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Video: NRA chief makes his case, senators and experts respond

updated 12/23/2012 1:08:55 PM ET 2012-12-23T18:08:55

DAVID GREGORY:

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This Sunday morning it's been nine days since the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut. And the debate over gun control has been revived. Here with us exclusively this morning, the man at the center of that debate at the moment, the CEO and executive vice president of the N.R.A., Wayne LaPierre, who is answering questions for the first time since the shootings. I want to get right to it. Welcome back to the program.

WAYNE LAPIERRE:

Thank you, David.

DAVID GREGORY:

You promised in the wake of this massacre, 26 people murdered, that the N.R.A. would, quote, "Offer meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again." If we boil down your appearance before the news media on Friday, this was your message.

(Videotape)

WAYNE LAPIERRE: The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.

DAVID GREGORY:

You proposed armed guards in school. We'll talk about that in some detail in a moment. You confronted the news media. You blamed Hollywood and the gaming industry. But never once did you concede that guns could actually be part of the problem. Is that a meaningful contribution, Mr. LaPierre, or a dodge?

WAYNE LAPIERRE:

David, I said what I honestly thought, and what millions and hundreds of millions of people all over this country believe will actually make a difference. You know, I can't imagine a more horrible tragedy than what happened. We all have five year olds-- in our families in some way. I mean we all put ourselves in that situation, and the tears flow down our eyes.

The N.R.A., made up of all these moms and dads, parents, we have 11,000 police training instructors. We have 80,000 police families. We're four million members. And we sat down and we said, "What we can we do will actually make a difference today to make these kids safe?

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:

But conceding that guns play any role, that's a meaningful contribution?

WAYNE LAPIERRE:

You know, look. I know there's a media machine in this country that wants to blame guns every time something happens. I know there's an anti-second amendment industry in this country. I know there are political (UNINTEL) for 20 years always try to say it's because Americans own guns.

I'm telling you what I think will make people safe. And what every mom and dad will make them feel better when they drop their kid off at school in January, is if we have a police officer in that school, a good guy, that if some horrible monster tries to do something, they'll be there to protect them.

DAVID GREGORY:

All right, we'll talk about that in more specifics. But you're talking about some of the old complaints you make against the news media and such. Nobody's actually said that it's only about guns, so far as I've heard, not the president, not anyone else. But just I'd like to get your reaction to some of the reaction to you on Friday, which a lot of people were frankly shocked by your presentation.

Here was The New York Post, a conservative publication, I don't think part of the media conspiracy you talk about, and there's the headline: "Gun Nut. N.R.A. Loon in Bizarre Rant over Newtown." The Hartford Courant headline says that "The N.R.A.'s response falls flat."

The Congressman from the district of Newtown, Chris Murphy tweeted this: "Walking out of another funeral and was handed the N.R.A. transcript, the most revolting, tone-deaf statement I've ever seen." Just your reaction to that very harsh reaction to your words.

WAYNE LAPIERRE:

If it's crazy to call for putting police and armed security in our school to protect our children, then call me crazy. I'll tell you what the American people-- I think the American people think it's crazy not to do it. It's the one thing that would keep people safe.

And the N.R.A. is going to try to do that. We're going to support an immediate appropriation before Congress to put police officers in every school. And we're going to work with Asa Hutchinson, who has agreed to work with us to put together a voluntary program, drawing on retired military, drawing on retired police, drawing on former Secret Service, and all these people that can actually go in and make our kids safe. That's the one thing, the one thing that we can do--

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:

The one and only thing?

WAYNE LAPIERRE:

It's a--

DAVID GREGORY:

You don't think guns should be part of the conversation?

WAYNE LAPIERRE:

I think that is the one thing that we can do immediately that will immediately make our children safe.

DAVID GREGORY:

Is it the only thing?

WAYNE LAPIERRE:

Gun control, you could ban all Dianne Feinstein's, you could do whatever she wants to do with magazines, it's not going to make any kid safer. We've got to get to the real problems, the real causes. And that's what the N.R.A. is trying to do.

And I think, I'll tell you this, I have people all over the country calling me saying, "Wayne, I went to bed safer last night because I have a firearm. Don't let the media try to make this a gun issue."

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:

But that's argument, that's not fact. So let's--

WAYNE LAPIERRE:

No, it is fact.

DAVID GREGORY:

Well, a feeling is not fact. A feeling is a sense of reassurance. That's not evidence. And I know that's not what you're presenting. But let's talk more specifically about what you're talking about, armed guards in schools. Because I know there are successful examples.

Fairfax County, Virginia, has student resource officers. I'm sure you know a lot about that program. But you know, there's examples where it hasn't worked. The Columbine tragedy, Virginia Tech, there were armed guards there, weren't there? It didn't stop the carnage.

WAYNE LAPIERRE:

And let's talk about what happened at Columbine, okay? There were armed guards there, and they didn't go in. They were under orders that if something happened, they would have called the police for backup.

DAVID GREGORY:

They exchanged fire with the shooters.

WAYNE LAPIERRE:

And they waited for the SWAT team to show up, and the SWAT team set outside and tried to figure out what to do. Every procedure has been changed since Columbine as a result of that-- the way--

DAVID GREGORY:

They exchanged fire with the shooters. So your principle of having armed guards was true in Columbine, was it not?

WAYNE LAPIERRE:

Look at the facts at Columbine. They've changed every police procedure since Columbine. I mean I don't understand why you can't, just for a minute, imagine that when that horrible monster tried to shoot his way into Sandy Hook School, that if a good guy with a gun had been there, he might have been able to stop--

DAVID GREGORY:

I'm just trying to test your views here, Mr. LaPierre, about how it would actually work. So how many do you think you have to have on campus, and where? Is it sufficient to have them at the front of the school?

WAYNE LAPIERRE:

I think-- you know, that's up to our police. Our police do this every day. They protect the president, The Secret Service does. They protect The Capitol. They protect office buildings. Most of the media, I know you don't have armed guards here, but most of the media, when I go around this country, they're protected by armed guards.

