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Some Senate Republicans May be Open to Some Gun Reform Legislation; Supreme Court Hearing Case about Concealed Carry Law in New York; Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-MI) Interviewed on Possible Bill Holding Parents Liable for Gun Storage to Prevent Their Children Having Access to Guns. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired June 08, 2022 - 08:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. It is Wednesday, June 8th. I'm John Berman with Brianna Keilar. And CNN has learned that the most powerful Republican in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, has expressed an openness to raising the minimum age to buy a semi-automatic AR-15 style weapon from 18 to 21. He said that in private. But the majority leader has not and will not, it seems, say it in public, and it is highly unlikely that this will be part of any agreement on gun safety as the talks do intensify between Democrats and Republicans.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Two weeks ago, Republican Senator Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming said she doubted any ideas to curb gun violence would be welcomed in her very pro-gun state. Well, now she is signaling an openness to finding legislative solutions because her office has been flooded with calls from constituents demanding an end to mass shootings.

As negotiations continue, CNN chief congressional correspondent Manu Raju pressed lawmakers about AR-15s and why people need them, and he got a range of responses. Here it is.


MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Why do you think that people need to have AR-15s in this country?

SEN. JOHN CORNYN, (R-TX): You're talking about a constitutional right to keep and bear arms. People who are law abiding citizens are in good mental health and aren't a threat to the public.

SEN. JOHN THUNE, (R-SD): In my state, they use them to shoot prairie dogs and other types of varmints. And so I think that there are legitimate reasons why people would want to have them.

SEN. JOSH HAWLEY, (R-MO): That's used for sporting events, for sporting activities all the time.

RAJU: Why not raise the age to 21 for people buying semi-automatic rifles? SEN. THOM TILLIS, (R-NC): We're talking about a lot of things, and

what we're talking about most are background checks, juvenile records, the areas where we can get consensus, that came into the discussion. But right now, we're trying to work on things where we have agreement.

RAJU: Why don't you have agreement on that?

TILLIS: That's a -- we got a lot of people in the discussion. We've got to get 60 votes. Hopefully we get 75 votes on this.

SEN. JOE MANCHIN, (D-WV): You want to look at two things that could have prevented this. An age requirement would have prevented an 18- year-old, and basically a red flag law that is basically intended to try to help a person get some mental help.

RAJU: Do you think there should be a ban on assault weapons, a ban on AR-15s?

MANCHIN: Talking about bans, I wouldn't have a problem. I'm looking at some of these things, what is the necessity? Tell me what the purpose is, and let's use it for those purposes.


BERMAN: Joining me now, CNN senior political correspondent and anchor of INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY, Abby Phillip, and CNN political analyst and national politics reporter for "The New York Times" Astead Herndon. Abby, it was great having Manu chase down so many senators and have just good discussions about where exactly they are, but it is pretty revealing.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN ANCHOR, INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY: Yes, it is. I think that two things strike out at me. One, the fact that Joe Manchin, who has absolutely no reason to talk about some of these issues is pretty clear. He doesn't think that AR-15s should be allowed to be purchased by 18-year-olds. That, I think, tells you one big thing about where he thinks the politics are on this issue in the American middle.

But also, Republicans are stumbling over their words to try to explain what you do with this gun and why just a simple age requirement shouldn't even be on the table. I think a lot of times in Republican politics they don't want to even talk about it because just the fact of a conversation invites criticism on the right, criticism from their constituents. And I won't even say from the NRA, because it is from the constituents who are culturally gun absolutists in some cases, about maybe 30 percent of the American electorate or less.

BERMAN: Astead what, what do you hear there?

ASTEAD HERNDON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think it's the same thing. And it's the legacy of the NRA. It's a weakened organization now, but they've created a real culture among the grassroot sides of conservatives where giving any inch, giving any compromise is seen as something that those politicians can't do.

We have seen some openness in recent days, right. And I think that shows what the real momentum that is coming out of these horrible tragedies to really put pressure, but it is about that waiting period. We have seen Republicans have this before, where they do these types of negotiations, maybe in good faith, maybe in bad faith, but when that pressure relents, then they won't -- we won't actually find the place for compromise and consensus.

That pressure has to continue, and we're going to have to see Republicans really speak up over that 30 percent of the population Abby is really talking about, because that's a real group who really feels that any type of infringement on where the gun laws are is something that has really been a legacy of the NRA and those other lobbyists to really put that fear on those. They do better. They sell more guns when they do that.

PHILLIP: And I remember when after the parkland shooting a former -- then President Trump at the time actually made a lot of statements indicating that he was willing to look at a lot of gun regulations, including dealing with AR-15s.

BERMAN: Including raising the age.

PHILLIP: Raising thee age. And within days, literally the NRA came to him and said you can't go there. His aides said you can't go there.


And I think a lot of remembers privately, they understand the reasonableness of these proposals, but they know the politically they can't go there.

