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PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT
Obama-Clinton Lovefest?; White House Meeting on Guns; Ray Kelly Talks Guns
Aired January 28, 2013 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PIERS MORGAN, HOST: Tonight, more than 1300 Americans killed by guns since Newtown. The president meets with the nation's lawmen looking for solution. I'll talk to the police chiefs who were there with him.
Also, New York's top cop, Ray Kelly. He says the problem is not just assault weapons. It's handguns.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RAYMOND KELLY, POLICE COMMISSIONER, CITY OF NEW YORK: I just don't see the answer being in expanding the universe of weapons and having more people with guns.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: And the voices you may not have heard. Why is this small-town mayor fighting the toughest gun laws in the country. I'll ask him.
Also the pro-gun former congressman who says now is the time to start talking about gun control.
Plus exit interview. Is Hillary getting a jumpstart on 2016? I'll ask the man who sat down with her and the president, "60 Minutes'" Steve Kroft.
This is PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT.
Good evening. We'll get to our big conversation on guns in just a few moments, but we begin tonight with an ending and perhaps a beginning for Hillary Clinton. She's taking a bow as she ends her tenure as secretary of state, but didn't it mean she'll just ride off into the sunset, well, you don't know Hillary Clinton very well. The hard speculation is, of course, that she'll make another run for the White House in 2016 which makes a lot of sense.
Democrats love her, Republicans fear her, and so far, the outgoing secretary is denying she'll run, all signs are she probably win. But aside of her sitting beside President Obama, as called her, quote, "One of the finest secretaries of state" on "60 Minutes" did nothing to dampen any of the rumors. And then there was this. Interesting exchange with Steve Kroft.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
There's no political tea leaves to be read here?
HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: We don't have any tea. We've got some water here, as the best I can tell. But, you know, this has been just the most extraordinary honor.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: And joining me now is "60 Minutes" correspondent, Steve Kroft.
Steve, welcome to you.
STEVE KROFT, CORRESPONDENT, "60 MINUTES": Thanks, Piers. Nice to be here.
MORGAN: I want to thank you for getting every single a bomber interview that I have been trying to get in the last two years on CNN, first of all.
KROFT: I have done well.
MORGAN: Let me ask you at the top, why do you think he keeps coming to you, because there's two schools of thought. One is that you're the most brilliant, penetrating interviewer on American television, and the other one is you give them a soft time. Neither of which I suspect is entirely the true picture.
KROFT: No, I think that -- first of all, I think he likes "60 Minutes." It's -- you know, we have a huge audience. We have a format that suits him. It's long. We can do 12 minutes or 24 minutes. We do a -- you know, we do a good job of editing. And I have been doing these interviews with him since a few weeks before he declared his candidacy.
So I covered him during the campaign and have kept doing it in the White House. But I think it's a question of fairness. I -- we have not -- I think he knows that we're not going to play gotcha with him. That we're not going to go out of our way to make him look bad or stupid, and we'll let him answer the questions.
MORGAN: And actually what I felt watching it, and it was gripping to watch -- it was about, I think, half an hour long, wasn't it, the final cut? But --
KROFT: Yes. A little less. About 20.
MORGAN: Right, about 20 minutes. It wasn't what either of them really said. It was the body language of these two people who, you know, four years ago were ripping each other's throats out. In other words, it was very gentlemanly of you not to remind them of what they said about each other on video because that could have been really uncomfortable.
See, you had these two gladiators who had been at complete war, suddenly expressing this kind of remarkable bonhomie and long lasting friendship as if they were the best buddies in the world. You seemed as shocked as the rest of us when they put on this performance for you.
KROFT: Yes, when I first found out about it, when I first found out that they wanted to do it, I was flabbergasted. I was in London at the time interviewing Maggie Smith. And I thought, you know, what are we going to ask them? How are we going to do this in 30 minutes? And I think we all realized that the value of this, one of the things that the television can do and the "New York Times" can't, is to capture the chemistry between the two of them.
Everybody knows the story, everybody knows how bitter it was. Everybody knows how they really did not seem to like each other very much. And so it was just fascinating, sitting there and watching them interact on the two shot, especially, where you could see the reaction to what was being said. And I thought it was the most revealing part because I had never really been quite sure about the nature of their relationship.
