MSNBC "The Ed Show" - Transcript - Gun Control and Gabby Giffords

Interview

By:  Sheldon Whitehouse
Date: Jan. 31, 2013
Location: Unknown

SCHULTZ: The husband of a mass shooting victim and the top cop of a
major city have some authority on this issue.

But if you don`t trust what they say, maybe you can trust Wayne
LaPierre back in 1999. You see, he told a congressional hearing, "We think
it`s reasonable to provide for instant checks at gun shows just like at gun
stores and pawnshops."

NRA members agree with the 1999 Wayne LaPierre, 75 percent of them
want a universal background check system in place.
Members of Congress are showing signs of accepting a background check
bill, including several Republicans who were part of today`s hearing. It`s
not a lost cause. There are signs of progress. But time is of the
essence.

During the hearing today, a workplace shooting happened again, this
time in Phoenix, Arizona, killing one person and injuring two others.
The crime-troubled city of Chicago -- well, a young girl who performed
at the president`s inauguration was an innocent victim of a street
shooting. Little Ms. Pendleton was a 15-year-old honor student.
As President Obama said today, these instances of gun violence are not
going to stop without our action.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If we`re not doing
something to try to have an impact on that, to lessen it, even if it`s not
perfect, even if it doesn`t work every time, even if it doesn`t save every
person who is a potential victim of gun violence, but we save a few. You
know, if we don`t do that, shame on us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ: And shame on Congress if they cannot find the courage to act
on this issue.

Get your cell phones out. We want to know what you think. Tonight`s
question, is today`s testimony enough for Congress to act on gun laws?
Text A for yes, text B for no to 622639. You can go to our blog at
Ed.MSNBC.com. I`ll have a commentary on this in just a moment. And, of
course, we`ll bring you the results later on in the show.

But joining me now is Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island who
was part of today`s hearing.
Senator, good to have you with us tonight.

SEN. SHELDON WHITEHOUSE (D), RHODE ISLAND: Thanks, Ed. Good to be
with you.

SCHULTZ: You bet. This is an emotional, gut-wrenching issue on both
sides. People on the other side of the issue, LaPierre`s crowd think that
they`re being attacked. Did today`s hearing move the needle any closer
towards meaningful reform do you think?

WHITEHOUSE: Yes, I think it did. I think that first of all, it`s
hard to overlook Representative Gifford`s remarks to us closing with "be
bold, be courageous, Americans are counting on you."

Second, there were some concessions from the gun side. One of the
experts conceded that these big, huge high capacity ammunition magazines
were unusual, were a novelty, which in the language of this issue means
that they`re not protected by the Supreme Court`s Heller decision, which
means that we can safely legislate to get rid of them. And that`s their
own side speaking.

And as you point it out, I think this is room to move on the universal
background checks. I think that it`s very, very hard for the NRA to
continue to defend the position that people are on the terrorist watch list
should be allowed to buy firearms in this country. That`s their position.
I don`t know how they stand by it.

SCHULTZ: Senator, Mr. LaPierre is presenting to the American people
that it would be a quagmire, a nightmare, to do universal background
checks. His position all of the sudden is there is no way it would work,
that it would be actually targeting the law abiding citizens.
Your thoughts on that?

WHITEHOUSE: Well, it really makes no sense.
First of all, we`re doing it already with respect to gun shops and
pawnshops. To do it in the environment of these big gun shows, which are
basically a giant gun shop with many dealers really doesn`t add anything to
it. As police chief Johnson said, it takes a minute or two to go through
the background check.

The second thing is that the whole point of the exercise is that it
keeps the criminal from coming in and buying guns. So, when Mr. LaPierre
says, well, you know, this is no good because criminals won`t subject
themselves to a background check, that`s precisely the point.

SCHULTZ: Sure.

What was the feeling in the room from you and your colleagues after
hearing Gabby Giffords speak today? How much of an impact do you think she
had?

WHITEHOUSE: I think she had a real impact.

I think the other moment of real impact was when her husband, Captain
Kelly, talked about the child at Gabrielle Giffords` shooting who was
killed by the 13th bullet, and pointed out that if the shooter hadn`t had
that high capacity magazine, before he got to that 13th bullet, he would
have had to reload. And that shooting came to an end when the shooter had
to reload. So, the moment when you have 20 stop firing out of your
magazine and reload is the moment for people to escape. It`s the moment
for people to counterattack and try to disable the shooter.

And I think seizing on that little girl and the fact that she was
killed by the 13th bullet, and that her life would have been saved if there
had been only 10 or 11 rounds in that weapon was a very, very poignant
moment.

SCHULTZ: Senator, what is the political downside here? And there is
always calculations being made. Eight out of 10 NRA members support
universal background checks. Who is Wayne LaPierre speaking for?

WHITEHOUSE: The gun manufacturer, of course.
It`s not the first time that we have had a big lobbying organization
in Washington that purports to represent a grassroots or a local
membership, but is in fact doing the bidding of a very, very big interests.
Probably the most prominent example of that is the U.S. Chamber of
Commerce, which purports to represent small businesses across the country,
but in fact is the mouthpiece for global, multinational, huge corporations.

SCHULTZ: Sure.

WHITEHOUSE: So that`s nothing new to anybody watching these hearings
take place in Washington.

SCHULTZ: Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, good to have you with us tonight
on THE ED SHOW. Thanks so much for your time.

WHITEHOUSE: Good to be with you, Ed.

SCHULTZ: You bet.
You know, if you want a good example of the cultural divide that we
have in this country.

WHITEHOUSE: Clear. Good to be with you.

SCHULTZ: You bet. Thank you.