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CNN "Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees" - Transcript - Filibuster and Guns

Interview

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COOPER: Appreciate it. Thanks.

See you tomorrow for part two of Dana's exclusive report. She is going to join us tomorrow, focusing on Gabby Giffords' near fatal wound and her remarkable battle back from it, including the chilling moment when she stared down the would-be killer in court.

Right now, I'm joined, though, by one of the 14 Republican senators who have been planning to block debate on a Democratic gun control bill, the only one out of the 14 who would agree to come on tonight.

We very much appreciate it, Senator James Risch of Idaho.

Thanks very much for being on the program.

SEN. JAMES RISCH (R), IDAHO: Thank you. Thank you.

COOPER: First of all, Tom Coburn, a Republican, was on Erin Burnett's show an hour ago, said he does not think there will be a filibuster if Democrats allow Republicans to bring amendments up for a bill. Do you think that's true?

RISCH: I think that's probably true.

In any event, I don't think there will be a filibuster that won't be overridden. I think there's clearly 60 votes to override a filibuster. There is going to be a debate on this, this week.

COOPER: You are one of the people who wants to filibuster.

RISCH: Well, a filibuster is simply a procedure by which you try to defeat legislation.

I'm committed to defeat any legislation that interferes with law- abiding citizens' right under the Constitution, which is a right just like freedom of speech, freedom of religion and freedom of association in amendment one. Amendment two gives every American the right to keep and bear arms.

Having said that, that is, of course, modified by the fact if you're a felon, you can't. If you have serious mental issues, you can't. That's what we should focus on.

COOPER: You know the criticism from even Senator McCain, who says why try to filibuster? Why not allow this to come up for debate? This is what the Senate should be all about?

RISCH: Well, and, of course, it is -- it was debated today on the floor. It is going to be debated tomorrow on the floor. And there is going to be a debate on it. There's no question about it. But it is a procedural method by which, if you are successful, you can stop passage of a bill. That is not going to happen here. There's going to be enough votes to override the filibuster and then get to the bill. Whether the bill passes or not, we will see.

COOPER: Not wanting universal background checks, or so-called universal background checks, what is your main opposition to that?

RISCH: Well, the background check system we have right now is not being enforced and it isn't working.

I keep hearing on this program the reference has been made closing the gun show loophole. People portray that the guns that are sold at gun shows are not subject to background check. The vast majority of guns that are sold at gun shows are done so by FFL dealers. They have to do a background check.

COOPER: But why not control, you know, a relative giving -- selling a gun to a relative or friend to a friend? Why not have a background check?

RISCH: Right.

The thing that really bothers me is the fact that No. 1, it doesn't work.

No. 2, it's placing the burden on law-abiding citizens. The person who is going to use the gun for illegal purposes is not going to go through the background check system. Instead of burdening -- instead of burdening them with that, I would rather see there be able to be commerce in guns so that people can exercise that Second Amendment right.

COOPER: But how do you know that somebody's a law-abiding citizen who's buying a gun from a relative if they haven't gone through a background check? Because I've heard in interviews you cite the figure that thousands of people have actually gone through the background check and been caught as lying. They've been felons, and they're not prosecuted. The NRA says this is ridiculous. They should be prosecuted. But nevertheless, they were caught. So those are people, if you extended the background checks to even private sales, though it may be inconvenient, wouldn't you catch thousands of people?

RISCH: Anderson, you make a really good point in that for about the last year that the statistics are available for, 15,000 people were convicted felons or were on the run who lied and committed a felony on the background check form.

COOPER: Right.

RISCH: Out of those 15,000, they prosecuted 44 of them. We need to enforce the laws that we have. Those 15,000 should have been prosecuted because you know they didn't stop trying to get a gun. They went somewhere else to get the gun.

COOPER: I don't hear a lot of people arguing that those people shouldn't be prosecuted, that the current laws shouldn't be, but if it caught 15,000 people lying, why not extend the background checks and you're going to catch another 15,000?

RISCH: Well, instead of that, Anderson, what we really ought to do is we ought to focus on keeping the hand -- keeping the guns out of the hands of convicted felons and people who have serious mental disease.

COOPER: But how do you know...

RISCH: That is a very, very difficult thing to do.

COOPER: But how do -- convicted felons have friends and relatives who might sell them a gun anyway.

RISCH: Absolutely. And those people should be prosecuted. We have laws against straw purchases now. Those people should be prosecuted.

Look, I want to make absolutely clear, those of us that support this constitutional right that we, as Americans, have -- and we are one of the very few people in the world that have the ability to own and bear arms -- we are not trying to protect criminals by any stretch of the imagination. Indeed, just the reverse.

Because every time a criminal commits an act like this or a person who has a serious mental illness creates -- does something like this, it endangers everyone else's ability to keep and bear arms.

COOPER: From a logic standpoint, I don't understand. How do you know if they're a criminal or have a serious mental issue if you're not doing any kind of check? If their relative who's an idiot decides to sell them a weapon or their friend decides to sell them a weapon? I mean, if nobody's checking, how do you know they're a good guy or bad guy?

RISCH: Well, there's no question that, by expanding the background check, you will pick up some more of those people. But that isn't necessarily going to keep the -- keep guns out of their hands. There's over 300 million guns today in America that can be bought from anywhere and even the conversation that's going on now in bringing the bill that they're talking about with gun shows is still going to leave a vast majority of sales without background checks.

COOPER: If gun show checks, Internet sales, that's what the compromise people are talking about, is that something that's acceptable to you or does that go too far?

RISCH: It isn't that it goes too far. It's just ineffective. They're just not getting the job done. There are other things that we really need to focus on, and that is keeping guns out of the hands of people that shouldn't have them.

COOPER: Senator, I appreciate you coming on the program.

RISCH: Thank you.


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