I thought it was strictly professional. And that there were so many articles written about their staff, how they didn't get along. And I thought that they were -- they were absolutely on the same page. And I thought very affectionate with each other.
MORGAN: I agree. I mean, either they're the best actors in the world.
MORGAN: Or they were very sincere, I felt. And I genuinely felt that.
Let's watch clip from here. This is the key bit to me which may explain how they became so bonded in the end after all the war and attrition. Let's watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Part of our bond is we've been through a lot of the same stuff, and part of being through the same stuff is getting whacked around in political campaigns. Being criticized in the press.
HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: I think there's a sense of understanding that, you know, sometimes doesn't even take words because we have similar views. We have similar experiences. That I think provide a bond that may seem unlikely to some.
(END VIDEO CLIP) MORGAN: I mean, I thought the great unspoken elephant in the room, Steve, was Bill Clinton because --
MORGAN: -- it wasn't just the fact that they'd both been through similar things. It's the fact that Hillary was married to a president of the United States through an eight-year tenure, and she knows better than anybody else that Barack Obama will talk to, what it's like being president of the -- of the most important country in the world economically and politically. That seemed to me to be where the real bond probably came from.
KROFT: Yes. Between the two of them, they lived 12 years in that house. And Hillary, I think, certainly knows her way around. And you can't -- I wanted to ask another question about Bill. And I think that it was pretty clear that Bill and the president have not -- that he was more resistant to the marriage, the political marriage than she was.
But also, I think one of the reasons that they did this was, I think the president wanted to close the relationship circle, you know, end the circle. To close the circle with the Clintons. In the sense that they had been incredibly helpful to him. Particularly Bill. In campaigning for him back in 2008 after Hillary lost the nomination, and particularly this year when the president was involved in a really difficult race.
And people wondered how much help he would get from Bill Clinton. And it was tremendous. I think it was one of the reasons why President Obama was re-elected, that support. And I think that he wanted to do everything he can to make sure that Hillary kind of gets due credit.
MORGAN: I completely agree with that. It's interesting also, I mean, to ask you about your assessment of the two legacies. One of Hillary Clinton as secretary of state, because there is a school of thought that although she was very strong, very good, and had a lot of reasonable success, in the end, there was no great triumph of the type that you can point to some of her predecessors, and you were never quite sure what her theme was, perhaps, as a secretary of state, what her doctrine was. What was your assessment?
KROFT: Well, I think that she engaged. I think the engagement with countries that the United States didn't have time to engage with during the Bush years. And I think she went to a lot of places and flew the American flag and raised the colors in a lot of countries that had felt neglected. I think she was very involved in the issues that were interesting to her. I think she's interested in health care and health issues and the third world in particular. And also women's issues around the world.
I think in the Myanmar or the Burma -- their influence there in striking up a workable relationship with the United States, a fledgling workable relationship with the United States was probably her greatest achievement. But also, the legacy is unwritten. And this is the thing about the Obama administration and about Hillary Clinton, the secretary of state. The world is not in great shape. There are so many flash points. You've got -- you've got Syria, you've got all the consequences of the -- of the Arab spring. You've got China. You've got Russia. You've got Iran. You've got Israel.
All of these things are unresolved. But some of the policies that they -- you will know more about how well the policies work in the next four years, but it may take a decade to find out what kind of a -- of a job they've really done.
MORGAN: And is there any doubt that she'll run in 2016?
KROFT: I think there -- I think there's a doubt. If she's healthy, I think she'll run. If she's feeling good and she continues to age well, I think she'll run. But, you know, that's sort of the unknown. She's 65. And I think it just depends on how she feels and whether she thinks that she has the energy. Not just to be president for four years but to go through the campaign that she would have to go through to maybe not get the nomination, maybe get the nomination, but to get elected.
That's a -- those six years that you spend running and then governing, it takes a lot out of even somebody as young as President Obama.
MORGAN: And if you need any reminding of how tough the job is, look no further than the way that Barack Obama, all the times that you've interviewed him from start to finish, his hair has turned white, Steve Kroft.
KROFT: Yes. Yes.
MORGAN: People are blaming you.
KROFT: I don't think that's the case, Piers.
MORGAN: Steve, it's been a pleasure talking to you. Congratulations on the cracking scoop. It was actually -- it was fantastic television just to see those two sitting there, taking questions, and I salute you. Well done.
KROFT: Thank you, Piers.