Why can't we protect our most precious resource? Look, there was a Secret Service study that was done, okay? You know what it showed? It showed that the police, trying to get there in time, only stopped 25% of the shooters. The rest of them are either stopped by somebody in the system or they turn the gun on themselves. That's a pretty darned good argument for putting a good guy in the system somewhere with a gun to help our kids.

DAVID GREGORY:

And again, it may be the case. Do you allow volunteers, or do they have to be police officers? Would you have volunteer forces there?

WAYNE LAPIERRE:

I think that what you need, you need police immediately, because that's something that we can get done. And then I think that Congressman Asa Hutchinson's going to look to do. And he got there long before we ever called him. Former head of the Drug Enforcement Administration. Deputy Director of Homeland Security.

He's going to put together a program like they have in Israel. Israel had a whole lot of school shootings until they did one thing. They said, "We're going to stop it," and they put armed security in every school, and they have not had a problem since then. Let's make our kids safe. Let's not argue about this endless argument about gun control.

DAVID GREGORY:

But you would concede that, as good as an idea as you think this is, it may not work. Because there have been cases where armed guards have not prevented this kind of massacre, this kind of carnage. I want you would concede that point, wouldn't you?

WAYNE LAPIERRE:

I'm saying that if I'm a mom or a dad and--

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:

You say you want to try it.

WAYNE LAPIERRE:

--and I'm dropping my child off at school, I'd feel a whole lot safer with these great men and women on police forces--

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:

But look, you have to concede it may not work. It may be part of the solution.

WAYNE LAPIERRE:

Nothing's perfect, David.

DAVID GREGORY:

Right.

WAYNE LAPIERRE:

But gosh, it's going to be better than--

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:

And who pays? Because we know that a third of the schools that already have armed policemen or some kind of armed guards there. Will the N.R.A. be prepared to help financially? Is it really-- is a budgetary matter feasible? Would federal grants be necessary to provide this kind of-- firepower?

WAYNE LAPIERRE:

Well, as I said, I mean we have all kinds of federal foreign aid we do. My gosh, we're doing two billion to train the police in Iraq right now. With all the money in the federal budget, if we can't come up with to do this, or something long it's country, the N.R.A. will. I'll tell you, we fund the (UNINTEL PHRASE) child safety program right now as a model, the schools, for kids too young to be around guns.

You know what it teaches them? If you see a gun, stop, don't touch it, leave the area, all an adult. Written by the best child psychologist and elementary school curriculum experts in the country. And we have child actions down to the lowest level every--

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:

So here's something you said on Friday that struck me. Because I think this is really the nub of the argument about armed security.

(Videotape)

WAYNE LAPIERRE: What if, when Adam Lanza started shooting his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School last Friday, he had been confronted by qualified, armed security? Will you at least admit it's possible that 26 innocent lives might have been spared? Is that so abhorrent to you that you would rather continue to risk the alternative?

DAVID GREGORY:

Because that's your standard is that fewer people should be killed. That's the goal here. And the standard is, if it's possible, your words, if it's possible that lives could be spared, shouldn't we try that? That's your standard, isn't it?

WAYNE LAPIERRE:

I tell you, my standard is this. You can't legislate morality. Legislation works on the sane. Legislation works on the law abiding.

DAVID GREGORY:

Fairness--

WAYNE LAPIERRE:

It doesn't work on criminals. It doesn't work on the--

DAVID GREGORY:

If it's possible to reduce the loss of life--

WAYNE LAPIERRE:

There are--

DAVID GREGORY:

--you're up for trying it.

WAYNE LAPIERRE:

There are monsters out there every day, and we need to do something to stop them. And they're not--

DAVID GREGORY:

If it's possible to reduce the loss of life, you're worth trying it, correct?

WAYNE LAPIERRE:

If it's possible to reduce the loss of life--

DAVID GREGORY:

That's what you say.

WAYNE LAPIERRE:

Yeah, I want it. That's what I'm proposing.

DAVID GREGORY:

Okay. So let me widen the argument. Let's stipulate that you're right. Let's say armed guards might work. Let's widen the argument out a little bit. So here is a magazine for ammunition that carries 30 bullets. Now isn't it possible that, if we got rid of these, if we replaced them in said, "Well, you could only have a magazine that carries five bullets or ten bullets," isn't it just possible that we can reduce the carnage in a situation like Newtown?

WAYNE LAPIERRE:

I don't believe that's going to make one difference. There are so many different ways to evade that, even if you had that. You had that for ten years when Dianne Feinstein passed that ban in '94. It was on the books. Columbine occurred right in the middle of it. It didn't make any difference. I know everybody-- that this town wants to argue about gun control. I don't think it's what will work. What will work is this. I'll tell you this.

DAVID GREGORY:

But (INAUDIBLE PHRASE) this a matter of logic, Mr. LaPierre. Because anybody watching this is going to say, "Hey, wait a minute. I just heard Mr. LaPierre say that the standard is we should try anything that might reduce the violence." Are you telling me it's not a matter of common sense that, if you don't have an ability to shoot off 30 rounds without reloading that just possibly you could reduce the loss of life?

WAYNE LAPIERRE:

David--

DAVID GREGORY:

That Adam Lanza may not have been able to shoot as many kids--

WAYNE LAPIERRE:

I-- I--

DAVID GREGORY:

--if he didn't have as much ammunition?

WAYNE LAPIERRE:

I don't buy your argument for a minute. There are so many--

DAVID GREGORY:

It's not possible?

