be there during a morning in which a young father dropped his twin daughters off at elementary school. when he got home, before he opened the door to his town ho townhouse, he was shot dead. i thought, what if that happened in west port, connecticut? in white suburban connecticut? that would be national news. when i went to try to find information out about that young man the next day, i could barely find a story in the baltimore papers about it. when black men in our cities are killed it doesn't matter as much, than when white people are killed and white children are killed. that's heartbreaking. that should be unacceptable. our bill includes the first-ever
federal ban on gun trafficking and purchasing. while that's important for places like hartford and baltimore, these cities are awash in illegal guns. most of the crimes in the cities are committed with illegal guns. guns that ended up in the hands of somebody is prohibited from owning a gun but got them through the black market. we never had a federal prohibition on the black market trade of firearms, why? because the nra, the gun lobby loves the bla market. now, we have the fbi, the d.o. zwr j. to go after the gun trafficking networks and shut them down. that means less illegal guns in our cities and less crime perpetuated against communities of color. that legislation doesn't get as much attention as some of the other pieces. it may be one of the most important mange changes in law make. >> the pushback against democratic gun safety proposals has been an argument that laws
don't stop people that want to commit murder from getting their hands on a weapon, if they really want to. you can even see in the original incarnation of the program, william f. buckley jr. making that argument in 1980. take a look at this. >> if we didn't sell another handgun tomorrow, you would still have 45 million handguns in this country. the notion that someone who desires to put his hand on a handgun can ever be made difficult is almost as preposterous as saying as one can keep people from smoking marijuana, which is also illegal. >> that's the defeatist attitude. i think if we stop now and we have 45 million handguns floating around, and we put a restriction, if you have a handgun, registering it. but no more registration. >> and don't take it from your home. >> that's right. we're cutting it off here. we would begin to see less violence in our society, in 2 years, 5 years, 20 years. the next generation would look
back on us as if it was the wild west, only in the urban cowboy is the only way to describe what's happening in our cities. >> take on that argument, will you? there's so many guns in the united states, that if somebody really wants to commit a mass acrtrocity atrocity, they can get their hands on the gun. >> the argument that laws don't make a difference is absurd. if laws don't make a difference, let's get rid of all of them? why have laws against rape, arson, or burglary? they do. there are people that do make decisions about their behavior based on what is legal and what isn't legal. it's a mechanism on which to signal our values to individuals. second, we have a lot of experience in this country because we have 50 different states with 50 different sets of gun laws. we can look to see whether stricter gun laws can make a difference. and the proof is in the state-by-state experience. in states with looser gun laws,
there's higher levels of homicide than states with tighttight er laws. there's higher levels of gun homicide in higher ownership, than communities in lower rates of gun ownership. we have the information we need to know tougher gun laws do lead to safer communities. there's people that will ignore laws, that we should stop passing laws, that's bad advice. >> you mentioned the gun lobby. i heard you make a case, there's mythology around the nra, that if they support gun restrictions or laws with gun violence, they will lose seats. why do you believe this is a mythology? >> in the wake of the 1994 election, this idea was planted in the heads of politicians,
that the house was lost because of the vote of the assault weapons ban. that is not backed up by re reality. the assault weapon ban was popular. it enjoyed sky-high approval rates. i think it was president clinton that didn't want if story of 1994 to be his popularity to suggest it was something else, in this case, the assault weapons ban. for 30 years, members of congress and democrats decided they would stay away from the issue of guns, despite increasing evidence that americans wanted us to take action on guns. it wasn't until the parkland shooting that democrats started to run strongly on universal background checks, on banning assault weapons.
the candidates doing that were rynning in texas and georgia, florida. i think we're at the point when we're busting up this mythology. now, repubcans and democrats say way more gain for voting for the measures. and the mythology about how many votes you lose or how powerful the nra was, is just mythology. >> how powerful is the nra now? >> five years ago, republicans listened to the nra, period, stop. today, republicans listen to the nra, but then, they make their own decision. that's different. >> is that different inhe house? >> the nra is impactful in republican primaries. in the house, where you have almost no competitive districts between democrats and republicans, where republicans
only have to worry about primaries, the nra will be more impactful. in the senate, where everybody remits the entire state, there's more competitive races, as a percentage of seats, the nra has less power. swing voters, independents, they have more influence over senators' votes over house republican votes. that's why you saw a lot of republican senators step up and decide to get on the right side of this issue. >> i've spoken to many about the partisanship and the purlization, that prevents anything from getting done on issues, you called yourself a sucker for negotiation.