MORGAN: Guns are squarely at the top of President Obama's agenda tonight. Thirty-eight days after the tragedy at Newtown, he and Vice President Joe Biden met with police chiefs and sheriffs from cities across the country including Utah, Aurora, Colorado, and Oak Creek, Wisconsin.
Joining me now three men who were at that White House meeting. Commissioner Charles Ramsey of the Philadelphia Police Department, Chief John Edwards of Oak Creek, Wisconsin, and Sheriff Paul Fitzgerald of Story County, Iowa.
Welcome to you all.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
MORGAN: Let me start with you -- let me start with you, if I may, Police Commissioner Ramsey. What was your overview of how the meeting went? And I suppose the key question is, what do you collectively think can actually be achieved here?
CHARLES RAMSEY, COMMISSIONER, PHILADELPHIA POLICE: Well, I thought it was an excellent meeting, and it went beyond just the narrow topic of assault weapons into the broader topic of gun violence in general. We talked about the magazine capacities, we talked about universal background checks. Both the president and the vice president listened. They actually wanted suggestions. They're very, very serious about this.
And I do think a lot can be accomplished. It's not going to be easy, but I do think a lot can be accomplished. And certainly the Major City Chiefs Organization which I am the president of as well as the Police Executive Research Forum, we stand firmly behind the president and vice president in their efforts to bring an end to this gun violence that we experience in our cities.
MORGAN: Let's play a clip from the president today. This is what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: No group is more important for us to listen to than our law enforcement officials. They're where the rubber hits the road. So I welcome this opportunity to work with them, to hear their views in terms of what would make the biggest difference to prevent something like Newtown or Oak Creek from happening again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: Chief Edwards, one of the things I keep hearing and I have been hearing the last few days is that the attempt to try and get a new assault weapons ban will flounder at the first hurdle because there's no political will in Washington for it to happen, which just strikes me as utterly extraordinary given that the last five mass shootings in America have all involved assault rifles.
Is there no way that the politicians can be compelled to get this through and act on behalf of the American people? Or is it true that the majority of American people don't really want one?
CHIEF JOHN EDWARDS, OAK CREEK, WISCONSIN POLICE: Well, from my personal perspective and what we dealt with in some of the things I have seen over 28 years in law enforcement, I personally don't think banning any weapon is going to stop the problem. I'm speaking from a position. I have been a victim of gun violence. Never once did I think that person who did it, we should look at the guns. He was a felon who shouldn't have weapons. He was the person we should have looked at.
There are many things in the proposals the president put forward that I think are fantastic, but it's one of the components of this entire discussion. We should discuss everything. We shouldn't be afraid to discuss everything. But there are other issues. We need to look down the road. Not the -- not the ends to the -- or the means to the end which are the weapons, but how these things start and where they develop and try to identify people who might be predisposed to do this kind of violence.
And law enforcement day-to-day officers see violence all the time. It doesn't always end in -- with guns. I had an individual who beat a man and his mother to death with a bat and then slit their throats. We need to look at the violence itself, not the tool, but the individual and hold them responsible and look at what they're doing.
MORGAN: Sheriff Fitzgerald, I mean, there are many schools of thought about how best to tackle this and many people agree background checks are a key part of this, more funding for mental health research and so on, but when I hear law enforcement officers as I just heard there from the police chief, saying that basically removing guns is never going to be any part of the solution, I do slightly step back and say, well, surely it has to help.
I mean, what we've seen since Sandy Hook, for example, is a huge increase in guns and ammunition as people raced to buy them. I don't see how that helps reduce gun violence. Do you?
SHERIFF PAUL FITZGERALD, STORY COUNTY, IOWA: Well, the problem that I see that we're missing here is we have a situation that because we're talking about gun violence at the forefront, we're missing the issue that I think is really paramount throughout all of America. And that's the issue of mental health.
Mental health support from Congress, the funding that county jails have seen all across America, we're seeing reductions in funding. We're seeing programs that have been working, having some real success, going by the wayside throughout America. The sheriffs in the majority of the county jails, and in the county jails that you look at in various counties, the majority of them, that's the largest mental health facility that there is.