WAYNE LAPIERRE:

There are so many different ways he could have done it. And there's an endless amount of ways a monster--

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:

But here's some-- don't take it from me. Here's Larry Alan Burns, federal district judge of San Diego, he sentenced Jared Loughner, appointed by President Bush, a gun owner, and supports the N.R.A.. Here's what he wrote in The Los Angeles Times: "Bystanders got to Tucson shooter, Jared Loughner and subdued him only after he emptied one 30 round magazine and was trying to load another. Adam Lanza, the Newtown shooter, chose his primary weapon as a semi-automatic rifle with 30-round magazines. And we don't even bother to call the 100-rounder that James Holmes is accused of emptying in an Aurora, Colorado movie theater a magazine, it's a drum. How is this not an argument for regulating the number of rounds a gun can fire? I get it. Someone bent on mass murder, who has only a ten-round magazine or a revolver at his disposal probably is not going to abandon his plan and instead try to talk his problems out. But we might be able to take the "mass" out of "mass shooting," or at least make the perpetrator's job a bit harder."

WAYNE LAPIERRE:

I don't think it will. I keep saying it, and you just won't accept it. It's not going to work. It hasn't worked. Dianne Feinstein had her ban, and Columbine occurred. It's not going to work. I'll tell you what would work. We have a mental health system in this country that has completely and totally collapsed. We have no national database of these lunatics.

23 states, my (UNINTEL) however long ago was Virginia Tech? 23 states are still putting only a small number of records into the system. And a lot of states are putting none. So, when they go through the national instant check system, and they go to try to screen out one of those lunatics, the records are not even in the system.

I talked to a police officer the other day. He said, "Wayne," he said, "let me tell you this. Every police officer walking the street knows s lunatic that's out there, some mentally disturbed person that ought to be in an institution, is out walking the street because they dealt with the institutional side. They didn't want mentally ill in institutions. So they put them all back on the streets. And then nobody thought what happens when you put all these mentally ill people back on the streets, and what happens when they start taking their medicine."

We have a completely cracked mentally ill system that's got these monsters walking the streets. And we've got to deal with the underlying causes and connections if we're ever going to get to the truth in this country and stop this--

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:

Again, a lot of people would agree with that. There are a lot of difficulties with regard to getting that kind of mental health information, because there's privacy laws, there are states not contributing to a national registry. Isn't part of the issue background checks? I mean you have 40% of sales that go on without any background checks. Are you prepared to back broader background checks, if you don't think that the ammunition road is the way to go?

WAYNE LAPIERRE:

We have backed the National Instant Check System. We have backed putting anyone adjudicated mentally incompetent into the system. Now, I know where you're going with this. They come with this whole, "Ah, the gun show loophole." There's not a gun show loophole. It's illegal for felons to do anything like that, to buy guns.

What the anti-second amendment movement wants to do is put every gun sale in he country under the thumb of the federal government. Congress debated this at length. They said if you're a hobbyist or collector, if someone in West Virginia, a hunter, wants to sell a gun to another hunter, he ought to be able to do it without being under the thumb of the federal government.

DAVID GREGORY:

But if you want to check and screen more thoroughly for the mentally ill, why not screen more thoroughly for everybody and eliminate the fact that 40% can buy a weapon without any background check?

WAYNE LAPIERRE:

We-- we don't prosecute anybody under the federal gun laws right now. That's one of the--

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:

But that's not a response to my question, Mr. LaPierre. What I hear you saying is, "Well, you can't do anything about the high capacity ammunition magazines because it simply won't work, yet you're proposing things that you don't know will completely work. But you're into the art of the possible, because your standard is anything that has a chance of work we ought to try, except when it has to do with guns or ammunition. Don't you see that people see that as a complete dodge?

WAYNE LAPIERRE:

You know what N.R.A. supports, David? N.R.A. supports what works, and we always have. We funded the (UNINTEL) Child Safety Program. We have accidents down to one tenth of what they used to be. We have supported prison building. We have supported programs like Project Exile where, every time you catch a criminal with a gun, a drug dealer with a gun, a violent felon with a gun, you prosecute him 100% of the time.

If you want to control violent criminals, take them off the street. That's what every police officer out there knows works. We've supported the Instant Check System. We supported getting these records into the Instant Check List.

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:

But you don't deny that there are-- that even the Instant Check System has huge holes, just like the mental health registry has huge holes.

WAYNE LAPIERRE:

And you know the biggest hole? I'll tell you the biggest single hole in it right now. If you're a felon and you walk into a gun store and you try to buy a gun, and they go, "Oh, you're a felon, and we're going to turn you down," they let you walk out, and they don't prosecute you. It's like Bonnie and Clyde. It's like Clyde goes in and tries to buy a gun, he goes bask to Bonnie and says, "Well, I got some bad news, they didn't sell me the gun. The good news is they let me go. They didn't do anything to me." So they go about, and they commit their crime.

DAVID GREGORY:

Is Senator Feinstein's bill to revive the gun ban, the assault weapons ban, is that going to pass?

WAYNE LAPIERRE:

I think that is a phony piece of legislation, and I do not believe it will pass for this reason: It's all built on lies that have been found out. Everything I hear, my gosh, people in the media, I revere their communication skills. But they have an obligation to be factual, to be truthful. And everything that these politicians are saying about that is not true.

They say these guns are more powerful. Not true. They say they make bigger holes. Not true. They say they use larger bullets. Not true. They say they're weapons of war. Not true. I mean everything they're saying, they say they're military guns like our soldiers use. That's not true. I mean assault weapons--

DAVID GREGORY:

I haven't said any of those things this morning.

WAYNE LAPIERRE:

No, I'm not talking about you.

DAVID GREGORY:

No, no, I know.

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:

Our conversation is about what I'm asking, which is you think it won't pass, and you think there won't be any-- you wouldn't support any reduction of capacity magazines.

WAYNE LAPIERRE:

No, we don't think it works, and we're not going to support it. I mean I worked in a CNN studio, and they started running this footage of somebody shooting Dianne Feinstein's guns and saying, "These are the guns that N.R.A. wants to put back on the street," and showing them all doing all-- I said, "I challenge the men from CNN to defend this story because you fake a story." They went to the range the following Monday. They showed the firearms that were on Dianne Feinstein's ban list shoot no different and perform no different than the ones she doesn't want to--

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:

All right. Would you want--

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:

What about being part of this panel that's convened by the president, by the vice president? Are you interested in a conversation with the administration about gun safety measures?

