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CNN "The Situation Room" - Transcript - Guns and Immigration


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BLITZER: Texas is on edge after the killings of a district attorney and his wife and the earlier murder of another prosecutor. Governor Rick Perry says they are, quote, "direct attacks on the core of our civil society."

And the governor of Texas, Rick Perry, is joining us now.

Governor, thanks very much for coming.

GOV. RICK PERRY (R), TEXAS: Good to be with you, Wolf. Thank you.

BLITZER: There are, first of all, a lot of theories out there about these killings in Texas. Mark Hasse, Mike McLelland. As far as you know, right now, are they connected?

PERRY: We don't know. And I think that's the appropriate position to take is that, as this investigation goes forward, a lot of different theories, as you've said. And we've been doing battle with various and sundry groups, whether it's drug cartels, Aryan Brotherhood, you name it, we seem to be at ground zero for a lot of activity dealing with a porous border with drugs, with prostitution, with all the other criminal activities that go along with that type of porous border.

BLITZER: Let's talk about guns right now. According to all of the recent polls, including a Quinnipiac University poll that just came out, 91 percent support what's called universal background checks for all gun buyers. Very similar to a CBS News poll that just came out, only 8 percent opposed the universal background checks for all gun buyers.

What about you?

PERRY: Oh, I think what's going on here is that the usual knee-jerk reaction to, we've got to do something to the gun violence that's occurring. I wish people were as focused on the mental health side of this. We're looking at some expansion of mental health, particularly for our veterans in the state of Texas. We're seeing these huge numbers of suicides in our young men and women who are coming home from being engaged in 10 years of combat.

So rather than a quick fix that frankly I don't think is going to make a difference from the standpoint of gun violence, we need to be looking at who are the individuals who in fact are involved with these violent crimes, who are the people that are pulling the triggers, rather than a band-aid that, frankly, is not going to make one citizen safer.

BLITZER: So I just want to be precise, you're with that tiny minority, the 8 percent or the 9 percent who oppose universal background checks? You don't think that really is necessary?

PERRY: No, I think it is not going to address the issue. Again, these individuals who want to pass laws as a knee-jerk reaction, and then go home and think that they have addressed, I have to deal with the reality as the governor of the state of Texas. And universal background checks is not going to save one life. I will suggest to you. And that is a panacea.

BLITZER: All right. Let's talk about immigration. There's a big push, there's this so-called gang of eight, four Democratic senators, four Republican senators. They seem to be moving toward a compromise that would eventually allow so many, most in fact of those 11 or 12 million illegal immigrants in the United States, to become legal residents of the United States, and if they do a whole bunch of things and that the border is secure, they will have a pathway to citizenship after many years. Are you with them on that?

PERRY: Well, I hope that this country will come together, and that the extremists on both sides of this issue will not be listened to, frankly, and that men and women who really are looking for a solution to how to deal with the issue of immigration can come together, and as a country, we can solve not only this problem, but many problems that face this country. We do that rather well, in my home state. Democrats and Republicans working together.

But trying to reduce the influence of those that are on the extremes, on either side, I will suggest to you is very important. With that said, you cannot have an immigration policy until you address the issue of border security.

BLITZER: This so-called gang of eight, they say the first priority, as you say, is to secure the border. But they say once it's secure, then you could have a policy that eventually leads to a pathway to citizenship. Not just legal status in the United States. And I'll repeat the question, are you with them when it comes to that pathway to citizenship?

PERRY: Well, we have a pathway to citizenship today. You get in line, just like people have always done. The idea that we're going to give amnesty to 12 million people, again, I think that's on the extreme outside of this debate. And just as shipping 12 million people back to their homes is on the extreme side of this debate. I don't think either one of those are reasonable positions.

And if Americans will come together on this, and I think there are some reasonable, thoughtful people, both in Congress, and governors who have to deal with this, who need to be brought in, and I will suggest to you, Wolf, that that's one of the things that's missing. I'm -- the president hasn't called up the governor of one of the largest states who has the longest border with Mexico, and said, Governor, what do you think we need to do about the issue of immigration? I would be open to that conversation any day.

BLITZER: Well, you might be getting a phone call from him after this interview, if his aides are watching or if he's watching. So if he calls you, are you ready to go to the White House and sit down with the president and try to come up with some sensible solutions to comprehensive immigration reform?

PERRY: Absolutely. As a matter of fact, I handed him a letter some two or three years ago on the tarmac at the Austin airport about that issue, about border security, and yet to get a response.

BLITZER: 2016, how seriously are you thinking about that Republican presidential nomination once again?

PERRY: I've got 55 days left of the men and women who are working in this building behind me, the Texas capital. Our legislature will be leaving in approximately 55 days. And hopefully with a great budget put together, and continuing to make Texas the epicenter for economic growth in this country. And at that particular point in time, I'll sit down with friends and family and make a decision about 2016.

BLITZER: So you're obviously open to that notion?

PERRY: Indeed.

BLITZER: Have you given any thought at all to a possible Rick Perry versus Hillary Clinton race in 2016? Has that even entered your mind?

PERRY: I haven't. I've given a lot more thought to how I work with the very disparate groups over in the capital as we put a budget together and deal with water and transportation, infrastructure, and electrical power, and keep this state on track to lead the nation in job creation.

BLITZER: So you haven't -- what do you think about her in general, though?

PERRY: I think the first lady is a very capable, thoughtful and public servant. And I appreciate her service.

BLITZER: She was the first lady. She was also the former secretary of state, former senator. She got a lot of credentials out there. So that would be a formidable race, right?

PERRY: I would suggest that whoever the Democrats put forward will be a credible candidate in 2016.

BLITZER: Hey, Governor, thanks very much for joining us.

PERRY: Wolf, it's always good to be with you. Come to Texas one of these days.

BLITZER: Thank you.

PERRY: Yes, sir. So long.

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