MORGAN: Gentlemen, thank you all very much. It's been a busy day for you and I know that we all share one common goal, which is to reduce the number of Americans who are killed by guns. And I appreciate you joining me tonight.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
MORGAN: When we come back, New York's top cop, Ray Kelly, on the guns that he calls public enemy number one.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) MORGAN: New York's top cop says he agrees with the assault weapons ban, but he think that handguns are an even bigger problem. It's Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly and he joins me now.
Commissioner, thank you for joining me.
KELLY: Good to be with you, Piers.
MORGAN: I read your op-ed piece in the "New York Post" with great interest, to me there are a number of facets of this gun violence debate. And you've hit one squarely on the head today. Explain to me how you think the best way of dealing with the handgun issue could be going forward?
KELLY: When you say the best way, obviously, you have to look at things that are possible. I think we need legislation. And probably the most realistic legislation that we can hope for is a universal background check. I think even that may be heavy lifting in Congress. But there is this huge gaping hole in the system where about 40 percent of guns that we see, that are on the street, are coming in some way, shape, or form through the so-called gun show loophole, which means basically that private sales are taking place and they're not recorded.
But, again, there is no easy answer to this problem. We know that for a long time to come, we're going to face the problem of illegal guns on the streets of New York and other major cities.
MORGAN: Do you see any reason why you need to have assault rifles in civilian hands generally?
KELLY: I don't see a reason for it. It's certainly not needed for target shooting. I think General McChrystal, Stanley McChrystal said it best, these are -- these are weapons of war and that they simply have no need to exist in the civilized society. It doesn't mean we're going to eliminate them anytime soon.
I think most of the legislation that we're talking about is going to grandfather them in, even if that legislation goes forward, but in terms of need, no, I see no need. These are weapons that are made to kill other people, to kill large numbers of people in a very short period of time and it's not logical as far as I'm concerned.
MORGAN: I read a very disturbing report today. The FBI came out and said that there were more background checks, official ones, made for guns in December, following Sandy Hook, than in any month in America since 1998. So there are more guns being purchased in December than in any month since 1998. And that just increases exponentially the sheer volume of weaponry on the street and it's driven by fear from the gun rights lobbyists, NRA and others, that if anyone had been armed at Sandy Hook, at the school, they would have dealt with the shooter.
How do you try and deal with that mentality in a reasonable way that doesn't offend gun owners but actually works to reduce the total volume of guns rather than dramatically increase it? KELLY: The Second Amendment is here to stay. That people have a right to arm, have a right to handguns, within some reasonable regulation. And so I think you have to make people aware of the fact that, you know, confiscation is not going to happen. The notion that if you arm a lot of people, that somehow it would deter crime or deter these attacks, I mean also incumbent on them or on that approach, would be that people received an awful lot of training under a very stressful situation to expect them to be able to take a handgun out or any sort of weapon out and fire it and do so accurately is just a -- it's a pipe dream.
And I just don't see the answer being in expanding the universe of weapons and having more people with guns at schools.
MORGAN: Final question, Commissioner. As we see particularly in Chicago, a lot of the guns that are found, and I believe this then applies in New York, but other guns are brought in from other states. So you can have pretty tough gun control law, if you like, in New York and Chicago, as everyone knows they have, but actually it can often be superfluous to a criminal who can just get in a car and go to a neighboring state with much more lax gun control laws.
Can any of these laws -- from a law enforcement perspective, can any of them be properly effective if they are not federal laws?
KELLY: Ninety percent of the guns that we confiscate here on the streets of New York City are coming from out of state. We call it the iron pipeline up I-95, coming from southern states to a great extent. There's a trial going on now, a police officer who was shot and killed last year. His gun was purchased in Virginia, and it's typical of the guns that we encounter on the street.
So you're correct. Unless we have a comprehensive national strategy, we're going to have a patchwork approach. New York, certainly now, has the strongest gun control laws in the country, and that's a good thing, but unless other states start to adopt that, we're still going to be plagued by the out-of-state flow of guns. Just a reality of urban life.
MORGAN: And to politicians out there who are feeling that although their conscience may dictate that they agree with new gun control laws, their political aspirations may be too damaged by the gun lobbyists, NRA and others, in terms of being able to win their seats or to retain their seats.
What do you say to them, as somebody who yourself has shown a lot of courage, I believe, in running the police force of your city? Is it time for more politicians to show a bit of backbone and a bit of personal courage over this rather than worrying about their political futures?