WAYNE LAPIERRE:

If it's gun safety, I actually think the best person to represent the N.R.A. is Congressman Asa Hutchinson on that. If it's a panel that's just going to be made up of a bunch of people that, for the last 20 years, have been trying to destroy the second amendment, I'm not interested in sitting on that panel. The American public supports their freedoms. N.R.A. is not going to let people lose the second amendment in this country, which is supported by the overwhelming majority of the American people.

DAVID GREGORY:

Is there any new gun regulation that you could support?

WAYNE LAPIERRE:

I'll tell you what would work right now. Tomorrow morning, and the N.R.A. would be there every step of the way, if President Obama would walk in and tell the attorney general of the United States to tell every U.S. attorney, "If you catch a drug dealer on the street with a gun, I want you to prosecute him, take him off the street, violent felon, violent criminal. Take him off the street." Look, if ever you--

DAVID GREGORY:

But there's no new gun regulation that you would support?

WAYNE LAPIERRE:

This is what would work. If every U.S. attorney--

DAVID GREGORY:

Mr. LaPierre, I'm asking you a direct question. Is there any new gun regulation you'd be willing to support?

WAYNE LAPIERRE:

I'm giving you the answer.

DAVID GREGORY:

No, you're saying you should prosecute more criminals.

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:

I'm asking you if there's a new gun regulation, you know, after the debates of the '90s and so forth, today. Could we make the assault weapons ban better, the ammunition ban any better, any more effective?

WAYNE LAPIERRE:

You want one more law on top of 20,000 laws, when most of the federal gun laws we don't even enforce. If every U.S. attorney would do only ten cases a month, that would be 12,000 cases. If they would do 20 a month, it would be 24,000 cases. That would get the worst people in the country that are killing people off the street. Right now, David, you know how many cases we're doing in the whole country on prosecuting under all the federal gun laws? Take a guess. Take a guess.

DAVID GREGORY:

You tell me.

WAYNE LAPIERRE:

6,000. It's pitiful. And the drug dealers and the gangs and the criminals know it. And they go about their business. And there are 25,000 violent crimes a week in the country. And at the scene of the crime, it's the criminal and--

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:

But didn't it strike you, Mr. LaPierre, that your goal is to reduce violence in this country, and I think back to the reaction after the Oklahoma City bombing, I think back to the reaction after 9-11, nobody said there was one thing that was going to work. Look at how extensive the federal government's powers that they sought, (UNINTEL) wiretaps, all kinds of counter-terror procedures. Some work, some don't.

But the feeling was they were worth trying. And that was your standard. That's what you said on Friday. If it's worth trying, why not do it? That's your position on armed guards. And a lot of people would agree with you. But nothing having to do with gun safety. And you seem to excuse the role that guns play in violence in this country.

WAYNE LAPIERRE:

Look, a gun is a tool. The problem is the criminal. Every police officer that walks the street knows, if you want to control violent crime, take violent criminals off the street. You got programs like Richmond, Virginia, where they had one of the worst murder rates in the country until they put out the word, "If you're a drug dealer on the street with a gun, we're going to pick you up, and you're going to federal prison." They changed criminal behavior in that county and immediately cut murder with guns by about 60-70%. That's what works. Criminals operate outside the system. Lunatics could care less. You've got to get them off the street. You've got to get them into treatment. And we're not doing that in this country.

DAVID GREGORY:

Has the environment changed, Mr. LaPierre? The Supreme Court has reaffirmed gun owners' rights in this country. Mayor Bloomberg was on this program saying last week, "You tried to get the president not to be reelected." You failed in that effort. He says you don't have the clout that you had politically in this town in past debates.

WAYNE LAPIERRE:

You know, the American people, I know one thing about them, they value their freedom. And when the reality of the consequences of what the politicians in this town and the media and the elites want to do to their second amendment rights and take them away, I think they'll do what they've done historically. They'll defend the freedom.

Because the American public knows that the scene of the crime, it's a criminal victim, all these politicians aren't there. And they see people like Mayor Bloomberg, New York City, you know the way it works up there? If you're rich and you're famous, you your permit. If you're a 300 hitter with The Mets, you get a permit. If you're a celebrity, you get a permit. If you're a big developer, you get a permit. If you're a Wall Street executive, you get a permit.

If you're one of the mayor's buddies, you get your permit. If you're the guy in the box out there at the scene of the crime, most in need of the protection, you're flat out of luck. What the N.R.A.'s about, we're about the average guy. We're about the non-celebrity, the non-300 hitter. We're about non-developer.

And the average guy in the country values his freedom, doesn't believe the fact he can own a gun is part of the problem, and doesn't like the media and all these high profile politicians blaming him, and every time a tragedy--

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:

Do you have the same clout have always had politically?

WAYNE LAPIERRE:

Our support is always the American people. Decade in and decade out, the strength of the N.R.A. is the American public. And I believe they are on our side to defend freedom.

DAVID GREGORY:

Bottom line, if there is an approach after Newtown that includes mental health, that includes gratuitous violence in our media and our gaming industry, and includes gun regulations, will you support it or oppose it?

WAYNE LAPIERRE:

We are going to support what works, putting an armed guard in every single school. We're going to try to fix the mental health system. We want people prosecuted. We're going to do what protects the American public. That's what we've always done. And that's why I'm proud of the N.R.A.. And I think that's why people join the N.R.A., to protect the freedom.

DAVID GREGORY:

Mr. LaPierre, we thank you for your views.

WAYNE LAPIERRE:

Thank you, David.

DAVID GREGORY:

Thank you very much.

WAYNE LAPIERRE:

Thank you for having me.

(LEAD-IN AND COMMERCIAL OMITTED)

DAVID GREGORY:

And we're back now with Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. Senators, welcome both. Senator Schumer, your reaction to Wayne LaPierre? He is saying that any attempt the president makes at gun control legislation is bound to fail because it won't work and it's just a bunch of old arguments. How do you react?

