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CNN Lou Dobbs Tonight - Transcript

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HEADLINE: U.S. Faces New Challenges From Axis of Evil; Ivan Remains Category 5 Hurricane; Assault Weapons Ban Expired Today

GUESTS: Marshall Shepherd, Dianne Feinstein, Larry Craig, Jim Steele

BYLINE: Lou Dobbs, Walt Rodgers, Kitty Pilgrim, Ed Henry, Bill Tucker, Christine Romans

The axis of evil countries are posing new challenges for the U.S. In North Korea, it's questions about the recent mushroom cloud; in Iran, the military's large-scale maneuvers near the Iraqi border; and, in Iraq, it's the effort to retake towns and cities controlled by insurgents. Hurricane Ivan tonight is bearing down on the western coast of Cuba. This Category 5 hurricane continues to shift toward the north-northwest and is now expected to spare the Florida Keys and perhaps make landfall near the Florida-Alabama border Wednesday or perhaps early Thursday.

DOBBS: The soon-to-expire assault weapons ban is a source of heated debate all around this country and at almost every level of our society. Gun control is a fundamental wedge issue.

My next two guests tonight have very different views about the ban and whether it should be extended. Senator Dianne Feinstein is in favor of extending the assault weapons ban. She says it's critical to keeping guns out of the hands of criminals. Senator Larry Craig says the assault weapons ban was ineffective and that he is happy, for one, that it is expiring at midnight tonight. Senator Feinstein, Senator Craig join us from Capitol Hill.

Thank you both for being here.



DOBBS: And let me begin if I may with you, Senator Craig. Every poll that we have taken a look at suggests that a majority of voters would favor an extension of this ban. Yet you're happy that it's expiring. Why so?

CRAIG: Well, Lou, I don't question the polls. I might look at some of the way the questions were asked. But I do know that since 1994 when the ban was put in place, it has made no difference in law enforcement and/or the times in which this style of semi-auto is used: less than 3 percent before '94, less than 3 percent today.

Why won't Congress reauthorize this? Because Congress has studied the facts, looked at the statistics, and said to this bill let a sleeping bill lie. This bill has been ineffective. It was a political placebo to begin with. It remains that, a feel-good bill, that most of the American people say, well, gee, it worked. No, it didn't work, and the statistics bear that out.

DOBBS: Senator Feinstein, Senator Kerry said today that now, as a result of the expiration of this ban, that a terrorist or a criminal will effectively be able to walk into a gun shop or a gun show and ask to buy an AK-47 and the answer now will be: "Sure." Is that really the case?

FEINSTEIN: Well, there's no question that they will be back in the gun shows. They will be back in the gun shops. The big clips will be all around. And, you know, Larry Craig and I have worked together on many things, but, on this, we are exact opposites.

I believe that the supply of weapons has dried up over the last 10 years. I believe that the legislation has worked. It has reduced guns traced to crime by two-thirds. Now that may not be a huge amount, but many of these incidents that took place before the ban were in school yards-there were many of them-all-and work places all around this nation, and the thrust of the ban was to dry up the supply over time.

And you're right, Lou. Anywhere from two-thirds to three-fourths of the American people support its extension. Actually, the ban expired last night, early this morning at 12:01. So it's really a dark day for me and for those of us who fought so hard to get this legislation through and then to watch it.

We will be back. We will be back next session. We will be back with another bill, and we will bide our time and find the opportunity to present that bill to both the House and the Senate.

DOBBS: Senator Craig, representing, as you do, the State of Idaho, a state committed to the outdoors, to the environment, hunting is a big part of the outdoor activities in Idaho. Do you support assault weapons not being banned, if I can put that way, because of your interest in hunting and sportsmanship?

CRAIG: It's a combination of a lot of things, but, first and foremost, Lou, let me say that the assault weapon is not the weapon of choice of terrorists. Last I checked, nearly 3,000 Americans died, and the weapon of choice was a fully-loaded airliner.

So we don't know what terrorists use. They don't use these kinds of weapons in this country. If they chose to, they could buy them off the black market and out of the back streets of America, but darn few of them are available there, simply put.

But, in Idaho, let's remember this is a semi-automatic firearm. It doesn't have any more power than any other semi-auto. It's the cosmetics of it that allow it to be called an assault weapon. Are semi-autos used in hunting? Yes, they are. They certainly are. Why am I opposed to this bill? I am opposed to laws that don't work, number one. And I do believe that Americans generally support Second Amendment rights as I do.

DOBBS: Senator, let me ask you this, as a sportsman, a hunter yourself. You don't think it's very sporting, do you, for anyone, a man or woman, to be in the field with a semi-automatic weapon shooting game? I'm a hunter myself, but I mean the idea of somebody using a semi-automatic rifle or shotgun in the field is an absurdity.

CRAIG: Well, Lou, let's get the facts right. There are a lot of shotguns out there today that you and I use that are illegal and legitimate and they are semi-autos.

DOBBS: That's what I'm saying. I am just giving my opinion, Senator. I don't think there's much sport in that.

CRAIG: Well, when you shoot at a pheasant or a duck and the bullet's ejected and another one is put in the chamber as most of the shotguns do and you're ready to shoot another duck, isn't that sporting or do you think that you ought to stop and reload and the flight of ducks is already gone? That's the difference...

DOBBS: Well, I'll tell you the truth, Senator, when I was hunting pheasant in southern Idaho, my buddies and I used to, as young fellows, we hunted pheasant with .22s, in point in fact. That's in a different time, a different era and a different place.


DOBBS: Senator Feinstein...

CRAIG: Were they single shots of semi-autos?

DOBBS: They were single shots, Senator.

FEINSTEIN: May I say something?

DOBBS: You may indeed. I was begging you to.

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Well, most states limit the number of bullets for hunting that you can have in a clip and most states are under ten bullets in a clip. You don't need an AK-47 with a 50-round clip to shoot a deer. I think that's pretty clear. The fact of the matter is that the ban has worked. The fact of the matter is that there are organizations that are intensely selfish, and they want it all their way. And they don't much care the fact that these weapons-you have some of these weapons. You can adjust the trigger, so they can fire as many as 30 bullets in three seconds. Who needs that on the streets of America?

The fact is, no one needs it. But the selfishness, and I'm sorry, this is where I-the absolute selfishness of the National Rifle Association to make this their number one priority and the citizens of this country are going to be much less safe because of it.

DOBBS: Can I say something to both of you and just get your quick reaction because we are way over time. But isn't it true, if it were not as you suggest the selfishness as you put it, Senator Feinstein of the NRA, and it at the same time the enthusiasm of the gun control lobby to go beyond simply assault weapons, that we might be able to come together to make rational decisions about gun legislation, is that just simply idealistic or unrealistic?

FEINSTEIN: There are very few things-we would like to have trigger locks on weapons, which is a common-sense thing. One of the interesting things-Senator Schumer and I had a press conference to urge Wal-mart not to sell these weapons and we heard that they're not going to sell these weapons and they're not going to sell the big clips, and I think that's a real point of integrity in the retail community.

DOBBS: Senator Craig, you get the last word.

CRAIG: Well, thank you. In this instance, a majority of the United States Congress has said, no, we're not going to reauthorize this bill. Trigger locks are becoming the assistance of the day to almost all firearms that are now sold through legitimate gun dealers, federal licensed gun dealers, and lastly, what Senator Feinstein just said is 30 bullets in three seconds. That's a fully automatic weapon and that's against the law and it has been since 1934.

DOBBS: Senator Craig, Senator Feinstein, we thank you both for being with us here tonight.

FEINSTEIN: Thank you, thank you very much.

CRAIG: Thank you.

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