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


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CROWLEY: My interview with Marco Rubio is coming up. But joining me now is Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, and Republican Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania.

You all have put together this bill, which includes, among other things, a way to expand background checks to gun shows. When does it go on the floor? And do you have the votes?

TOOMEY: Well, we expect a vote this week. It's not certain as to exactly when. I think Wednesday's probably the most likely day for a vote for the Manchin-Toomey alternative to the existing language in the underlying bill.

I think it's an open question as to whether or not we have the votes. I think it's going to be close.

MANCHIN: What we're asking for, Candy, is just for our colleagues to read it. We've sent it to all of them. It broke down -- we give an outline of it. But it's a bill that basically looks at how do we treat our veterans and make sure they're treated the way they should be treated, with respect and dignity.

How we basically look at violence and a commission on mass violence, expertise in mental illness and why we don't do more. This bill, basically if you're a criminal and if you've been mentally adjudicated, you might not like it. And that's all we're saying.

At gun shows, and Internet sales, commercial transactions, is that you should not be able to buy a gun if you've been one of those two categories.

CROWLEY: As both of you know, as folks who have had strong backing by the National Rifle Association in the past, there is still huge resistance in the sense that people think, oh, that, you know, you expand background checks, the next thing you know they're going to come back and do this in a federal registry, which is explicitly banned under your bill.

But there's just this feeling that the federal government is -- this is just the tip of the iceberg. And I wanted to read you something that Senator Chris Murphy said, this was quoted in a New York Times column by Maureen Dowd, in which he said: "You are not going to disenfranchise the NRA overnight. I think ultimately we will get the assault weapons ban because I don't think this is the last time a man will walk into a crowded place with an AR-15."

That kind of -- go ahead.

TOOMEY: Well, first of all, let me be very clear, Senator Manchin and I are not interested and not willing to support infringing the legitimate rights of law-abiding citizens. This is about whether or not it's reasonable to try to make it more difficult for dangerous people for whom it's already illegal for them to have weapons to obtain them. And I think that's a very reasonable thing.

Now, there are some people that do want to infringe on Second Amendment rights. I won't be part of that. But I will be part of trying to make sure that criminals and dangerously mentally ill people have a harder time getting guns.

CROWLEY: But you understand the fear that's out there.

MANCHIN: Sure. It's the unknown. And the fact that there's lack of trust. And Pat and I both come from a gun culture. Both NRA. Both gun people ourselves who own guns and hunt and go out in the woods and enjoy it all.

If you're a law-abiding gun owner, you're going to like this bill. We've clarified a lot of things. You know, when people look at you, Candy, and they think, why do you own a gun? Like something's wrong with you? This basically puts it in the proper context people have been trying to do for years. And all we're asking for is for them to read it.

CROWLEY: Have the events over the past three or four months while Congress and the president and everyone have sort of wrestled with what to do, has it changed your mind about the National Rifle Association?

We had Governor Malloy on last week and he called Wayne LaPierre a clown -- a circus clown. Do you all feel differently about the NRA and its tactics now than you did prior to all of this?

MANCHIN: What we're seeing is, is same as we're seeing in the political arena, whether you're Democrat or Republican, whether you're elected or you're running for an office, they're getting caught by different other extreme groups, really extreme groups who are putting out falsehoods and just outright lies that are not even addressed in this bill.

We have put so much protection in this bill. And we're asking people to read it. It's a shame that a nationally -- organization such as NRA -- and we've talked to them, they're my friends. I've worked with them. My door is still open. We want to -- you know, if they're not going to be for the bill, we just agree to disagree.

But there's things in this piece of legislation that they have been working for many, many years to get, and it's here.

CROWLEY: And have you changed your mind about the NRA and its tactics?

TOOMEY: No, I don't -- you know, I think this debate in some ways is underscoring just the extent to which there is a polarization in our society, a political polarization, the acrimony that has gotten into politics is manifesting itself in this debate. And I think that's unfortunate.

But I really believe strongly, as Senator Manchin said, if people will actually read the bill, which has been posted online since Thursday evening, we will probably have a vote on Wednesday, it has been available -- it will have been available for a week, I think they'll see it's a very reasonable, common-sense measure to keep guns out of the hands of people who shouldn't have them.

CROWLEY: Let me also talk to you a little bit about the specifics of one thing. And it does allow the transfer of a gun within a family.

TOOMEY: Right.

CROWLEY: It does allow gun sales within a family. But there's also something that says private sales. So if I own a shotgun and my neighbor -- and I want to sell it, my neighbor comes to me and says, oh, I know a guy that's looking for a shotgun. Can I sell that shotgun to the neighbor's friend without a background check under your bill?

MANCHIN: The private transactions are exempted.

CROWLEY: Is that a private transaction?

MANCHIN: That's a private transaction. If it's a commercial transaction or commercial establishment, such as a gun show, if you're going to a gun show...

CROWLEY: Or a licensed dealer.

MANCHIN: ... then there should be a background check.

Here's the -- current law, current law is this, if you go to a gun store, you have to have a background check and the gun store keeps it. If you go to a gun show today and you're a licensed dealer, you still do the same thing. We're treating everybody the same. If you buy online, if you buy online, I buy from -- a gun in Pennsylvania and I'm in West Virginia.

CROWLEY: But you can sell -- under this bill, I could sell my shotgun to anyone I wanted and that is outside...


MANCHIN: Private transactions, private transactions, law-abiding citizens, you know, absolutely.

CROWLEY: OK. The other thing is you all have -- do you still, even though you have this bill out there, understand when folks look at this and say, no, we've got to control those private sales as well.

CROWLEY: Because if you don't know the background of the guy you're selling to--

TOOMEY: Well, I understand, but I just disagree. I think we need to strike a balance here, strike a reasonable balance that is not too onerous. The vast majority of sales are commercial in nature and they're happening either with dealers or at gun shows. Those would be captured subject to a background check, which 94 percent of which are completed in three minutes. It's really very reasonable. And it would capture a vast majority of transactions.

CROWLEY: I want to move to the politics of this, some of which actually were touched upon last night in a "Saturday Night Live" skit. I don't know if you all have been able to see it, but I wanted to play a bit of it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These men wish everything for this bill. I mean, Senator Manchin represents West Virginia and he's proposing gun reform? He's going to lose his job. And Senator Toomey, this man is a Republican who is willing to make just the slightest compromise on gun control, he's going to lose his job too.


CROWLEY: Either one of you worried about any kind of challenge primary or general?

MANCHIN: Let me just say, and I know Pat and I have talked, we came here to do something, we came here to make a difference. If you would have met with the families, the strongest people I've ever met with, the families of the Newtown victims, they never asked for anybody to take their guns away, they never asked to repeal the Second Amendment, they said we're gun owners. We respect and honor all that.

We know, and they'll even say, we know that this bill that you're working on would not have saved our children. We know that, but it might save somebody else's child. I mean, you talk about -- if we just had half the courage they had, Candy, just half the courage.

So yes, I came to do something and I want to do something.

TOOMEY: In 1999, I supported expanding background checks. I just think it makes common sense. And I'll just let the political chips fall the way they fall. CROWLEY: Senator Pat Toomey from Pennsylvania, Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, thank you both for being here today.

TOOMEY: Thanks for having us.


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