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER:

Well, I think he's so extreme and so tone deaf that he actually helps the cause of us passing sensible gun legislation in the Congress. Look, he blames everything but guns: movies, the media, President Obama, gun-free school zones. You name it, and the video games, he blames them.

Now, trying to prevent shootings in schools without talking about guns is like trying to prevent lung cancer without talking about cigarettes. And he is so doctrinaire and so adamant that I believe gun owners-- turn against him, as well. Look, he says the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. What about trying to stop the bad guy from getting the gun in the first place? That's common sense?

(OVERTALK)

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER:

Most Americans (CHUCKLE) agree with it. And I just think he's turning people off. That's not where America is at.

(OVERTALK)

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER:

And he's actually helping us.

DAVID GREGORY:

Senator Graham, there are N.R.A. supporters, colleagues of yours in the Senate, both Democrats, primarily this week who are saying, "Look, let's not just make this a conversation about guns, as some would like to do, it's got to be a broader conversation." But I heard Wayne LaPierre say no, he will not sign onto a broader conversation if it involves any new gun regulation. Do you agree with him?

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM:

Well, the first conversation we should have is how heartbroken we are as Americans. I don't think there's anybody in the country doesn't feel sick to their stomach. I can't imagine a worse situation than getting a call as a parent saying, "Something happened as school with shooting," or anything else, and you go there and your child is killed. So let's just start with that understanding.

Here's the conversation. We can talk all day long. We had an armed guard in Columbine. We had an assault ban. Neither one of them worked. We're talking about preventing mass murder by non- traditional criminals, people who are not traditionally criminals, who are not wired right, for some reason. And I don't know if there's anything Lindsey Graham can do in the Senate to stop mass murder from somebody that's hell bent on doing crazy things.

DAVID GREGORY:

But that can't be--

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM:

I do believe better security in schools--

DAVID GREGORY:

Yeah, I'll--

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:

--might be part of the--

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM:

--in schools.

DAVID GREGORY:

But there's got to be-- I mean that can't be the default of legislators in our country, that there's not a public policy role to address mass violence. When we've had the number of mass shootings, even since 2007, that are so shocking. And the question for you, Senator Schumer, from Wayne LaPierre, which is, "What did the assault weapons ban actually accomplish in terms of preventing access to high capacity magazines?" I mean the fact that that just doesn't work is still something that you're challenged by if you want to approach this legislation again.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER:

Well, the amount of gun violence since we passed the assault weapons bad in the Brady law is down considerably. Is it as good as it should be? Absolutely not. But we have to keep working on this. And there are lots of different solutions.

You know, the pro-gun people who say, "Don't include guns," are wrong. And the pro-gun safety people, like myself, who say, "Don't look at other solutions," is wrong. Just as you said on your show, we have to look at a holistic solution. We cannot just make the new normal one of these mass shootings every month. And that seems to be what's happening. So we should try all kinds of different things.

DAVID GREGORY:

So what do you differently here? Because look, the American people have been through this before. You had a weapons ban for ten years. It expired. Does the president want this fight? And if he wants it, how is he going to win it? Because there are a lot of difficulties in getting a weapons ban through. There are questions about whether it would actually work, even banning these high capacity magazines. What do you do differently than what you've done before?

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER:

Okay, I say there are two reasons that I think it can work. How were we able to pass the Brady law and the assault weapons ban in the mid-'90s? It's because the average citizen was fed up with crime and was on our side. Because of those laws and many other laws dealing with crime, crime declined.

But now that these mass shootings seem to be almost the new normal, almost one a month, I think the broad middle will rise up. And that will help us. Because in the last ten years, the whole debate has been dominated by the small but militant number, three-four million of N.R.A. people--

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:

Senator Graham, do you think the politics has changed? I mean that's the key point. As a Republican, do you think the N.R.A. has the same clout to be absolutist about this, rather than be part of a broader conversation, even if it means accepting compromises it may not like, and maybe the entertainment industry has to accept compromises that they feel infringe upon first amendment rights?

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM:

Well, I own a AR-15. I've got it at my house. The question is, if you deny me the right to buy another one, have you made America safer? My belief is that this is a problem where you try to get mass murderers off the street before they act, by better mental health detection. You try to find ways to understand what makes them who they are.

But I don't suggest we ban every movie with a gun in it, and every video that's violent. And I don't suggest you take my right to buy an AR-15 away from me, because I don't think it will work. And I do believe better security in schools is a good place to start.

DAVID GREGORY:

Would you ban--

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM:

And I don't want to come on your program--

DAVID GREGORY:

--high capacity magazines, though, Senator?

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM:

--and say-- the whole goal is to interrupt the shooter, right? Changing a magazine, I can do that pretty quick. The best way to interrupt a shooter is to keep him out of the school. And if they get in the school, have somebody that can interrupt him through armed force. So I don't want to sit here and tell you that we're one law away from solving this problem.

We're not one law away from solving this problem. This problem runs deep and it runs wide. I live in South Carolina. Chuck lives in New York. I understand how he was brought up. Maybe he tries to understand how I was brought up. But people where I live, I've been Christmas shopping all weekend, have come up to me, "Please don't let the government take my guns away."

DAVID GREGORY:

All right.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM:

And I'm going to stand against another assault ban, because it didn't work before, and it won't work in the future.

DAVID GREGORY:

Gentlemen, I know--

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:

Senator, I know we could talk about this indefinitely. But I want to move on. I've only got a few minutes left. I want to get to another seemingly intractable debate. And that's the fiscal cliff. Because Congress has left town, and there's no deal here. So Senator Schumer, the President's now proposing a smaller deal. Are we going to avoid the fiscal cliff by the first of the year or not?

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER:

Well, I hope so. You know, if you look at the final positions last Monday of both the president and Speaker Boehner, they were this close, they were this close to a solution. The president was about $200 billion higher on revenues. Speaker Boehner, $200 billion higher on spending cuts.

