MADDOW: Don`t make me say it -- we do not.
The reason why Wayne LaPierre is physically squirming there, the
reason he is trying really hard not to answer that question in an
excerptable sound bite-friendly way that`s going to turn up in an ad to
damn politicians who might associate themselves with his group is because
if Wayne LaPierre is paying attention, and I bet he is, he knows the NRA
stands very much alone in this country in opposing universal background
checks for buying a gun.
The last CBS News/"New York Times" poll showed that nine out of 10
Americans, 92 percent support universal background checks for buying a gun.
Among NRA members, his own members, 86 percent believe that anybody buying
a gun should have to undergo a background check. Which is why Wayne
LaPierre does not want to answer a straight question about it -- 86 percent
of my members want this, but I`m against it because I`m a -- you bet, you
do -- hey, nice tie. Let`s move on.
After the president unveiled the administration`s list of proposed
reforms related to gun violence, the conventional wisdom was, and still is
to a great extent, ah, this is doomed. There`s no way any of this can get
done. But pressure, public pressure is working in certain corners of the
gun policy debate, and one of those corners may end up being specifically
universal background checks -- the centerpiece of what the president has
proposed there is consensus building in Washington that outside of the
fringiest fringe in the gun debate, the fringiest fringe, I mean, we`re
talking 14 percent of NRA membership at best?
Outside of that fringe, everybody agrees that we need to fix the
background check loophole. Pretty much everyone agrees if you want a gun,
you should undergo a background check regardless of where you are buying
And now, quietly, a bipartisan group of U.S. senators are working on
legislation to finally fix it. Republicans Tom Coburn and Mark Kirk, along
with Democrats Charles Schumer and Joe Manchin are working together to do
that. And yes, that`s Joe Manchin -- Joe "A" rating from the NRA, I`m so
proud of the NRA -- Joe Manchin, now working on a proposal to extend
background checks against the wishes of the NRA.
We spoke with both Senator Kirk`s office and Senator Manchin`s office
tonight about who else might be part. Their offices declined to give us
any names or any more details, but both offices independently stressed that
this truly is a bipartisan effort, that is realistic.
Republicans are thinking they might want this too.
Is public pressure on this one issue, is public opinion on this one
issue so lopsided that this finally is a no-brainer policy, no matter how
cynical the beltway feels about it?
Joining us now is Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, who
serves on the Senate Judiciary Community and who has introduced the
Ammunition Background Check Act of 2013.
Senator Blumenthal, it`s really nice to have you here. Thank you for
SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: At today`s hearing in the Judiciary Committee, was there a
moment when you felt like the politics were moving? That we`re actually
making progress on the issue?
BLUMENTHAL: Certainly, Gabby Giffords` appearance was absolutely
riveting, a high point, dramatic and powerful moment for the entire
committee, Republicans and Democrats, the strength and courage that it took
for her to do this first public appearance. Be bold, be courageous,
Americans are counting on you. That moment I think will stay with many of
us for a long time and inspire us.
But I think also some of those weird moments, like the one you cited
and an equally weird one, if I may say, when Wayne LaPierre tried to
explain why he was against background checks, which is that the criminals
won`t comply with them. Well, of course, the criminals won`t comply with
them because they won`t go to the dealers or to private sales to buy
weapons if they know they`re going to be background checks.
And if that law is combined with one that goes after straw purchases
and gun trafficking, it can have an enormous effect, not only on firearms
purchases, but also ammunition purchases. Remember, it`s against the law
right now for felons, fugitives, as well as drug addicts, seriously
mentally ill people, and domestic abusers to buy both firearms and
ammunition. And background checks are a law enforcement tool, a simple
common sense way to enforce the law.
And again, Wayne LaPierre has a hard time explaining. He was really
back on his heels in this hearing several times. Why he does not favor
better enforcement of existing laws when that`s been their mantra for so
MADDOW: That is -- I`m glad you put it that way, because that`s
exactly what the fight ended up being about today, and I think from today
on, the fight is going to be on background checks. That it`s not about who
is allowed or disallowed to have a gun. Those laws stay the same. What
changes is whether or not we agree to catch people who are already legally
prohibited from having guns, but we have no way of catching them before
they get them now.
I feel like both stylistically and in terms of the NRA`s inability to
hold up their side of the argument, that`s changed. Do you think that`s
going to manifests as Republican senators coming to your side of this
BLUMENTHAL: I think it will. I think that it will have a profoundly
important effect, partly because the law enforcement community as you saw
from Chief Johnson`s testimony, and he was speaking on behalf of many, many
law enforcement people through the association he represents, are saying we
need background checks to better enforce the law, to protect ordinary
people, and also to protect the police who are out there in the trenches on
the front lines and who are often outgunned by criminals who can buy these
firearms with impunity.
And, by the way, no one is contending that there shouldn`t be better
enforcement of existing laws. I was a former federal prosecutor, U.S.
attorney in Connecticut, and I tried to enforce gun laws. There need to be
more resources for this effort.
But this kind of law will actually save resources and save lives. And
I think it will help to turn the tide.
And in the last show, last week, you made some very, very compelling
statistics available about the numbers of people, 90 percent favor
background checks, 80 percent favor background checks, 90 percent on
firearms, 80 percent on ammunition purchases.
So the American public is moving on this issue. I think it can be the
centerpiece for other measures as well like the ban on assault weapons and
high capacity clips.
MADDOW: Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, who, again, has
introduced the background checks for ammunition bill. Senator, please keep
us posted as this continues to move forward. Thanks for being here
BLUMENTHAL: Thank you, Rachel.