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Obama: Gun Reform "Won't Happen During My Presidency"; Obama to Face Gun Control Opponents; New CNN Poll: Fifty One Percent of Americans Support Obama's Actions; Trump Questions Ted Cruz's Citizenship as Race Tightens; CNN Town Hall with President Obama Moments Away. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired January 7, 2016 - 19:00   ET


[19:00:09] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Next, a very special edition of OUTFRONT tonight. We're counting down to a historic event. A CNN town hall with President Obama. The President taking questions live on one of the most divisive issues of our time. Guns in America. Let's go OUTFRONT.

Good evening, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan in for Erin Burnett OUTFRONT tonight, "Guns in America." Just one hour from now President Obama will be joining Anderson Cooper here on the campus of George Mason University for a historic town hall event. We're going to show you -- we're going to show you live pictures of the stage just downstairs from where I am. Where the President will tackle an issue that divides Americans like no other, really, gun control. The numbers are staggering. More than 33,000 Americans killed by firearms in just one year. The United States is the most heavily armed nation in the world with roughly one gun for every person.

Last year alone, there were 330 mass shootings, which is defined as four or more people shot or killed in one incident. And tonight, we're revealing the results of a new CNN poll which shows a large majority of Americans favor President Obama's executive actions on gun control and that's not just among Democrats. Fifty one percent of Republicans also approve of the executive actions. But despite that support, this is interesting, 57 percent of Americans say that his actions won't reduce the number of gun deaths, they believe. And another warning sign for the President in our new poll tonight, a majority don't like his use of executive orders and side-stepping Congress to pull this off, to change gun regulation or how they interpret the law.

We'll have much more on all of this tonight as President Obama prepares to take questions from the audience. We should note, the NRA was invited to be part of tonight's town hall and questioned the President. But the organization declined the invitation. However, there will be NRA members and many proponents for gun rights in the audience.

Let's begin our special coverage with our Senior White House Correspondent Jim Acosta. So, Jim, a historic night here and a whole lot at stake for the President, huh?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Kate. The White House insists President Obama will hear from all sides on tonight's CNN town hall, on "Guns in America." The President will no doubt hear from critics who argue his executive actions take away their constitutional rights to own guns.


ACOSTA (voice-over): America's superheated debate over guns and just how to respond to the nation's brash of mass shootings will take center stage in tonight's CNN's town hall with President Obama. And the White House says that the President is eager to find common ground, even with gun owners who don't trust him.

JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think the President will repeat, once again, his belief in and commitment to the Second Amendment to the constitution and that the constitutional rights of law-abiding Americans are worth protecting.

ACOSTA: Just a couple of days after the President unveiled new executive actions aimed at expanding background checks of gun buyers and wept remembering the young victims of the 2012 school shootings in Newtown, Connecticut.

PRES. BARACK OBAMA (D), UNITED STATES: Every time I think of those kids, it gets me mad. And by the way, it happens on the streets of Chicago every day.

ACOSTA: A new CNN/ORC poll shows the public moving in President's direction. Two-thirds approve of his new executive actions.

JEB BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't think a president should just unilaterally ignore the constitution.

ACOSTA: That's despite the outcry from GOP presidential contenders, including Ted Cruz, who sent an e-mail to supporters that said, "Obama Wants Your Guns."

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It is actually quite accurate. This is the most antigun president we've ever seen.

ACOSTA: The White House accused Cruz of stirring up trouble.

EARNEST: It veers into the territory of being irresponsible.

ACOSTA: House Speaker Paul Ryan wouldn't go as far as Cruz but he did argued the President is trying to frustrate gun owners.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: I think he's been pretty hostile with the Second Amendment all along. I don't think the President has a lot of respect for the Second Amendment.

ACOSTA: But aides to the President say Ryan once sounded receptive to closing the gun show loopholes just two years ago when asked by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

RYAN: I think we need to find out how to close these loopholes, and do it in such a way that we don't infringe upon people's Second Amendment rights.

ACOSTA: Law Professor Jonathan Turley a frequent critic of the President's used of executive authorities said, Mr. Obama's new actions are modest and fall far short of a gun draft.

JONATHAN TURLEY, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY LAW PROFESSOR: So, gun owners shouldn't view this, necessarily, as a significant erosion on gun control but they obviously have concerns when a president is acting unilaterally rather than in conjunction with Congress.


[19:05:05] ACOSTA: Now, as for the record sales of firearms that seemed to shoot through the roof nearly every time the President talks about gun control, the White House blames that on the weapons industry and its profit motives, not on any desire of the President to talk about to take away people's guns. And we'll hear the President talked tonight about how he respects the Second Amendment and we'll hear that probably time and again tonight, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Yes. There is going to be a whole lot to be said and a whole lot of people listening in here at George Mason University and far beyond. Jim, thank you for setting it up for us.

