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CNN "State of the Union with Candy Crowley" Transcript: Newtown, Gun Control and the NRA

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CROWLEY: With me now, Senator Joe Manchin, Democrat from West Virginia, and former Republican presidential candidate and Utah, former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman. Thank you both for being here, joining forces here.

I have to say when I was reading about this, and I said, OK, their goal is to argue less and act more, and I'm thinking, yeah, but how do you go about that, particularly from the outside? Why is an outside group needed?

MANCHIN: Well, let me say from the No Labels standpoint, when I first became a senator two years ago, I was enamored with this, because I was -- I came from a governorship. Jon and I were freshmen governors together in 2-4, 2004, we got elected respectively in our state of Utah and West Virginia, became friends, Democrat and Republican looking to solve problems. I thought the same would carry over when I got to Washington. Candy, first you have to understand the dynamics of what we are dealing with. As a senator, we have, since I have been there two years, there has not been a bipartisan caucus where we sit down to talk with our Republican colleagues on the other side. Unless we do that behind what you see on the day-to-day basis.

Even think about taking it further, we don't even know our colleagues in Congress, the 435. So, this gives us a chance, No Labels gives us that venue to sit down and have meaningful conversation.

CROWLEY: But, you know, to have to do this just seems like you could tell 100 grown men and women, you guys need to talk to each other.

HUNTSMAN: Right. But did you hear what Joe just said? I mean, can you believe that there is not even a venue that allows people to come together to solve problems? So the premise is a very simple one. Joe and I come from a background of problem solving, as governor, and when you see that the dysfunction of Congress is now becoming our nation's dysfunction -- we are becoming disfigured, in a sense.

HUNTSMAN: Our economy is, because Congress is so far behind in the game. So the premise is a simple one, and that is that we want to create a new attitude around problem solving.

Now how do you do that? You have got to get a critical mass together of problem solvers which is what we are doing. We have got 25 signed on. And our goal by the end of the year is to have 75. So if you can imagine 75 Republicans and Democrats, Senate and House members, who agree to meet, check their ego at the door, and sit around a table where they're putting their country first as opposed to party, as opposed to the next election they're thinking about the future when they deliberate about these very important issues, that is the objective. And so far as I can tell, Candy, and I'm a recent convert to this, they came to me most recently, there is nobody else in the world of movements now that is focused on bringing people together around the premise of problem solving.

CROWLEY: Well, certainly, there have been out there with Third Way, and a lot of groups out there that have sort of tried this, it's just in reality, you get, you know, bipartisanship on Capitol Hill tends to be, if you agree with me, then you are being bipartisan.

So let me try to get you to apply bipartisanship to the current issues.

Let's take gun control. I think we can pretty much see what the lines of delineation are here. You heard the NRA. You hear those -- some moderates and those on the left going, now wait a second, it can't be about guns, it's about society, it's about mental health. So you have these two sides that to me sound a lot like, you know, ten years ago when they were arguing.

MANCHIN: Well, Candy, you have two former governors that were raised in cultures of guns.

CROWLEY: West Virginia, Utah.

MANCHIN: I've been an NRA member. I'm a life member. I'm A- rated. I have always been supported. And I appreciate all the support I've received. I appreciate all of my friends that I have in the sporting arenas and hunting I hunt with and all of that.

I was taught at a very young age to use it safely, to respect the firearms, and make sure that I passed it down to my children and grandchildren. With all of that being said, never in my life could I imagine that I would see a time where mass violence has escalated to the point where 20 children, let's say 20 babies in their kindergarten were slaughtered. That has changed...

CROWLEY: And that's how everyone felt -- all sides of this one -- holy cow. MANCHIN: From that violence. But this has changed. We owe it to sit down and talk, but it has to be comprehensive. It can't be just -- it's about guns and guns only. It can't be just about the mental illness or the lack of mental illness care that we have. And it can't be just about the video violence in the media.

I want every NRA member, I want every gun, law-abiding gun owner to know their second amendment rights will not be infringed upon, the same as the first amendment will not be infringed upon. But as adults, we have a responsibility to sit down and have an adult dialogue and try to have a comprehensive package that works.

CROWLEY: You know we've had an adult dialogue about the budget deficit and we got Simpson-Bowles which everybody promptly ignored. And it's kind of going back into the conversation now. But the question is -- and I know that you have written in the op-ed -- what is reasonable, what is reasonable in terms of gun control when it comes to states who understand the gun culture and how deeply it is embedded in the culture of some of the states?