Out of a $4 trillion budget, that doesn't seem insurmountable. So I hope they would keep talking. And my one bit of advice to Speaker Boehner is this: You cannot pass a bill with just Republicans. On a broad thing like this, you need both. And he has put himself with Plan B in sort of an impossible position. He has to get these hard right guys to go along with him.

If he were to say, and the president were to say, "We're going to pass a bill with a majority of Democrats and a majority of Republicans in the House and Senate," we could get a mainstream bill. Now, I know he's worried about his speakership. But what I've found in my 37 years in as a legislator is that when you show leadership, when you show real direction and courage, even people who disagree with you will vote for you for speaker. So I would urge Speaker Boehner to abandon this Plan B strategy and work on a bipartisan solution.

DAVID GREGORY:

Senator Graham, the question for you is could you vote for a bill that extended tax cuts for $250,000 and below, extended unemployment insurance, as the president wants to do, and, in some way, delays some of these automatic spending cuts? Could you vote for that in the short term?

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM:

No. If you want leaders, then you have to lead. The President's been a pathetic fiscal leader. He's produced three budgets and can't get one vote for any of his budgets. You know, Boehner will be Tip O'Neil. Obama needs to be Ronald Reagan. Here's what I would vote for, I would vote for revenues, including tax rate hikes, even though I don't like them, to save the country from becoming Greece.

But I'm not going to set aside the $1.2 trillion in cuts. Any hope of going over the fiscal cliff must start in the Senate. Not one Democrat would support the idea that we could protect 99% of Americans from a tax increase. Boehner's Plan B, I thought, made sense. To my Republican colleagues: the Ronald Reagan model is if you get 80% of what you want, that's a pretty good day.

We had the same objective of lower taxes. I like Simpson Bowles, eliminate deductions, lower rates, put money on the debt. Tax rate hikes are a partisan solution driven by the president. But he's going to get tax rate hikes. To my Republican colleagues: If we can protect 99 percent of the American public from a tax hike, that is not a tax increase, in my book. So Chuck, maybe me and you or some other people in the Senate can find a way to solve this in the short term.

DAVID GREGORY:

But you--

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM:

But on the long term, David, there's not going to be a deal--

DAVID GREGORY:

You think we're going over the cliff?

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM:

--any time soon. I think we're going to fall out of the fiscal tree. There will not be a big deal. The big chance for a big deal is at the debt ceiling. That's when we will have leverage to turn the country around, prevent it from becoming Greece, and save Social Security and Medicare. And to anybody listening to this program, I will raise the debt ceiling only if we save Medicare and Social Security from insolvency and prevent this country from becoming Greece. No more borrowing without addressing why we're in debt to begin with. That's where the real chance for change occurs, at the debt ceiling debate.

DAVID GREGORY:

All right.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER:

Well, let me say this.

DAVID GREGORY:

Quickly, Senator.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER:

I don't think--

DAVID GREGORY:

Yep.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER:

I don't think that using the debt ceiling and defaulting on our debt, my dear friend, Lindsey Graham, one of my best friends in the Senate, is the way to go. That's risking the whole faith and credit of the United States. And the president has told Speaker Boehner and told the country he is no longer going to hold the whole full faith and credit of the United States at risk so someone can achieve a political agenda.

So don't even count on bargaining over a debt ceiling. What we should do, look, on taxes, I know it's hard for the Republicans. But the president ran on that platform, 250, no tax increases, people below, but taxes for people above. He won. 60% of the voters said they were for it in the exit polls, including some Republicans. And yet, our Republican colleagues are refusing to go along with revenues, are risking the fiscal cliff.

DAVID GREGORY:

All right.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER:

And make no mistake about it, if we go over it, God forbid, and I still don't think we have to, the American people are going to blame the Republican Party, and they'll come right back and pass something. So I don't think the middle class is at risk.

DAVID GREGORY:

All right.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER:

If we go over the cliff, our Republican colleagues are going to come back and say, "Uh-oh," and then pass the bill we passed in the Senate already.

DAVID GREGORY:

Senator Graham, final question, quick answer: Can Chuck Hagel become secretary of defense if he's the President's nominee?

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM:

A lot of Republicans are going to ask him hard questions. And I don't think he's going to get many Republican votes. I like Chuck. But his positions, I didn't really frankly know all of them, are really out of the mainstream, and well to the left of the president. I think it'll be a challenging nomination. But the hearings will matter.

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:

Will you--

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM:

--will have a chance to defend himself.

DAVID GREGORY:

Would you support him?

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM:

I'm going to wait and see what happens in the hearings. But I've got questions about Chuck's view of Iran, the situation with Hamas and Hezbollah, his position toward Israel, just Afghanistan. I want to hear what he has to say. But very troubling comments by a future secretary of defense.

DAVID GREGORY:

Senator Schumer, should the president make that nomination?

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER:

Well, that's his choice. I think once he makes it, his record will be studied carefully. But until that point, I think we're not going to know what's going to happen.

DAVID GREGORY:

Can you support him?

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER:

I'd have to study his record. I'm not going to comment until the president makes a nomination.

DAVID GREGORY:

All right. We're going to leave it there. Gentlemen, happy holidays to you both. Thank you very much for your time, I appreciate it.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER:

Thank you. Thank you very much.

(LEAD-OUT AND COMMERCIAL OMITTED)

(VIDEO NOT TRANSCRIBED)

DAVID GREGORY:

That was the president, of course. We're back with our roundtable. Joining me, Tea Party-backed Congressman, Jason Chaffetz of Utah, former Democratic Congressman from Tennessee, Harold Ford Jr., NBC News political director and chief White House correspondent, Chuck Todd, and NBC News chief foreign affairs correspondent, Andrea Mitchell. Welcome to all of you. All right, Chuck, we'll talk about guns in a minute. Let's talk about fiscal cliff. Are we going to get a deal here?

CHUCK TODD:

We're going to get a small deal is what everybody seems to be going at. You heard that with the two senators, that that's what the Senate is going to do. It's a shame. And you do wonder. The only thing that could change things is, is there the holidays, does it change sort of Boehner's mind, does it change the President's mind?