OUTFRONT for us now, CNN political commentator S.E. Cupp and former White House Press Secretary Jay Carney.

Guys, great to see you. Thank you so much. We rolled out these new poll numbers -- these are since the President has unveiled his executive actions and he has somewhat of an uphill battle here it seems, Jay. More than two-thirds of Americans, they agree with the changes he announced but 57 percent say they don't think it's going to have any impact. I mean, you were inside during these discussions.


BOLDUAN: Is this window dressing?

CARNEY: It's the most that he can do. I was struck in the poll by the sentiment that Americans didn't -- even though they supported the actions themselves and felt like these loopholes should be closed by whatever means possible, that they'd rather see the President do it through congress. And so would the president. The President tried, if you remember back in the wake of the Newtown shooting. He marched legislation up to --

BOLDUAN: He had a democratic senator.

CARNEY: He had a democratic Senate, it was overwhelmingly opposed by Republicans as well as some handful of Democrats in the Senate. And it was very dispiriting. Because, as you remember, an overwhelming majority of the country, even higher numbers than we saw in this poll today, supported that action. I mean, we're not talking about taking anybody's guns away. We're talking about closing loopholes to the existing law that says people who by law should not be able to buy a gun don't get them through gun shows or through the internet. It's very simple stuff.

S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: But actually, the 2013 assault weapons ban brought to the floor by Dianne Feinstein would have taken people's guns away. Why wouldn't we take Democrats at their word that they want to and he's limited by the confines of executive action?


BOLDUAN: -- between the two of you --

CARNEY: I want to say --

BOLDUAN: This is happening on the campaign trail.

CUPP: Yes.

BOLDUAN: Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, they say Obama wants to take away your guns. He said specifically that he does not want to. There's nothing -- you don't see any kind of confiscation in the wording. So it's vague and misleading.

CUPP: He did. I mean, the 2013 assault --

BOLDUAN: Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio being misleaded.

CUPP: No. Why wouldn't we go, based on past precedent, that when Obama goated Congress into taking action after Newtown, what they did was propose an assault weapons ban which want to ban an entire category of semiautomatic rifles and handguns. So, of course they want to come after our guns. They can't always.

CARNEY: You're changing the subject though. What is possible through Congress --

CUPP: No, that is the subject.

CARNEY: And what the American people overwhelmingly support including Republicans, including people who live in red states by massive numbers is closing of these loopholes that are --

CUPP: Jay, Jay --

CARNEY: The laws that are designed to prevent people with mental illness and criminal records from getting guns.


BOLDUAN: Right or wrong, as S.E. is getting to, a lot of people believe Obama wants to take away their guns.

CUPP: But they tried.

CARNEY: I think the perfect example of that, unfortunately, is somebody who I respect a lot House Speaker Paul Ryan. He supported closing the gun show loophole until President Obama tried to do it. And then he changed his position. And, you know, I'm glad you mentioned Senator Cornyn's --

CUPP: Yes.

CARNEY: -- legislation, we need to do more and one of the President's executive action that he announced does do more on mental health.

CUPP: It does what Senator Cornyn still would do.

CARNEY: The parts of it, they're good. What you don't probably know that Senator Cornyn do, does is eliminate the portion of existing law that says that if you are committed against your will to a mental health institution and therefore prohibited from getting a gun, what Senator Cornyn wants to do through his legislation is make it possible to the minute you get out and go buy a gun. You don't have to petition a job. Right now by law you have to petition a judge.

BOLDUAN: S.E., let me ask you this. One of the aspects that has been getting a lot of attention about tonight's special event, this town hall is that the NRA was invited to come and ask questions to the President. They declined.

CUPP: Right.

BOLDUAN: Is that a missed opportunity?

CUPP: Well, gosh, when the democratic front-runner for president identifies the NRA as the enemy she's most proud of, when the President continually harangues the NRA and by extension the law- abiding gun owners that they represent as the problem, what benefit would be served? Why would the NRA come and sit to a lecture by the President on their lack of responsibility just because they won't go along with meaningless gun legislation. The NRA stands up to the President every day through its millions of members. The NRA does not need to sit at a town hall and get lectured to by the President who thinks that we are part of the problem. We are law-abiding gun owners. The NRA is not responsible for mass shootings and criminal activity.

BOLDUAN: Real quick.

[19:10:05] CARNEY: The President has never tried to take anybody's guns away. The President has only tried to close gun loopholes. He tried to do it through Congress. And the NRA in that case did not even represent its own members. It deposed it you know, violently. And yet, NRA ranked rank and file members across the country support it. Even the actions he's taken here, 51 percent of Republican support. But I'll tell you, it's an uphill battle for all of the reasons it was two years ago.

BOLDUAN: The President, if nothing else, the President has a messaging problem that he's going to need to push tonight. I mean, we are in very different sides of this issue and this is a very good example of how complicated and divisive it is. Thanks, guys, great to see you.

