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

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CROWLEY: Joining me now is the senior senator from Connecticut, Democrat Richard Blumenthal. Senator, thank you for being here. I want to start out with what's happening in Texas, where we have had the death of a county prosecutor and his wife. The assistant D.A. in the same county was gunned down and killed in January.

We've had the death of the head of prisons in Colorado also killed in his own home. I know you have been U.S. attorney in Connecticut. What sort of effect does this have on really the business of prosecution?

BLUMENTHAL: The brave and courageous prosecutors across the nation, as well as our police on the streets, face this kind of horror every day, and it's the reason that they are so strongly in favor of common sense measures to stop gun violence.

And they have supported, for example, a ban on illegal trafficking and straw purchases, which, unfortunately, may have been involved in the shooting of Tom Clements, the corrections chief out in Colorado, the straw purchase there of a gun led to his death, and there's been an arrest. So, every day, our law enforcement, as I know from my personal experience as U.S. attorney and then as attorney general of our state for 20 years, face this kind of threat.

And, the ban on illegal trafficking has bipartisan support. It will be part of the bill on the Senate, as well as the school safety measure and other common sense initiatives, like mental health. These kinds of measures are very, very important to protect, law enforcement, but also our children and other citizens.

CROWLEY: Senator, let me talk to you about that bill for a minute. I don't know if you just heard Senator Lindsey Graham telling me that he didn't think that gun -- background checks at gun shows and keeping the records of those purchases, the sellers keeping those records, is going to pass the Senate. He said flat-out, no, I don't think it will pass. What do you think?

BLUMENTHAL: I think there's really a historic opportunity, a moment that we have to seize to break the stranglehold, for the first time in a decade, maybe a generation, that the special interests like the NRA have imposed on this process. I think there is a sensible compromise that we can reach on background checks that will extend them --

CROWLEY: What would it be?

BLUMENTHAL: It would include all purchases of firearms, but recordkeeping that is sensible, imposes no unfair burdens, and no unfair threats of prosecution to people who may legitimately lose those records or, otherwise, be excusable. So, I think there is room for compromise on that measure as well as on high-capacity magazines.

You know, the shock and horror of Newtown is still very much with our nation. It changed us, as a people, I think. And you were there, Candy, in the wake of that horror, that Sunday after the Friday, when the unspeakable tragedy of those 20 beautiful children and sixth grade educators being gunned down by someone who used a high-capacity magazine.

In fact, we know now, from the revelations of just this past week, that he left behind, the shooter, in that instance, left behind the smaller capacity magazines and took with him the 30-round clips, because he knew he could use them to gun them down and he did, 154 rounds in about five minutes.

CROWLEY: Senator, let me ask you, under the bill that we are expecting Senator Reid to put on the floor, there was not any kind of limitation on those magazines. There is not a ban on assault weapons, however, you might describe those. There may or may not be an expansion of registration -- or, I'm sorry, an expansion of background checks.

How would anything in the bill, as it currently stands, have stopped anything that went on in Newtown?

BLUMENTHAL: The majority leader has assured me and other proponents of these measures that we can offer amendments on both the assault weapons ban and the prohibition on high-capacity magazines. So, there will be votes and I intend to spearhead that amendment on the high-capacity magazines.

CROWLEY: Is it a failure if you don't get that? If you don't get a ban on high-capacity magazines, if there's not a ban on assault weapons, if the background check is watered down, is that a success or no? BLUMENTHAL: Any step that saves lives is a step in the right direction. And the question is not winning or losing here, but, really, saving lives, which the people of Newtown and the victims there and their families, I think, want to happen. Not just for the sake of those victims, but also more than 3,000 people who have perished since Newtown as a result of gun violence.

So, I think mental health initiatives, school safety, which are part of that bill, would have helped prevent the violence that occurred in Newtown as well as potentially other measures that we're going to be offering as amendments, and we are going to keep fighting, no question about it.

CROWLEY: Let me ask you, then, because you've talked about, and certainly, anyone that was there, anyone that watched this on television, anyone with a heart can't forget that day. And yet, I want to show you our latest CNN/ORC poll, which shows that the number of people -- the percentage of people favoring major restrictions on guns or making all guns illegal, has gone from 52 percent in December, right after Newtown, and dropped almost 10 percent to 43 percent.

So, 43 percent -- only 43 percent of Americans favor major restrictions on guns or restricting them altogether. What do you make of that?

BLUMENTHAL: Candy, the overwhelming majority of Americans want common sense measures that will save the lives of their children, police and prosecutors, others who are now outgun by criminals, and keep those guns out of the hands of the convicted felons, the mentally deranged, like Adam Lanza.

CROWLEY: So, why would you think that -- why would you think it would drop almost ten points then?

BLUMENTHAL: I think that the majority is still overwhelmingly in favor and the challenge really is to mobilize and organize that majority, so that it is not a silent majority, as all too often, it has been and make sure that their voices are heard. And the shock and horror of Newtown, i think, is still very much with our nation.

And that unspeakable tragedy, I think, created an unstoppable momentum. History is on our side and the opponents, really, are defying, not only the majority, but also the progress of history to save lives and make our nation safer.

CROWLEY: Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, thanks for spending some of your Easter morning with us. We appreciate it.

BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.

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