getting 10% of what you want done is better than nothing. are there lessons that you have learned from the process, that can apply to other issues? >> i'm a progressive democrat. i wear that on my sleeve. i think my job is to get laws passed that make lives better, not just argue on twitter. i think it's seductive in this job, to just stand for what you stand for. get a lot of clicks online. get a lot of followers on social media. come to the conclusion that you've done your job. that isn't our job. our job is to pass laws. i think i needed ten years to get this law in the senate. >>why? >> i learned and i built relationships. this is the most politically
complicated and emotionally fraught issue we deal with. you have to trust your partners if you negotiate something on guns. >> where do you go next on the issue? >> we build a movement. >> success begets success in this place. i've gotten better at my job. what really changed is that over ten years, the anti-gun movement was just as powerful as the gun lobby. and all of a sudden, republican senators realized it was equal measure how much they had to lose if they voted for or against this bill. now, people see there's power on both sides of this. that's why we're in a different position. >> let's ask you about the supreme court, that just ruled on a consequential gun law. they overturned a new york law, requiring a license to carry
concealed weapon in public is unconstitutional. practically speaking, how does this ruling impact gun violence? >> the ruling itself is narrow enough that it shouldn't impact anything we passed. but the language surrounding the ruling is oubling. it's possible we have five voices on the supreme court, to reinterpret the second amendment to say. the second amendment is absolute, and doesn't allow regulation of guns. that wasn't contemplated by the people that wrote the constitution. that's what worries me. what worries me is not the impact of this ruling. my worry is what comes next. >> i heard you say if the supreme court is going to rule as a majority body, the senate should, too. >> yeah. >> it seems that's at odds with
your recent success as a legislator. >> i am working with the system that exists. we did something that is meaningful. i'm proud of it. i've been clear from day one, we weren't going to do everything that was nets. and part of the reason we are not doing as much as we should, we have insane rules in the senate. 40 members of the senate representing, perhaps, 20% of the american population, can stop something as popular as universal background checks, from becoming law. i don't think it's inconsistent to say, i going to fight like hell, to win as much as i can in the existing rules, and also to fight to change the rules. >> you support getting rid of the filfilibuster? >> i would start by reforming the filibuster. if you want to stop a popular piece of legislation, from moving through the senate, you should stand there and do the work. >> as you did when you were
filibustering gun violence on the senate floor, withory booker and your colleagues. >> i had enough of the ongoing slaughter of innocence. and i've had enough of inaction in this body. >> the reason why i was willing to stand up on the floor and filibuster for 15 hours is because i knew that my obstruction would be popular. i knew that people were with me. in 2013 when the republicans filibustered the background checks bill, because of how the rules are written, they didn't actually have to stand on the floor. all they had to do was just cast a vote against closing debate. if republicans actually had to stand on the floor, for 15 hours or 20 hours and explain why they don't think people should go through background checks to buy a gun, i don't think they would be willing to do it. >> final question. president biden is 79 years old. there's a new "new york times"/cnn poll this week, that
his national approvaling is 33%. 64% of democrats say they would prefer a new candidate in 2024. is it a legitimate question for democrats to be considering whether president biden should run again? >> is it a legitimate question? i don't think it's a necessary question. i think president biden -- >> why is it not necessary? >> i think president biden is doing a hell of a job. i just worked with him for a month in getting this bill passed. he was incredibly important to this bill's passage. i think ultimately, elections are choices. it's likely, when matched up with donald trump, who is going to be the candidate -- >> why are you sure? >> i may be wrong. i just think we've seen enough of donald trump's ego to think it's probable he will seek the nomination. and i don't think we can stop him. >> can i ask you that question in a year and a half?
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