CARNEY: OK. BOLDUAN: OUTFRONT for us next, Donald Trump is about to speak live as

Senator John McCain takes his side, it seems, on the Cruz birther debate. We're going to go live to Burlington, Vermont.

Plus, we are less than an hour away from our live town hall on guns in America with President Obama. Congresswoman and gun owner Mia Love, she'll be joining us on how Republicans can plan to fight the President and stop the President's executive actions.

And the daughter of a man killed in the Fort Hood shooting tells us what she wants to hear most from the President tonight.


[19:14:53] BOLDUAN: We're less than 50 minutes away now from CNN's live town hall with President Obama here on the campus of George Mason University in Virginia. We'll have much more of our special coverage on guns in America in just a moment.

But first, a lot is happening on the campaign trail tonight. We're going to show you now, we're going to be looking at live pictures of a Donald Trump campaign rally in Burlington, Vermont. We're watching to see if he will go there. Once again, go after Ted Cruz over his Canadian birth. It's an issue that now has Democrats and fellow Republicans, even, raising doubts that Cruz is eligible to be president.

Jeff Zeleny is OUTFRONT.


JEFF ZELENY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Donald Trump is not letting go, fanning the flames about Ted Cruz's citizenship.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He's got this cloud over his head. I don't think it's going to be possible for him to do very well.

ZELENY: Today, Trump sent a message to his rivals saying, Ted, free legal advice on how to pre-empt the Dems on citizen issue.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm not going to be taking legal advice anytime soon from Donald Trump.

ZELENY: Never mind Democrats, it's Republicans raising questions, all over whether Cruz could face a legal challenge. He was born in Canada but his mother was a U.S. citizen. Trump told Wolf Blitzer that Cruz's birthplace raises constitutional concerns.

TRUMP: There's this doubt. People have doubt. You know, I want to win this thing fair and square. I don't want to win on this point.

ZELENY: John McCain who was tangled with Cruz in the Senate once calling him a wacko bird added legitimacy to Trump's worry. McCain himself was born outside of the United States and was quick to distance his case from Cruz's, as McCain was born on a U.S. military base.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I think there is a question. I'm not a constitutional scholar on that but I think it's worth looking into.

ZELENY: In Iowa tonight, Cruz brushed aside McCain's comments saying he's polling for Marco Rubio.

CRUZ: It's no surprise that people who are supporting another candidates in this race, are going to jump on with the silly attacks that occur as we get closer and closer to Election Day.

ZELENY: Cruz who was emerge just one of Trump's biggest threats, said the talk was nonsense.

CRUZ: The legal issue is straightforward, the son of the U.S. citizen born abroad is a natural-born citizen.

ZELENY: He told CNN's Dana Bash he was done addressing it.

CRUZ: I'm not going to engage in this and the reason is simple. There are far too many serious issues facing this country.

ZELENY: One more sign the fault lines in the Republican primary are becoming clear. Just watch who is feuding with whom. It's not only Trump versus Cruz but Chris Christie versus Marco Rubio. Christie said Rubio is too weak to be the party's nominee.

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Is that the kind of person that we want to put on the stage against Hillary Clinton? I don't think so. She'll pat him on the head and then cut his heart out.

ZELENY: Rubio fired back comparing Christie and his record as New Jersey Governor to Barack Obama.

RUBIO: Chris has a very liberal record for a Republican. Our next president is to be someone that's going to overturn all of the damage Barack Obama has done to America not continue it.


ZELENY: And Donald Trump is moments away from taking the stage here in Burlington, Vermont. You can see the crowd gathered here behind me. You may wonder why Burlington, Vermont. Well, it's one of those key Super Tuesday states, it's voting on March 1st but it's also a close to the home of Bernie Sanders. He's the Vermont senator and was the mayor of this town for about ten years in the '80s. That has drown thousands and thousands of people here today. But the problem is, this event only holds 1400 people. So several thousand are outside and before people come in tonight, Kate, they are asked by the Trump campaign if they are Trump supporters. If they say "no," they are turned away at the door -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Yes. There you have it. Several thousand outside. Jeff Zeleny, thank you so much. OUTFRONT with me now, Kevin Madden, a CNN political commentator and a

senior adviser to Mitt Romney's presidential campaign. Kevin, thank you.


BOLDUAN: So, Jeff laid it out really well. I mean, Ted Cruz, he calls it a distraction but he's now had to talk about it all this week. It's every questions that he's getting. With that, I mean, did Donald Trump win this round already?

MADDEN: Well, that's exactly what Donald Trump has done anytime, one of the other campaigns has started to be on the dissent in the polls. He has offered up some sort of criticism or he's gone on the attack in way that totally distracts --

BOLDUAN: He raises questions?

