CNN "State of the Union with Candy Crowley" - Transcript

Interview

By:  John Hickenlooper
Date: Dec. 16, 2012
Location: Unknown

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JOHN HICKENLOOPER, GOVERNOR OF COLORADO: If there were no assault weapons available, if there were no this or that, this guy is going to find something, right? He's going to know how to create a bomb.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CROWLEY: He seemed different in an interview last Wednesday, two full days before the events here in Connecticut.

"When you look at what happened in Aurora," the governor said, "a great deal of that damage was from the large magazine on the AR-15 rifle. I think we need to have that discussion and say, where is this appropriate?"

Joining me now is the Governor of Colorado, John Hickenlooper.

Governor, thank you so much for us today. I know things are so fresh here in Connecticut, but you have been dealing for several months with the aftermath of what happened in Aurora. I wonder if you have -- if I am misinterpreting you or interpreting you correctly that maybe you have some slight evolution on what ought to be done in terms of laws involving guns or ammunition.

HICKENLOOPER: Well, first, let me just say that the heart of every person in Colorado goes out to every person in Connecticut. Watching Governor Malloy navigate, and I think he's done a remarkable job, but we would -- you know, our hearts are breaking there for them. We know exactly how they feel.

We've been collecting and even as they struggle to process this we've had that distance since the shooting in Aurora. And I've really tried to look at what are the things that could make a difference, and how should we begin this conversation?

And things like high-capacity magazine magazines certainly have -- I mean, that comes up again and again and again. The expanding background checks to make sure that guns don't end up in the wrong people's hands.

And we had planned a press conference for Tuesday where we have a whole list of efforts, almost $20 million in new programs around trying to put more support for people with mental illness, to make sure we have a 24-hour hotline that someone can call in if they think someone appears unstable, a danger to themselves or others.

Making sure we expand capacity in neighborhoods and communities across the state. That we have a place to stabilize people if they appear like they're a threat to themselves or to others.

I mean, that whole program was all in place, and that's something we can do immediately without getting into some of the battles of gun legalization or gun -- you know, restricting access to guns in some way. But that discussion of gun safety is going to continue.

CROWLEY: I think also, Governor, that you and I, as I recall the time, I talked about the fact that someone who isn't in the mental health system and a number of folks -- actually I think yours was the exception at least in the beginning, but a number of the people, I think, particularly in Tucson, had not actually sought out any kind of mental health help.

So they wouldn't have been caught up in a system that necessarily would have looked at that in the purchase of guns. We also know that guns are readily available even if you don't purchase them legally.

And I think we talked that time about the culture of guns and kind of the culture that we live in now and that there's very little you can do to stop a determined person. Do you still feel that way?

HICKENLOOPER: Well, unfortunately, I think that's true. I mean, and you can't really argue those facts. What you can do is expand your capacity, your framework within a state or within the country to have more people paying attention and trying to detect folks that are unstable, on the verge of real trouble, trying to catch them at a sooner level.

But certainly the culture of violence -- and look at the level of violence in our media, video games, the depiction of these assault weapons again and again, there might well be some direct connection between people who have mental instability, and when they go over the edge they transpose themselves, they become part of one of those video games, and perhaps that's why all these assault weapons are used.

CROWLEY: Governor, let me ask you, have you -- first of all, I understand that you have spoken or somehow communicated with the governor of Connecticut. What does this town, this state, if you will, go through now? You are -- your incident happened in July. It was horrific. You've sort of seen the evolution of the months. What's next, and what kind of advice do you have for the Connecticut governor?

HICKENLOOPER: Well, I'm not sure he needs advice from me. What I remember...

(CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY: Well, you've been there.

HICKENLOOPER: Yes, I know. And I remember the -- how surreal it was. That it seemed like this couldn't be happening. And as you talked to one family after another, they're all dealing with something beyond anything they could have ever imagined.

You know, it's the worst thing they will see in their lives, one person after another after another. And it does -- I mean, I think Governor Malloy is -- again, he's the right person at the right time for Connecticut. You can already see that he has got that courage to just -- because he is going to have to go out to those families again and again and try and be there with them and help them get through this and process it.

It is. It's just unspeakably hard. You can't -- there aren't words. Just don't even know how to put it in words. CROWLEY: And, you know, as a governor, these are constituents but not necessarily families you knew, and yet, you're kind of playing this key role. So in the months since the Aurora theater shooting, have you -- does your office continue to speak and try to help those families and what are those needs in there?

HICKENLOOPER: Well, in varying degrees certainly there was a fund set up to try and provide support and resources to the families of the victims and to the wounded victims. And that process was challenging itself, right? Money can't replace, especially with young people. It's so insufficient, and yet, it becomes this symbol.

And we were challenged at every step along that way. Really, a lot of the families just need someone that they can talk to, that they can relate to. In those days immediately after the tragedy, in a number of cases I felt almost like I was part of their family.

That you're brought in, in a very intimate level, and again having these discussions that people are revealing themselves and their resilience, their ability to take this awful thing and somehow make -- find a way to try and make their life better.

You know, some of the most challenging times that I've ever been through.

CROWLEY: Have you found, Governor, as a final question, that those families or the people in Aurora or the people of Colorado pressure you now more for some sort of gun control? Do you think the time has come for the federal government to at least have that conversation? Do you think there's something that could be done on the federal level in terms of a law banning either these high-capacity magazines or, again, reinstituting the ban on assault weapons? Do you think it's time for that, or at least a conversation about that?

HICKENLOOPER: Well, I think the access to guns is going to get discussed and certainly I think high-capacity magazines, as people will be discussing this. We are -- I mean, our country is based on that Second Amendment. It has been shown repeatedly it does protect people's rights to bear arms, to have guns.

And, you know, my grandfather taught me how to shoot and clean a 12-gauge shotgun and showed me how to hunt, and I've shown my son. I mean, that tradition is very powerful throughout this country. But...

CROWLEY: Sure.

HICKENLOOPER: ... you know, the discussions around assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and who -- you know, what type of -- should there be a wait? One of the things we're doing in Colorado is looking at expanding the time if someone has had a mental illness hold, expand the time they have to wait before they can get access to a firearm.

Those kinds of things, I think those discussions are going to happen, I mean, in real time over the next couple months.

CROWLEY: Governor Hickenlooper, we thank you for your time this morning.

HICKENLOOPER: Thank you.

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