KELLY: Yes, I don't think it's too much to ask for our elected officials to vote your conscience. That's why we put them in office. So, you know, the fact is whether or not you're going to be re- elected, we understand that it's -- you know, it's a human reaction, but we'd like to think that sometimes people are going to just do the right thing. And I certainly believe that's what has to happen here.
There's still way too much bloodshed, and quite frankly, these are for the most part, in most cities, young men, young men of color, who their lives are being wasted for sometimes the silliest of reasons. So, yes, we need those politicians to stand up and do the right thing.
MORGAN: Commissioner Ray Kelly, thank you very much indeed.
KELLY: Thank you, Piers.
MORGAN: Coming up, a different perspective on guns in America. The mayor of a small town that depends on a gun factory to survive.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHERIFF DAVID CLARKE, MILWAUKEE COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE: With officers laid off and furloughed, simply calling 911 and waiting is no longer your best option. You can beg for mercy from a violent criminal, hide under the bed, or you can fight back, but are you prepared? Consider taking a certified safety course in handling a firearms so you can defend yourself until we get there. You have a duty to protect yourself and your family. We're partners now. Can I count on you?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: That's the sheriff of Milwaukee, telling residents to learn how to defend themselves with a gun. But is that really the answer?
Well, joining me now is Steven Latourette, the former congressman and gun advocate who says it is time for a national conversation about gun control.
Also John Stephens, the mayor of Ilion in New York where a Remington gun factory employs 1,200 of all the town's 8,000 residents.
Welcome to you both.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
MORGAN: Let me start with you, if I may, Mayor Stephens. You just heard from Ray Kelly, the police commissioner in New York, very, very strong there about the answer to this gun epidemic in America is not to have more guns out there. He wants an assault weapons ban, he wants heavy restrictions now on handguns, including background checks, et cetera, et cetera. What is your reaction to that? Because you're in a place not far from New York itself where Remington has a big factory and they make a lot of money for that area.
MAYOR JOHN STEPHENS, ILION, NEW YORK: My reaction to that is we need to slow down the entire process. We need to step back. We need to think about things. We can't have this knee jerk reaction that's been going on. From my perspective, as the chief executive officer of the village of Ilion, pavilion which houses Remington Arms and has for almost the past 200 years, my concern is keeping that alive and the jobs -- and the job retention and the economic development of Remington within the village of Ilion, New York.
MORGAN: See Congressman LaTourette, here is the thing about this debate, is that when I heard the sheriff out of Milwaukee, I didn't find myself furiously disagreeing with him. I have never disagreed with an American's right to defend themselves at home or to own a handgun or a pistol or a shotgun to do that. My issue is that there are not enough background checks. It's ridiculous that 40 percent of all gun trades in America have no background checks.
I think there are serious issues about the lack of funding into mental health. And I also see no reason to have assault weapons in civilian hands. It's a very different premise than the one that the gun rights lobbyists tend to try and frame you as, which is almost anti-gun, because that's not an accurate depiction.
How does this debate move forward? And I speak to somebody who I know -- you got an A-rating from the NRA, so you clearly have said the right kind of things from their point of view. How do we get this debate to the correct place where real action can be done that will have real effects on curbing gun violence?
LATOURETTE: Well, that's exactly the 64,000 dollar question. What happens in Washington typically on any issue, immigration, guns, is that everybody wants 100 percent of their position represented. The things that you outlined, with the exception of the assault weapons ban that I'll be happy to talk about later -- but the gunshow loophole is substantial, because if you look at these mass shootings that have occurred, almost all of them, except for one recently, was committed by a young white man, late teens, early 20s, who had untreated mental illness.
And you get to that problem two ways. One, I thought the sheriff from Iowa did a great job of explaining, most county jails today have more mental health patients, but they're not dealing with mental health. They're just warehousing them.
The second thing is if 40 percent of the guns are purchased at gunshows with no background check, that -- it's not easy, but that's one way to make sure that guns aren't winding up in the hands of people that the law says shouldn't have them already.
MORGAN: Right. These things seem, to me, to be absolutely obvious. And I can't understand why they're not already in place. And I assume that they will get some of those. But in terms of the assault weapons ban, I'm surprised at the number of people -- I heard a couple of police chiefs there saying they didn't see any need to remove any guns from the equation. The problem is that the number of guns in circulation is increasing at a dramatic rate. Really dramatic.