MADDEN: Yes, and totally distracts that campaign from their core message. Earlier this week, Ted Cruz put out an ad, a pretty effective ad on an issue that a lot of people care about in a place like Iowa where the first caucus is. Immigration.


[19:19:14] MADDEN: Ted Cruz hasn't answered many questions by immigration this week, he hasn't really had a chance to really aggressively drive that immigration message to a lot of voters. Instead, he's been on the defensive and he's been talking about a Canadian citizenship and whether he's even eligible to be the President. Now, it's, I believe, a false attack. There's not much substance to it but all Donald Trump wanted to do was raise questions and put the Ted Cruz's campaign on the defensive. So, he succeeded in doing that.

BOLDUAN: John McCain, you heard him. He says that this is a legitimate question to be asked asking Ted Cruz as he has ulterior motives in doing that. But regardless, is this now definitely a vulnerability if Ted Cruz would became the nominee regardless of how long this would drag on for the primary?

MADDEN: I don't believe so. I think this is an issue that is going to boomerang on Senator McCain in the sense that he landed some legitimacy to it. That I think is personal. I think in many ways, John McCain, it's very clear as Jeff talked about in his piece, that there is a personal animosity between the two. I think on the internet and Twitter, they call this trolling. So he's trolling Ted Cruz in a way, that again, has offered a distraction and landed legitimacy. We have another cycle that we're talking about it. So, Ted Cruz, as you saw in many of these interviews that he's had on it, has tried to very quickly deflected and get back on his message, that's the smart strategy for him and has to keep dealing that and ultimately hope that he can break through.

BOLDUAN: Yes. We will see what tomorrow brings. I think the animosity between McCain and Ted Cruz dates back to whack-o-birds. (LAUGHTER)

That's the -- Kevin, great to see you.

MADDEN: No more laws between --

BOLDUAN: I don't think so. That's true.

OUTFRONT for us next, we are inside -- we're going to go inside the town hall with Anderson Cooper as the President is about to take stage and take questions. And, is the President doing enough? I'm going to talk to one relative of a mass shooting victim who says it's too little, too late.


[19:24:32] BOLDUAN: And welcome back. We're here tonight at George Mason University in Virginia with Anderson Cooper here. We have come downstairs, this is the site of the special event tonight where in just a little over 30 minutes President Obama will be taking questions in a special CNN town hall, tackling the controversial issue of guns in America. The President will come face-to-face with his critics as well as his supporters.

Anderson Cooper is, of course, hosting tonight's event. Anderson is here with me now. Anderson, thanks so much.


BOLDUAN: So, tell us about the format for tonight.

COOPER: It's going to start off, you know, we approached the White House about this actually shortly after the San Bernardino terror attacks. You know, there have been some critics who said this is a White House stage production.


COOPER: This is something that CNN approached the White House about. They agreed to do it. The President agreed to come. And we wanted a conversation which is, you know, this is an issue where people kind of talked past each other all too often. So, we wanted critics of the President, we wanted people who are strong defenders of the right to bear arms, who want to see more guns out there, who believes more guns in the hands of good guys will stop the bad guys from getting guns and we wanted people really on all sides of the issue so we've assembled a diverse group of people who will going to have a chance to ask the President's direct questions of their own choosing, of their own making. I'll start off probably asking four or five questions directly to the President based on what he announced earlier this week and then I'll open it up to the people we have assembled here, we have about 100 people in this audience and we'll try to get in as many questions as we can.

BOLDUAN: And to emphasize, everyone seated in here is a stakeholder if you will. COOPER: They are.

BOLDUAN: Everyone has been touched by this debate in one way or another. I'm interested, obviously, everyone has an interesting perspective, but who are you most interested to hear from?

COOPER: You know, I think we have a really good variety.


COOPER: I mean, my friend Taya Kyle is here, everybody knows Chris Kyle, you know, on "American Sniper." Former Navy SEAL who passed away.

BOLDUAN: American hero.

COOPER: Yes, American hero who is killed, Sheriff Paul Babeu from Arizona who is running for Congress, obviously strong gun rights supporters. We have people from Chicago, moms who have lost their children. Who are, you know, this is a deeply personal issue for them as it is for many people on all sides of the aisle. So, as you've said, you have, there are a lot of stakeholders here. Gabby Giffords is going to be here. Her husband as well. So, there's a lot of different people, a lot of different perspectives.

BOLDUAN: And not often do they speak directly to President Obama, him taking those questions from them.

COOPER: Yes. And you never know in a town hall how it's going to go. And people, you know, it's up to people what questions they want to ask. Sometimes people think they are going to ask one thing and they decide to ask something else in the spur of the moment. Sometimes they get nervous. So, you wanted to be so much on the part of my job after asking the President a question --


COOPER: -- directly is to just facilitate that conversation and have it be a genuine conversation. We've invited the NRA here obviously. They've chosen not to come which is unfortunate.

BOLDUAN: But NRA members are going to be here.