HUNTSMAN: Well, it has to be a little bit from all of the above. And that's why, you know, you're show...

CROWLEY: Should there be an assault weapons ban?

HUNTSMAN: Well, listen, we've heard from the special interest groups. We're hearing from, you know, one end of the spectrum or that end of the spectrum. But in the end, our duly elected officials get together with an open mind and, then, make decisions on behalf of the people they represent. And that is where getting back to No Labels is so important.

You know, we've got the politics of right and left and center, but we have forgotten the most important part of all, and that's the politics of problem solving, representing the people in all that we do.

What we are doing today isn't normal. And for the younger generation growing up seeing the way that politics is playing out, this is not the norm and that is why Joe and I coming from the backgrounds we do, you get the right and the left together in a room, whether it is on guns or anything else, and you say what is the pathway forward, how do we solve this for the American people?

CROWLEY: What is -- I mean, you have called for reasonable gun -- but what is reasonable to you? Is an assaults weapons ban such as the one we are about to get from Dianne Feinstein and Senator Blumenthal of Connecticut, is that reasonable? MANCHIN: First of all, how do you keep the guns such as assault guns out of the hands of mentally deranged people that should have -- should have help?

CROWLEY: ...seems to be commonality.

MANCHIN: And that's where it seems to be, whether -- if you look back at the Virginia Tech, the gentleman had been I think detained twice, only for 48 hours, because of the laws we may have. How do we...

CROWLEY: But it didn't apply in Arizona, because he apparently hadn't saw anything. Colorado, he apparently...

MANCHIN: So basically, but that is a huge part. The other part of it is what type of weapons, how registration, how they are getting in hands. So all of that is reasonable to talk about.

There is a premise now in Washington that guilt by conversation. It used to be guilt by association, we've moved on to guilt by conversation. We can't even sit down and have conversations about can you talk about any of these issues whether it is the clips and whether it is registration and whether it is bans on certain military -- you can't even talk about it. And if you don't have the people who are understanding that, the people that basically have expertise in that at the table, and if you keep pushing the NRA away, they have got to sit down. They have got to be -- have a responsible place at the table.

And I have kept, and I'm pushing that. I want them to be there. But I want the people that understand mental illness. I want the people that understand the video games.

CROWLEY: The holistic approach.

HUNTSMAN: Here's why what Joe is saying is so important and why the No Labels dimension I think is so relevant here. Regardless of whether it's guns or whether tax reform or immigration or energy policy, it's all the same. They're going to have to come to the table with a comprehensive package. In the case of guns, you know the three or four components that will have to be included in the end. It's kind of a no-brainer for most, but we have a hard time getting there. That's why bringing together this coalition of problem solvers in congress that No Labels has been able to, it's a start. But by the end of the year, if we get 75 to 80 such people, you can imagine the progress on all of these important issues we'll be able to make.

CROWLEY: So senator, I'm going to give you the last word here, because now are a position that you do vote in the senate, and your words post Newtown were taken originally as, oh, Senator Manchin is now for a ban on assault weapons, probably what you were talking about.

MANCHIN: Guilt by conversation.

CROWLEY: The guilt by conversation. So the question here is, am I correct in interpreting what you're saying is that, sure, you would talk about an assault weapons ban, but it has to be in a more holistic package than just, here's an assault weapons ban?

MANCHIN: Well, let me just tell you about No Labels and problem solvers and to be a member of that doesn't cost a thing. It's NoLabels.org, just sign on.

But with that, it brings people together. So I can talk about -- I want to know. I don't own an assault weapon. I own guns. I don't have the multi-clips. I need to talk to people that believe it's important for them to keep multi-clips. I need to talk to the people that basically think they need those assault weapons. I need to talk to people that go to gun shows don't believe they need to register. I want to hear from them.

Why is it so important you're protecting that position?

On the other hand, they're saying, how come you're not looking at the mental illness that we have and the people that are causing these mass violence, how come you're not looking at the video games that my eight year old can log into and see and really glorify violence. And it really is an all-inclusive approach, you know, it's building a consensus.

And you have to take it that way.

CROWLEY: If I can just get a yes or no, possibly, assault weapons only stand alone ban...

MANCHIN: Assault weapons stand alone ban on just gun alone will not in the political reality that we have today will not go anywhere. It has to be comprehensive, Candy, and that is what I have tried to tell the vice president and I've told everybody, it has to be a comprehensive approach.

CROWLEY: Senator Joe Manchin and former Governor Jon Huntsman, thank you both. Good luck. We will have you back and see how many you're collecting as you go along.

Thanks so much.


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