I mean, the FBI had record background checks in December, as I said to Ray Kelly, following Sandy Hook. And the reason, I'm afraid, is that the NRA and other gun lobby groups who are supported by the gun industry go out, they raise fear. They say that everybody needed to have a gun, so people go and buy guns. And the only people that really win there are the gun manufacturers who make guns and ammunition, who just record profits.
And that cannot be right for any civilized society.
LATOURETTE: Well, but here's the deal. There's 300 million guns in circulation roughly in the United States. There's about 300 million people. So everybody has a gun. When you talk about bans and you talking stopping this and stopping that, it really is a drop in the bucket. There's 3.5 million of these assault weapons out there, and three or four have been used to commit horrible, horrible crimes.
So even if you said tomorrow you're not going to be able to purchase one of these weapons and put the people of Ilion out of work or whatever you do, you're not solving the problem.
MORGAN: But don't you have to start somewhere?
LATOURETTE: I don't accept that.
LATOURETTE: I don't accept that you have to start some place. You need to start some place if you're going to make a difference. But to start some place just to start some place is foolish. What happens is -- and this is what I'm talking about, overreach. There are things that can be accomplished in a bipartisan way that would make a real difference on gun violence in the United States of America. But one side or the other will dig in their heels, draw a line in the sand, and won't get to that common ground.
If you could deal with mental health and the gun show loophole, get it out of here, and then fight about the other stuff the next year or whatever, you would be accomplishing more than an assault weapons ban, which wouldn't have one spit of difference in violent crime in America because 3.5 million are still out there. And you would never get it passed.
And it's not -- people like to say it's the gun lobby and it's Republicans. Harry Reid, the leader of the Senate, the Democratic leader in the Senate has indicated that the assault weapons ban would not make it to the floor in the Senate because he has five Democratic senators from red states that can't afford to address the assault weapon ban with an election coming up.
MORGAN: Right, but look -- OK, but look, when you say that -- and I don't dispute that for a second, I just think those five that he's talking about are just showing utter political and moral cowardice, as Ray Kelly said. It's time for them to stand up and vote on their conscience, not on political expediency. Isn't it?
LATOURETTE: Well, that's supposing that their conscious tells them that's the right thing to do.
MORGAN: Well, I agree with that. But the way you phrased it yourself, you and I both believe that probably what is underpinning that situation is a political fear that they will be driven out of their seats.
LATOURETTE: Well, a political fear, and that's what their constituents want them to do. That's the second half of the equation that the commissioner left out, is you may have a conscience, but if the people that you represent don't want you to do something, well, you're really not their representative, are you? But the Second Amendment --
MORGAN: Actually, I don't agree with that. I actually don't agree with that. I think that actually real political leadership is sometimes telling the people who have elected you things they may not necessarily feel comfortable hearing. That's my problem with this whole debate, is I think there are far too many American politicians who exactly agree with what you just said.
Let me just turn to you, if I may, Mayor Stephens. Do you agree with this? This is not an unusual view that I've heard over the last few weeks. But do you agree that the answer to gun violence is categorically not to reduce the volume of guns in circulation?
STEPHENS: Yes, I do agree. Since the federal assault weapons ban was expired in 2004, the national crime rate actually decreased by 17 percent. It's now at the lowest levels since the early '70s. So I don't think that the increase in weapons production has had any effect on increasing violent crime.
MORGAN: And yet you're aware that obviously every country that has brought in tough gun control, almost without exception, around the world, from Japan to Australia to Britain, has seen dramatic reductions in the amount of gun murders and gun-related crimes?
STEPHENS: Right, but if you look at -- the United States isn't even in the top ten of leaders in the category of violent crimes, Piers.
MORGAN: OK. Well, Mayor Stephens and Steven LaTourette, thank you both very much.
LATOURETTE: Thank you so much.
STEPHENS: Thank you.
MORGAN: A lot of people were surprised to hear that the president skeet shoots at Camp David. When we come back, we're going to talk about that and more with a couple of my favorite panelists. We'll get pretty lively.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: Law enforcement officials who are dealing with this stuff every single day can come to some basic consensus in terms of steps that we need to take. Congress is going to be paying attention to them. And we'll be able to make progress.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: President Obama just before today's White House Meeting on Guns. Joining me to talk about that is Dana Loesch, the host of "The Dana Show," and Charles Blow, "New York Times" columnist and CNN contributor. I'm also bringing back the former congressman Steven LaTourette, because, Steven, you were about to make a point about the Second Amendment.