COOPER: There are certainly NRA members.


COOPER: There is other, you know, there's gun sellers here, people who run gun shows.

BOLDUAN: That's fascinating.

COOPER: People who run shooting ranges. So there is a wide variety of people here. I don't want people to think this is kind of a rally for President Obama's proposals here at all.

BOLDUAN: Right. It's going to be a debate, it's going to be an important conversation.

COOPER: I think so, yes.

BOLDUAN: Thank you, Anderson.

COOPER: Pleasure.

BOLDUAN: Thank you.

OUTFRONT next, it's not what the President did but how he did it. Why the majority of Americans opposed the President's strategy on guns.

And how will this issue play in elections across the country this year? Republican Congressman Mia Love is OUTFRONT.


[19:31:56] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world. We are live at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, where in 30 minutes, President Obama will be sitting down for a live town hall on guns.

Breaking news at this hour, in a "New York Times" op-ed just published, the president admits that commonsense gun reform, in his view, will not happen during his presidency.

He writes this, "I will not campaign for, vote for or support any candidate, even in my own party who does not support commonsense gun reform". Just published in "The New York Times" from the president.

And CNN has just released new national poll numbers since the president's executive actions were unveiled.

OUTFRONT tonight, John King, CNN's chief national correspondent and host of "INSIDE POLITICS" is here.

So, John, break these new numbers down. What do people think of President Obama's proposal?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Kate, the public opinion is important. More proof that in his final year in office he wants to make it a central issue. The question is, but does he have the political juice to sell it?

We ask people in our new poll, first, the more general question. What's your opinion of the president's gun policy overall? Forty- three percent approve, 53 percent disapprove. So, you would say that's bad number for president, right? He's underwater.

But just two weeks ago it was 35-62. So, the president's numbers have gone up because a lot of liberals who thought he should do more are happy that the president is getting involved.

Then, we asked specifically about the proposal that the president outlined the other day. Requiring those who sell guns on the Internet to register as dealers. Therefore, you have more background checks, more FBI agents, more money for mental health.

Two-thirds of Americans favor what the president says he wants to do. A third, 32 percent, say they oppose what the president wants to do.

So, that's a good number for the president. Two-thirds backing his proposals. It's interesting, Kate, when you look at the breakdown by racial and party lines, though, 85 percent of Democrats say amen, Mr. President, we like what you're doing. That's a great number for the president.

Interestingly, though, he has a majority, very slight, of an evenly divided Republican Party on this issue. The president still gets 51 percent for the specifics of what he outlined the other day. That's a good number for the president. And six -- more than 6 in 10, excuse me, nearly two-thirds of independents.

The president has Democrats that has independents and a good number of Republicans. So when he tells the American people at the town hall tonight, this is what I want to do, he's on very good political grounds and the specifics of what he wants to do.

It's a little more iffy when you get to how he's doing it.

BOLDUAN: Exactly. So, what are folks saying about how the president went about pushing these changes?

KING: And that's a very interesting and important point. They like what he wants to do. They don't like how he's doing it. Fifty-four percent of Americans oppose the use of executive powers to get this done.

And, Kate, look at these numbers. Nearly eight in 10 Democrats are fine with this. They think, oh, Mr. President, you can't get through the Republican Congress, do it. But eight in 10 Republicans say, no way, Mr. President, don't use executive orders and even six in 10 independents.

Remember, independents like what he's doing. They don't like how. Republicans overwhelmingly don't like the use of executive power with. That's where the president's good political numbers turn into real quick sand.

BOLDUAN: So, John, how is this going to likely play out in campaigns and elections, especially congressional races down ballot?

[19:35:04] KING: That's where we have -- that's where we have two Americas, Kate. Let's look at a map. This is the presidential election of 2012 where President Obama obviously won with 332 electoral votes, a big convincing win for Democrats.

This is how Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are fine with what the president is doing, because they think, even in a place like Virginia, which you would think is a gun rights state, even in a place like Florida, even in a place like Colorado, places where you think those are gun right states, Democrats think we are in a new world. They can win in the suburbs. They can among nonwhite voters. They can win into places where they need to win. To win these states, you might even say, are gun rights states.

But it's a very, very different scenario when you get to congressional races. We talked about just national poll numbers. Well, most members of the House don't care about national poll numbers. They want to know, what are the numbers in my district?

And this is America and it's important to remember. You have a Republican House majority and a big one. Look at all of this red. Those are all the House districts in America. They think what the people back home say and most Republicans, maybe five or six, might get to ten districts where they are iffy on this, most of them up here in the Northeast. But most Republicans, Kate, are on perfectly solid ground when they say, "Sorry, Mr. President, no."

BOLDUAN: And now you see the reason why. Just look at those two very different maps.

John, great to see you. Thank you.

KING: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: So, the response from the other side, as John was alluding to, President Obama's executive action was quick and harsh.