I think politically, the President's making a mistake to go for a small deal. He will lose leverage as the year goes on. He'll get a big political victory. But he should try one more time for the big deal. You had nearly 200 House Republicans about to vote to raise taxes on millionaires. That means could you get it up from 400 to 750 (INAUDIBLE)?

DAVID GREGORY:

Right.

CHUCK TODD:

A deal is within reach. He's got to figure out. I think go one more time. They seem to have had it. And they don't want to try Boehner one more time. But I think they're making a big mistake.

DAVID GREGORY:

Congressman, look. I mean the question is whether the speaker's going to face a real revolt by conservatives like yourself if he puts down a bill that requires Democrats to get it passed. Is he?

REP. JASON CHAFFETZ:

Well, my frustration is not with John Boehner. I think he did the right thing. I was actually supportive of this Plan B. My frustration is with the Democrats. Because the House Republicans, our conscience is clear. In August, we passed the bill to extend all of the tax rates. We did deal with the fiscal cliff issues. We have passed that.

It's Harry Reed and the president that have yet to come up with something. And if it was so easy, if they thought they had a solution to it, why didn't, on Friday, didn't they come to the table and actually pass something? The pressure's on them, what can they pass in the Senate?

DAVID GREGORY:

Harold, you know the politics of this, but you also know the markets and how they've been reacting, and Wall Street and corporate America more generally. Is there a new pessimism now that we're, A) not going to get a deal, and then (CHUCKLE) not going to solve these bigger issues anyway?

FMR. REP. HAROLD FORD JR.:

Big disappointment. People, I think, in the business community and outside of Washington, understand very clearly. There's a couple hundred billion dollars over ten years separating both sides. The question that comes: Can Washington still govern itself?

Two, there's a growing realization that we are in the middle of recovery, small recovery. And if we find ourselves not able to resolve this moment, it retards and slows, and for that matter, undermines what we see ourselves doing going forward. And finally, for the life of me, as someone who served there, it was so distressful to watch both sides yell at each other and yell at each other.

And I have to tell you, I feel sorry for Speaker Boehner, in some ways. I've seen some of your colleagues who I think are a little unreasonable, and I dare say there's some Democrats who are unreasonable. But as someone who loves the country and wants to see us go forward, you have to wonder, what does it take to make them come together if they can't come together at this moment, as close as they are?

ANDREA MITCHELL:

You know, and to follow up on what Harold was just saying, durable goods were up, personal income is up somewhat. The housing market is beginning to come back. The economy is poised. But the markets, the stock market, is going to react. And, you know, I'm not going to predict, can't predict, don't have the knowledge, no one does, as to what exactly is going to happen.

But Chuck is right, they should go, the White House should get over its upset with Boehner and help bail him out. Now one question about John Boehner and Canter (PH) and the rest of them, if leaders can't count, what can they do? How they went ahead with Plan B--

DAVID GREGORY:

Right.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

--knowing they didn't have the vote, I mean that is sort of 101 in politics.

CHUCK TODD:

They can reject one more time. That's their point.

DAVID GREGORY:

Yeah.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

Right.

MALE VOICE:

Make Boehner--

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:

But the White House says, you know, there's no real partner here.

MALE VOICE:

Right.

DAVID GREGORY:

There's no partner.

MALE VOICE:

No, that's what they say.

DAVID GREGORY:

They say, "Here's the--

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:

Here's the broader question, and it includes the gun debate, okay? What are the President's priorities going to be after the first of year? Congressman, you heard Wayne LaPierre. Does he reflect your views about how to approach any kind of remedy after a massacre like Newtown, which is we should talk about everything but guns?

REP. JASON CHAFFETZ:

Well, like my-- my wife and I, we have-- we have three kids. And I-- if there's something that we can do that will make sure that this never, ever, ever happens again, of course I'll support it. But I don't--

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:

I mean, come on, that's not a serious-- I mean there's no standard like that. I mean we the have a foolproof-- that's why you try things. But--

REP. JASON CHAFFETZ:

You try lots, that's what public policy is about. You know, but I am a concealed carry permit holder. I have a Glock 23. I have a shotgun. There are millions of people just like me. We're not the problem. I do think there is common ground that we should be attacking, first and foremost, is that mental health issue. Because there are maybe not the laws that we need. Maybe there's not the reporting that we need. To say that that's already been tackled I think would be--

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:

But has the politics changed, Harold? You're an N.R.A. member. As a member of Congress, you were. Have things changed? Is Wayne LaPierre, as you heard him today, in sync with the political class on both sides of the aisle today?

FMR. REP. HAROLD FORD JR.:

No. He's not in sync with the country. You know, the argument that-- I heard my friend, Lindsey Graham make the argument that, "I have a big gun at home and I know how to change the clip, and I'm responsible," it's almost like saying, "The speed limit's 55 miles an hour, people should trust me to drive 90."

Look, if you don't have a magazine that allows you to shoot 30, 40, 50, 60, 100 times, that won't happen. I think we should all be willing, members of N.R.A. (UNINTEL) that are not gun owners, second amendment defenders, all be willing to say, "You know what? For the safety of the country, do I really need a magazine that shoots 100 rounds? Can I be satisfied with one that shoots six or seven? Can I still hunt?"

And I think the answer, as a country, as we talk about sacrifice around entitlements and tax reform, that has to be part of the conversation. I dare say a majority of the country would say, "Wayne LaPierre, you're wrong. Let's accept and embrace a different standard."

DAVID GREGORY:

Right.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

We've got 35 states that don't cooperate with the F.B.I. on background states. You've got states now that permit guns, concealed guns, in elementary schools, in houses of worship, on college campuses. I mean you've got such a patchwork quit of states permitting guns and access to guns in places where common sense says they shouldn't be. But certainly, on these--

DAVID GREGORY:

But why not vote--

ANDREA MITCHELL:

--on these magazines.