And in the interest of fair play, I would like you to make that point.
LATOURETTE: Thank you. What I was saying is the Second Amendment has been interpreted by the Supreme Court recently in a Washington, D.C. case, Heller, and another case in Chicago, looking at gun regulations. And you can't frame the argument, why do you need that gun? That's not the issue. The issue is the Second Amendment says you are entitled to have that gun.
It also -- the courts have said that you can put reasonable restrictions on that. This is a political problem we're facing. So people can take the extreme views on this issue and get nothing done. Or you can say how can we come together and close the gun show loophole and --
MORGAN: OK, I get that. I get that point. I don't disagree with that second point you made there. But on the question of the Second Amendment, I got into this with Newt Gingrich the other day. Presumably -- I mean, do you agree or disagree with the ban on machine guns, for example, automatic machine guns?
LATOURETTE: Well, that's a reasonable restriction. That's what I'm saying.
MORGAN: But my question is, since the Founder Fathers never specified obviously the precise type of gun, because they couldn't have done -- they wouldn't have been able to foresee them. My question to you is, what is the substantive difference between the effect of a banned machine gun, that you and I both agree should be banned under the Second Amendment -- what is the difference between that and what it can do to a classroom full of children and an AR-15 loaded with a 100-bullet magazine?
Because to me, I don't see any difference. And that's why I don't understand why you're comfortable with banning one and not the other?
LATOURETTE: It's not a question of what I'm comfortable with. The Founding Fathers didn't foresee texting while driving either. But that's not how we measure things. The fact of the matter is that the recent interpretation of the Second Amendment says that you're allowed to have a gun. What you have to do -- then say is what can we do within the political framework, the fractured political framework, where the Republicans control the House, the Democrats control the White House and the Senate --
MORGAN: I get that.
LATOURETTE: That's what this is about.
MORGAN: I get that, except that I just think you should also include an assault weapons ban. I'm interested in exploring the debates on both sides about that.
Charles Blow, this is -- the contradiction that I can't quite work out in my head with the pro-gun lobby -- let's call them that, even though I'm not anti-all gun. It's a pointless phrase, in many ways. But what is the difference between agreeing that under the Second Amendment you can't own a machine gun, because it causes mass carnage in a few seconds, but you can apparently, as a right, have an AR-15 with a 100-bullet magazine? Can you explain to me the argument, the logic that differentiates those two?
CHARLES BLOW, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": You can't ask me to explain the logic of this because I don't quite understand the logic of those. I do believe that we can start by saying that high-capacity magazines are probably not things we should have in civilian hands. I think that we can say that weapons like these assault weapons, assault rifles, both -- but I think also some assault handguns can be placed out of bounds of ordinary citizens.
And I think that's OK and still within the Second Amendment and does not violate the spirit of that amendment.
MORGAN: OK, Dana, I spoke to Ray Kelly off camera at the end of that, because I knew that you and I had locked horns about this before. And I said explain to me the difference between an AR-15, in reality, and some of the more high powered guns. He said, look, if you get a 30-bullet magazine clipped to a high powered handgun, it can obviously fire at a rapid rate and everyone can see that.
The difference with an AR-15 is that way you hold it and the way that you load the magazines makes it a much easier weapon to commit mass slaughter with, and a much faster one to commit it. So he said there is a substantive difference.
But I ask you the same question I have asked others, which is what is the difference, in terms of the argument you're putting forward to me about your resistance to ban an AR-15 style weapon -- what is the difference between the kind of carnage it can cause in a school and a machine gun, an automatic rifle, which is already banned in most places? What is the difference?
DANA LOESCH, "THE DANA SHOW": The AR-15 is semiautomatic, Piers. And a machine gun is obviously automatic. One is select fire capabilities. The other -- or one may have select fire capabilities. The other one you, with one -- pull the trigger once and you get one bullet. There's a huge difference.
MORGAN: But that wasn't my question. My question was in terms --
LOESCH: I explained the difference. You asked what the difference was.
MORGAN: I know the technical differences. I am asking about the effect, if a man like James Holmes walks into a movie theater armed with, as he had, a 100-bullet magazine and an AR-15 and begins to unload, what is the difference in the carnage that he can cause in a minute compared to a machine gun? The only answer is a few more dead, right, because he still managed to hit 70 people.