OUTFRONT with me now, Republican Congresswoman Mia Love of Utah.

Congresswoman, thank you so much for joining me.

REP. MIA LOVE (R), UTAH: Thank you for having me.

BOLDUAN: We were listening to John King talking about these new poll numbers. A majority of Americans like what the president is doing with these executive actions. And he pointed out, even a slim majority of Republicans.

So, why do you disagree with them?

LOVE: Well, here's what we need to find out. First of all, I'm a mother. I have three kids.

There is not a moment that they walk out the door that I'm not concerned about their safety or what may or may not happen. And the worst thing for any parent is to have to lose a child. So, there are people out there that are looking for answers. They want to make sure that something gets done.

But we have to make sure that we're aiming our efforts in the right direction. It's not just about emotion but it's about forward movement. And we have to do everything we can to make sure that this president is not unilaterally making decisions, cutting Congress out and cutting the American people out of his decision making.

BOLDUAN: When you say that, that actually perfectly fits into what the president actually just wrote in this opinion piece just published in "The New York Times." I'll look down to make sure I get it right. In this opinion piece, he says that it is now clear to him that commonsense gun reform, in his view, will not happen during his presidency.

You see a very different view of what commonsense gun reform is. Do you think -- one, do you think that the president is then accepting defeat? Do you think there is any way, with the passion that you have and the compassion that you have, that there is a way to find a middle ground at all or is it lost with this president?

LOVE: You know, I think there are laws on the book that have to be enforced. Just think about this -- 80,000 failed background checks since 2012 and the president only prosecuted 500 of those cases.

You have to understand that it's actually illegal to pursue a gun or a firearm if you have been adjudicated, mentally ill, if you have been convicted of a felony or if you've been committed to a mental institution. So, only 500 cases. That's 30 percent less that even George Bush.

So, this is his constitutional power that he actually -- the laws are on the books. He's not helping prevent people that are trying to get these firearms illegally from getting them.

BOLDUAN: Now, pushing for more funding is obviously not something that Republicans love. Would you support more funding for more ATF agents to pursue --

LOVE: I'm trying to figure out why the answer is always throwing money at the problem.

BOLDUAN: I was just asking because that's the president is proposing

LOVE: It's just absolutely -- I think it's completely misguided.


LOVE: It's almost like asking for more powers and not using powers that he actually has to actually fix the problem. This is what most Americans want. They want him to fix the problem. And right now, this, to me, I feel like it's political posturing instead of getting to the heart of the problem.

BOLDUAN: One of the things that we have heard from the House speaker, he said very definitively, that we, House Republicans, we are going to look for all options about how to stop the president.

What are the options? I haven't heard anything yet from House Republicans.

LOVE: Well, all of these executive actions have to be founded. And again, it is my job. I swore to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States and it is our job to make sure that people have their fundamental and individual rights to keep and bear arms. This is what made this country great.

We cannot, in the pursuit of doing everything we can to keep everyone safe lose things that make this country safe. But I do believe that we need to address mental health.

[19:40:01] We need to address keeping guns out of the hands of the people who lack the mental capacity to make an informed decision.

BOLDUAN: And again, this is why it's so complicated. The president said that he has proposed a half a billion dollars towards mental health. I heard from another House Republican Kevin Brady today, but that's misguided. The money is going to the wrong place. You're saying the same thing, and this really shows how complicated the issue is, and why I'd be very interested to get your take and, please, let's discuss it after the town hall and get your take on it tonight.

LOVE: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Thanks so much, Congresswoman. Appreciate your time.

OUTFRONT for us next, a man who lost his son at the Aurora, Colorado, mass shooting. Also, a young woman whose father was shot and killed at Ft. Hood. What they want to hear tonight.

And as the president begins his last year in office, will gun control be a crowning achievement or a crushing defeat for him?


BOLDUAN: Welcome back, everyone. We're less than 20 minutes away now from CNN's live town hall with President Obama on gun control and preventing more senseless deaths.

One of those victims, Alex Teves. He's -- Alex Teves, he died in the Aurora, Colorado, movie theater. Alex was shot as he shielded his girlfriend from the gunman.

[19:45:03] OUTFRONT with me now is Alex's father, Tom Teves.

Tom, thank you so much for your time. Does make you wonder, I'm sure your son is never, ever far from your mind. But on a day like today, when this is the topic of conversation, where is your head and heart on this?

TOM TEVES, FATHER OF AURORA THEATER MASSACRE VICTIM: Your heart's always in the same place. I mean, you don't lose a child and it's not like you broke your arm. You lose a child, you lose a part of yourself.

Anybody out there who has a child would know that if that child, you could never see that child again. It would -- it doesn't go away. It's fresh as it was 3 1/2 years ago.

And the sad thing is, over 100,000 people have died from gun violence since Alex's death. And why should a 24-year-old kid have to make the decision between saving his girlfriend and saving his own life?