BERMAN: Instead of looking at the glass half empty view of this, which I think history has taught us generally is the way to approach this, be skeptical, the glass half full view is where things stand right now is there does seem to be an openness, as you both have said to the discussions right now. One of the things is that Democrats seem more willing to accept something, anything. And then Republicans seem to understand that refusing all may not be as tenable. Does that allow for something?

PHILLIP: I think so. I really think that that is -- the reality is that the American people believe that there should be an all of the above approach to gun violence. And that includes all of it. The mental health piece, the school safety piece, maybe the guns piece. And Democrats have strengthened their position by saying, yes, we want to talk about all of it and leaving it to Republicans to say which parts they don't want to talk about, which we all know is the guns part. But the folks who are in the room, they are talking about the guns part. It is narrow, but they're talking about it.

BERMAN: They are. The idea of maybe adding a waiting period of sorts for people between 18 and 21 to buy these AR-15 style weapons, depending on the language they come up with, that would be a big deal. That would be a big change. And I also just want to mention Astead, and then you can jump in, the CNN reporting that says that Mitch McConnell would be open to raising the age, period, to 21 to buy these weapons. Now, he won't say it in public, which is notable. But for him to allow it to get out there that he's open to it in private is also interesting.

HERNDON: We know how the politics on this stuff works. There is often that float moment to see where the testing of the waters are. And I think we're kind of seeing that with Republicans. There has been an increasing openness, there has been a light treading of rhetoric saying we're open to some of these more moderate compromises. And we know that public support is actually robust on these types of things, even if when you get into specifics of that public support changes.

Now, the question will be, will that continue, will it -- and I think you're right, though, that Democrats are willing to do a kind of middle of the road approach that they weren't willing to do previously, partly because this is what -- a party that has pressure coming up on the midterms and wants to be able to go back to voters saying we did something. And they know on a lot of issues they're not going to be able to say that come November. And so Republicans are going to offer them -- what Republicans are offering them now, they may have to take.

BERMAN: Astead, Abby, great discussion. Thank you so much for being here.

HERNDON: Thank you.

KEILAR: The prospect of the U.S. Supreme Court overturning gun restrictions in New York has city and law enforcement officials across the state bracing for a spike in crime. This is a ruling that could come down as early as today. CNN's Jason Carroll is here with more on this. We don't know obviously, what they're going to decide, and they have a range of options that could determine the outcome here, Jason.

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Range of options, but even so a lot of eyes on this. Gun rights advocates say what this comes down to is their right to legally carry a handgun. But both city and state officials say this is about keeping a law that keeps the public safe.


CARROLL: New York City, iconic for its crowded streets and packed subways, but with violent gun-related crimes on the rise this year, the city's mayor warned the violence could get worse if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns a state law and makes it easier for someone to carry a gun.

MAYOR ERIC ADAMS, (D) NEW YORK CITY, NY: This keeps me up at night. If this right to carry goes through the Supreme Court and becomes a law of the land, can you imagine being on the four train, everyone on the train is carrying? This is not the wild, wild west.

CARROLL: At issue is a century old state law that gives local officials the power to require anyone who applies for a permit to carry a concealed handgun to show proper cause, such as a need for self-defense. The New York State Rifle and Pistol Association, along with two other plaintiffs, says having to show proper cause to carry a concealed handgun is unconstitutional. During oral arguments in November, the attorney representing the plaintiffs explained it this way.

PAUL D. CLEMENT, ATTORNEY: Carrying a firearm outside the home is a fundamental constitutional right. It is not some extraordinary action that requires an extraordinary demonstration of need.

CARROLL: Legal experts say there is a strong possibility the conservative-leaning cord will side with gun rights advocates. Justice Brett Kavanaugh said this during arguments.

JUSTICE BRETT KAVANAUGH, UNITED STATES SUPREME COURT: Just to follow up on the other questions, why isn't it good enough to say I live in a violent area and I want to be able to defend myself?

CARROLL: If the law is overturned, it could make it much easier to legally carry a handgun in New York, and it could have implications elsewhere.


Several other states have similar proper cause requirements, including California, Maryland, and New Jersey. Back in New York City, law enforcement officials say overturning state law could deal a serious blow to efforts to fight crime at a time when the New York City police reported gun arrests are at a 28-year high. New York's governor says she would take legislative action if the law were overturned.

GOV. KATHY HOCHUL, (D) NEW YORK: I'll do whatever I have to do to protect people in this state.

CARROLL: This as the state is still healing from last month's mass shooting in Buffalo where 10 people were killed. The victims' families saying now is the time for tougher gun laws.

KIMBERLY SALTER, WIDOW OF BUFFALO SHOOTING VICTIM AARON SALTER: It is not about Republicans. It's not about Democrats. It's about people. It is about human life.

CARROLL: Sanford Rubenstein agrees. He represents one of the victims severely injured during a mass subway shooting in New York City in April.