LOESCH: Well, we had the Virginia Tech shooting, which was done with handguns. By the way, I have never heard the term assault handgun before. But that -- Virginia Tech, that was the single deadliest shooting in the history of this country. And that was done with handguns. But if you're trying to somehow equate AR-15s with machine guns, the two are completely different. The AR-15 is the civilian version of the M-16.
In fact, I asked your producers about this, Piers. I wanted to show you something. This is actually a small sized AR-15. In fact, if you will believe it, I got this at the gas station. It's a lighter that's probably -- there it goes, not going to work.
The difference between a fully automatic, an M-16, which is the military style, is that you hold the trigger -- imagine this is me holding the trigger. The ammunition -- the rounds keep coming. But with a semiautomatic, you have to -- with one pull of the trigger, one pull, one bullet every single time. And I want to make --
MORGAN: No, no, no, no.
LOESCH: -- 40 percent background check, that is a bunk number. That is a completely false number. You're citing a study done of 250 people back before the Brady Act in the Clinton administration.
MORGAN: Dana, stop talking for a moment. We'll come to that after the break. On that particular point, I know the difference technically between the M-16 and the AR-15 completely. My brother used the M-16 in the Army.
The point -- the point is the difference in the carnage they can cause in one minute in a school. I don't see much difference. And that's why I'm bemused that you believe one is entitled, under your rights, but the other you're perfectly happy not to be entitled under your rights.
Let's take a break. Let's come back and discuss this further because it is a lively debate.
MORGAN: Back now with Dana Loesch, host of "The Dana Show," and Charles Blow, "New York Times" columnist and CNN contributor. Dana, let me ask you -- because I asked you this before and you said nothing. But now you have had time to think about this. What would you personally do and authorize Washington's politicians to do to curb gun violence in America?
LOESCH: To curb gun violence in America? Stop disarming law abiding citizens. That is the first thing I would do.
MORGAN: Other than -- other than not removing any guns, what would you do to stop the fact that 18,000 Americans kill themselves with guns every year, 12,000 murder with guns every year and --
LOESCH: And Piers, that is a fraction of people who have firearms. You can't loop -- you can't just lump law abiding gun owners in with criminals. I think that is really offensive to a lot of Americans, especially when you consider 2.7 million firearms were sold December 2012.
MORGAN: What would you personally do and authorize politicians to do to reduce gun violence?
LOESCH: To reduce gun violence? Like I said, first and foremost, I would stop regulations that seek to disarm law abiding citizens. I would also, in addition to that -- that is actually one of the most important things you can do, because conceal/carry, first off -- whenever conceal/carry is implemented for instance, like Florida and Missouri --
LOESCH: That is a huge thing, Piers.
MORGAN: Dana, other -- Dana, other than keeping guns in people's hand -- I have your point on that -- what would you proactively do to reduce gun violence?
LOESCH: Tougher penalties for criminals who kill people with illegally obtained fire arms.
MORGAN: OK, Charles Blow --
LOESCH: Did that answer your question?
MORGAN: Charles --
LOESCH: I answered it.
MORGAN: I am asking Charles. The president came out with all of these plans and all these initiatives, but many Republicans and many gun's rights people simply don't agree with any of them. They don't even think there should be background checks. BLOW: First of all, we should make clear that none of those suggestions are proposals to disarm any law abiding gun owners. None of them. The government has not said that they want to do that and is not doing that. The second thing is that the NRA is basically a no regulation organization. They don't want any new regulations of any sort.
And none of the gun -- I don't call them gun rights groups, but gun proliferation groups, because that is the business that they are in, is to make sure that there are more guns produced, sold and in public hands. And I think that -- that -- pushing in that direction is actually the wrong direction for us to go, because they will not only -- there will be people -- who most people who buy a gun will use it responsibly. But the more guns that are out there, the more likely guns will be able to fall into the hands of the criminals. And that becomes the problem.
MORGAN: OK. Well, the debate will carry on. I am sure I will have you both back very soon. Dana Loesch and Charles Blow, thank you both very much.
MORGAN: That is it for us tonight. And a programming note, Anderson Cooper hosts a special town hall on guns this Thursday night. And Anderson starts now.