And I would suggest to all the people that are going to talk tonight, ask themselves that question. Would you have the courage to do that? And I'm not so sure you can answer that until you're faced with it. BOLDUAN: When you heard what the president was unveiling, to take a

look at it, you heard the reactions to it all -- do you think the president has gone enough? What do you think about what the president has proposed in light of what you've lived through?

TEVES: I think what should happen is the people that we elected to run this country, the president and Congress, should go and get something done. I think the president's doing something, as much to start the conversation again as opposed to just stonewalling.

I mean, people die every day. While we're going to have this conversation, somebody is going to die in this country from gun violence and that somebody is going to be somebody's child and somebody's dad or somebody's mom or brother or sister or friend.

We've got to do something about it. I mean, we all went nuts when we thought Ebola was going to come in. One person died. But 100 people, 90 people die a day and we don't do anything? It doesn't make any sense.

And I think we have to stop hiding behind whatever arguments we have. It's not -- it's not just mental health. It's not just guns.

But let's fix some of the stuff. Let's stop stonewalling and actually Congress should do what they are supposed to do and what they are getting paid to do or they should get -- let somebody else do it, somebody who's a leader.

BOLDUAN: Tom, I've heard from many critics of the president's, those who oppose the president's gun control measures, that the measures that he's pushing out, that they would likely not have prevented the mass shooting that took your son or other mass shootings that this country has lived through. What do you say to that?

TEVES: First off, then, so what's your solution? Number one.

Number two, let's also keep in mind -- and this bothers me a lot. I mean, Alex was a phenomenal person and the most bravest person you could -- you can't be any braver than he was, right? There are people that are as brave but you can't be any braver than that.

But then let's -- we have to do something. Something has to change because people just can't keep dying and sooner or later, it's going to affect your family.

Again, 100,000 people have died from gun violence since Alex was killed and he was killed 3 1/2 years ago. The odds are, you're going to be infected soon. Why wait? Why don't we do something now?

And, you know, you're not going to stop everything. But let's try to do something instead of just fighting with each other. It's almost like we're governed by a bunch of children.

You couldn't run a business this way. I'll tell you that right now.

BOLDUAN: You deliver a strong message. You offer a very strong message as we head into this conversation with those who support the president and those who oppose the president. It's a strong message heading into tonight.

Tom, thank you very much for your time. We all have Alex on our minds tonight. Thank you so much.

And OUTFRONT with me now, we have Michael Nutter, the newly former Democratic mayor, and Kevin Madden, he's back here with me as well.

It cannot go without knowing, if anyone has a heart, you can feel that man's pain. And when this conversation goes to where it is, it is interesting when you read the president who just published that opinion piece, he just published it in "The New York Times" and you hear Tom Teves say, do something. Do something.

And then the president acknowledges, he concedes, essentially, what he calls commonsense gun reform is not going to happen during his presidency.

So, when you look at those two things, Mayor, as the president failed, no matter what, isn't it the president's job to make it work, to bring the Congress together, to triangulate, to do whatever?

[19:50:04] MICHAEL NUTTER, FORMER PHILADELPHIA MAYOR: Kate, President Barack Obama is not the parent or father of 535 members of Congress. He has a job. It has specific duties, and levels of authority.

But we cannot allow the Congress to get off the hook and act like, you know -- well, you haven't brought us together enough. They are grownups, too. They have families as well. They have constituents who are also dying.

And my heart goes out. I want to apologize to him and the thousands of people that lost a loved one, the thousands of police officers and law enforcement personnel who have also been killed because of gun violence. I experienced that during my time as mayor of Philadelphia. Eight Philadelphia police officers killed in the line of duty, five by gunfire.

And so, these are serious issues and until you had to grapple with this, until you've talked to parents who've lost a child, until you talked to a child who maybe lost their parent, these are real issues on the ground, and many of the members of Congress, I think, just don't get it.

So, President Obama using the authority that he has is trying, as Mr. Teves said, to do something. We could do more if the Congress were actual partner in this work.

What's been going on, obviously, is not working, 30,000 people a year killed by gun violence. Twenty-some-odd-thousand with suicide and others, just the day to day violence that gets reported or not reported as the case may be but something is not working. We need to take action and that's the reality of American life today.

BOLDUAN: Talk about the disconnect, though. There is a large portion of the country they are electing Republicans to Congress and the House. That's who House Republican members say they are representing, their district, who say the very opposite. They say they have the compassion, they share the compassion for Tom Teves, right, Kevin?


KEVIN MADDEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Tthese are duly elected representatives.

BOLDUAN: What's the disconnect?

MADDEN: They're an important part of the equation if you're going to get something done.

I think one of the disconnects right now is that there is a trust deficit that the president has with those that are very active in their support for the Second Amendment. They don't believe his intentions are good.