DAVID GREGORY:

Why not a bill that says, "How about federal grants for armed security in schools, address mental health." There's a conversation about culture, as well.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

Sure.

DAVID GREGORY:

As well as some of these gun restrictions. Because it sounds like that's not where the administration is headed, which could be a political mistake.

CHUCK TODD:

And I don't know how they get it through the House. I mean Frank Thorp live tweeting the show today noted, in 1994, in a Democratic controlled House, 216 to 214 is how the assault weapons banned in the House. That was a Democratic-controlled House. 258 Democrats were in that House of Representatives. It's not going-- you're not going to see anything, maybe the magazine clip. I do the think magazine clip, you can see some sort of movement there. But this goes back to why the president has to get a deal before the end of the year.

DAVID GREGORY:

Right.

MALE VOICE:

Right.

CHUCK TODD:

Because if his entire year next year is lost going two months after two months, and there's no doubt it bothers them that they're not getting the respect from Boehner they believe they deserve. They won this election, they won the argument. I get it. They're never going to get to guns. They're never going to get to immigration. They're never going to get to energy. They're never going to get to so much of what they want to do. They've got to figure out a way to get this out of the way in a long term way.

FMR. REP. HAROLD FORD JR.:

And I do think the armed guards-- I do think there's some merit to that. I agree with--

(OVERTALK)

ANDREA MITCHELL:

But not armed teachers.

FMR. REP. HAROLD FORD JR.:

No, not armed teachers, but some--

(OVERTALK)

FMR. REP. HAROLD FORD JR.:

When I went to high school in the '80s, we had an armed police officer.

MALE VOICE:

But you can't get in the building--

(OVERTALK)

MALE VOICE:

--a lot of high schools have been doing--

(OVERTALK)

FMR. REP. HAROLD FORD JR.:

You can't go to a meeting in New York without taking a picture and getting a security card to go into the building. And this is right in the heart of Midtown, one of the safest areas in the country.

MALE VOICE:

Right.

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:

The point is, his point is why not try? But the point is, then, why not try reducing the availability of high capacity magazines? I mean isn't it possible that that could reduce the crimes?

REP. JASON CHAFFETZ:

Well, we tried it for ten years and it didn't work. There are millions of magazines--

FMR. REP. HAROLD FORD JR.:

We didn't try magazine limits.

REP. JASON CHAFFETZ:

We-- we-- yes, we did.

(OVERTALK)

REP. JASON CHAFFETZ:

It was limited to ten.

(OVERTALK)

ANDREA MITCHELL:

But how do you know it didn't work, Congressman?

REP. JASON CHAFFETZ:

Because the crime rate continued--

ANDREA MITCHELL:

How do you know what--

REP. JASON CHAFFETZ:

--to go down.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

But how do you know what would have happened--

(OVERTALK)

ANDREA MITCHELL:

You can't prove a negative.

REP. JASON CHAFFETZ:

Listen, I will have an open mind. But the reality is there are millions of them out there. This is a second amendment right. I don't think it would necessarily solve the overall problem. I think the mental health is true. But and as far as arming everybody in schools, and teachers, look, I had, you know, high school science teachers who can't negotiate a Bunsen burner, for goodness sake. (LAUGHTER) I wouldn't suggest that we necessarily give everybody a gun. It's not for everything. But how we deal with it in Sarah (?), Utah is going to be way different than how we deal with it in Secaucus.

(OVERTALK)

CHUCK TODD:

David, one thing that came out of your interview that I thought was interesting, that the N.R.A., I didn't think, would ever be on, he was calling for some more federal-- forcing, basically, states to participate more.

DAVID GREGORY:

Yeah.

CHUCK TODD:

I mean there was some, if you're the Obama administration and you're looking for the N.R.A.'s help on something, well, forcing states to participate more in the background check, all of these things that aren't happening--

(OVERTALK)

CHUCK TODD:

--the N.R.A. is going to do that, and they're going to basically force these conservative Republican governors to sign legislation that did that? That would be a step.

DAVID GREGORY:

Andrea, we've only got a minute left. I want to talk about the second term cabinet. Chuck Hagel did not get a ringing endorsement from Senator Schumer or from Senator Graham this morning.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

I think--

DAVID GREGORY:

If he's going to be defense secretary.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

What Senator Schumer said was (CHUCKLE) really very, very revealing.

DAVID GREGORY:

Telling. yeah.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

Exactly. Because if a Democratic Senator is not going to come to Chuck Hagel's defense, then I think there is serious problems there.

DAVID GREGORY:

And he did not come to his defense. I mean this would be--

ANDREA MITCHELL:

At all.

DAVID GREGORY:

--the second consecutive nomination where the president doesn't get--

(OVERTALK)

ANDREA MITCHELL:

This White House cannot continue to float trial balloons and then--

DAVID GREGORY:

Have them-- right.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

--not have them shot down. The president can't get perceived to being rolled by opponents. The problem that Chuck Hagel has, he has a lot of support in the foreign policy community, is that he's now getting shot at from the left and the right because of his past comments, which he has now retracted and apologized for, against gays.

DAVID GREGORY:

What is the core message of the State of the Union?

CHUCK TODD:

Well, you tell me if there's a deal in the end of the year.

DAVID GREGORY:

Yeah.

MALE VOICE:

I mean the President's promised to put guns in his state of the union.

DAVID GREGORY:

Right.

(OVERTALK)

MALE VOICE:

And he's going to be dealing with the debt stuff.

MALE VOICE:

Which, by the way, this has been a club that the White House has threatened over Boehner.

MALE VOICE:

Yeah.

MALE VOICE:

Which is saying, "Hey. You know I'm going to win the political argument."

DAVID GREGORY:

Right.

MALE VOICE:

And the White House is right. But at what cost to the economy? At what cost to his own agenda?

DAVID GREGORY:

All right. We'll take a break here, be back in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL OMITTED)

DAVID GREGORY:

We are back. Thanks to everyone for a great discussion here.

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