But I think when you ask that question about has the president failed? I don't think he has. I think as somebody who has not supported the president's policies on a lot of this, I do recognize that the president has an extraordinary opportunity here if he wants to overcome some of the challenges with working with Congress.

The way that you marshal support behind legislation is not only do you work with the Congress hand and glove on these type of things, but you also marshal public support and I think he has a huge opportunity to do that today in a way that is uniting, in a way that speaks to some anxieties that some folks who are very supportive of their Second Amendment rights and feel that any sort of new federal legislation would be encroaching on those liberties. Speak directly to the anxieties and then confront some of legislatures up on Capitol Hill that you think have to have their minds changed.

I think if there is any uniform criticism that many Democrats or Republicans had about the president, was that he hasn't done enough to really work with them on this. And that's something that I think it remains. If he does want to make some headway on this last year, it does remain a challenge.

BOLDUAN: It shows, the uphill battle and let's look at it this way, the opportunity that the president has tonight but the risk and challenge of speaking directly not only to the folks sitting in the room, all stakeholders, all who have been impacted by this gun debate but billions beyond that could hear from the president and were he can -- and he's going to be facing questions from supporters and critics alike. That doesn't happen very often, that's why this could be a historic opportunity for everyone in this country and what can happen.

Mayor Nutter --

NUTTER: There has to be a check on our own sense of decency and Kevin says, you know, while the president has to work with the Congress, et cetera, et cetera, and absolutely, he has to do that. There was a moment when Congress in the aftermath of one of these

great tragedies was actually trying to move legislation through on their own and couldn't do it.

MADDEN: That's right.

NUTTER: Again, we cannot allow folks to get --

MADDEN: There was --

NUTTER: -- a pass because they don't like the president.

MADDEN: Well, no, because --


NUTTER: This is about leadership.

MADDEN: Just remember this, though, when the president had a Democratic Congress before he had to go up for reelection, he did not promote a sweeping gun law --

BOLDUAN: And the president had a Democratic Senate after Sandy Hook.

MADDEN: And just remember, this is not just average piece of legislation. I mean, it's not going to get changed in six months. This is not your average piece of legislation. This is -- these are laws that are a fundamental right. It is a very arduous process to try and change a lot of opinions and also change votes up in Congress in order to that.

Even Democrats acknowledge it.

BOLDUAN: Look, here, guys, we have to leave it here.

NUTTER: But let's be honest that the president is a supporter, strong supporter of the Second Amendment. And people are against these executive actions before they even read them, before they were even out they were expressing opposition.

BOLDUAN: Gentlemen, thank you so much. Watch this clock. We're not allowed to go over, that's for sure tonight.

Great to see you both. Thank you very, very much.

NUTTER: Thanks, Kate.

BOLDUAN: OUTFRONT for us next, just look at the clock, just minutes from now, CNN's town hall event with President Obama with a whole lot on the line, including his legacy coming up.


[19:58:01] BOLDUAN: Welcome back, everyone.

You're looking at live pictures of CNN's exclusive town hall where in just minutes, President Obama will sit down with Anderson Cooper and a studio audience to talk about guns in America. And right now, there are protesters gathering outside the town hall just to show what high stakes there are tonight -- a historic event, one that will make a major mark on the president's legacy, no doubt, as he nears the end of his final term.

Let me bring in right now, OUTFRONT with me, Douglas Brinkley, well know, well renowned CNN presidential historian.

Doug, thank you so much.

What does tonight mean? What does this issue mean for Obama's legacy?

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: I think it means a great deal to him. I mean, he really wants to see this as a town hall where he could be a minister. He's been a grief counselor, really, and a lot of the audience are people that have had somebody lost in their lives through gun violence.

So, when we look at the Obama presidency after he leaves office, all of those killings, Newtown and Charleston, are going to be part of these eight years of his presidency and I think he wants to make it clear that he cares that's a "yes, we can" moment. We can do better background checks.

BOLDUAN: Do you think this also then goes beyond his eight years? Is this his cause after his presidency?

BRINKLEY: Looks like it's going to be a major one. Climate change in a global way doing it the last six months and this last year. I think this is going to be seminal in his post-presidential legacy, dealing on the gun issue. After all, he's building his presidential library in downtown Chicago, and he's once a grassroots organizer there.

And I think he sees a role of getting into the schools, getting into the communities of America, just what he's doing here tonight, and that is having a discussion of how do we stop 30,000 people a year from being slaughtered? How do we not attack the Second Amendment, which he says "I'm a constitutional lawyer, I'm all about the Second Amendment", but how can we do something to lower that number?

BOLDUAN: This is a big moment for the president, big moment for the country. Douglas Brinkley, it's always great to have you. Thank you so much

for your time.

And thank you so much for joining us, everyone.

"Guns in America", a live town hall with Anderson Cooper and President Obama starts right now.