SANFORD RUBENSTEIN, ATTORNEY FOR WOMAN INJURED IN NYC SUBWAY SHOOTING: If this statute is declared unconstitutional, it will put more guns on the street.

CARROLL: Those who are gun advocates say this is about their right to carry a gun whether it be in New York City or Chicago or Los Angeles, wherever.

RUBENSTEIN: Public safety requires the control of guns for the public good.


CARROLL (on camera): And, Brianna, late yesterday Manhattan's district attorney sent a memo to his staff warning them to get ready in case this is overturned, saying they should expect a number of challenges from lawyers who are looking to have cases on gun-related charges overturned. Brianna?

KEILAR: A lot hanging in the balance here. Jason Carroll, thank you for that report.

Happening today, the House is expected to vote on a Protecting Our Kids Act, which has a number of measures aimed at reducing mass shootings, including requiring safe storage of guns in residences and a tax credit for people to purchase them. That part of the bill is being credited to Democratic Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin of Michigan, who has been making a push for safe storage since the Oxford High School shooting which happened in her district in November. She also serves on the Homeland Security Committee. Congresswoman, thank you so much for being with us. We should note that in the Oxford case, the parents actually, they bought the alleged gunman a weapon, they did not secure it. And I would also note that here in recent days a two- year-old accidentally shot and killed their father in Orlando with an unsecured gun. How big of a problem is this?

REP. ELISSA SLOTKIN, (D-MI): Yes, it is a significant problem. And also, it is important that we have some sort of deterrent on the books so that people who want to buy weapons, who want to have weapons in the home, think twice about leaving it unsecured in the house where there is young people. And basically, the law -- this bill came directly from what happened in Oxford where the parents left the weapon in the home. The child had mental issues, mental health issues that they knew about. The child took the gun to school and murdered four students in his high school.

And I think the fact of the matter is there is no law that really says that the parents can be held criminally liable for allowing that weapon to get in the wrong hands, and we just wanted to put some law down on the books to change that.

KEILAR: Many people will look at what you're trying to do and they'll say, yes, that makes sense. Your bill, though, is part of a larger gun safety package the House Democrats are moving, and Senator Cornyn, a Republican in the Senate, has made it clear that it's going to find no future in the Senate. Why aren't House Democrats engaging with Senate negotiators in a way to move forward to get what you want and in some sort of bill?

SLOTKIN: We actually, a group of us are. And we have a Zoom meeting, a number of us today, with some of the senators in the negotiation. I think frankly, there is some division on this issue, even within Democrats. There is some who wanted this big giant package like we always do, that kind of puts the kitchen sink together in one gun bill, and there is those of us like myself who wanted each individual bill to be taken separately so that in the best scenario there is some Republicans who would vote on some of the bills, like background checks, but then also it keeps them in and holds them to task when they don't vote for these things. When it's a big bill, they just get to say I didn't like one little corner of it, and so I'm going to vote against the entire thing. We had a disagreement, a debate about how to handle it, and for me,

the real negotiation is in the Senate, and whatever we can get out of that is going to be better than nothing.

KEILAR: Who is your Zoom with in the Senate?

SLOTKIN: I'm not going to talk about those internal conversations. But there is a bipartisan --

KEILAR: But then can you say -- it's bipartisan. So it is Democratic and Republican senators that you're speaking with?

SLOTKIN: There is a number of House members, both Democrat and Republican, who are having robust conversations with our Senate counterparts.

KEILAR: Senate counterparts meaning Democrats and Republicans?

SLOTKIN: And Republicans, indeed, of course. Of course. That's how you make laws in this country, yes.

KEILAR: Yes. I just wanted to be clear about who is talking to who here. So Cornyn involved?


So Cornyn involved?

SLOTKIN: I'm just -- I'm not going to get into internal negotiations.

KEILAR: OK. I had to try. I'm sure -- I'm sure you understand.

SLOTKIN: You had to try, but I also -- like there is something bigger here that we have to work on.

KEILAR: Let's look at the contours of the Senate discussions here because they're discussing in the Senate a couple of things that are really getting a lot of attention. I think there is some tension in these discussions, but there could also be a breakthrough. One is incentivizing red flag laws at the state level.

What do you think about that provision?

SLOTKIN: I think that's good. I mean, I -- you know, my -- I come from the military side of things, my husband is 30 years in the military. And just watching what suicides do to the veteran community and we in many states don't have laws where you know someone has a weapon, you know they're unstable, they talked about hurting themselves and others and you can't remove the weapon from the home.

So incentivizing states to make those laws has to be approved by a judge before you can remove anyone's weapon from their home, that's a high standard. It's not neighbors, you know, ratting out neighbors on things. And I think that's just important, we know that mental health is deeply connected to these suicides and these mass shootings and so we have to be able to identify people who need a weapon removed from the home.

KEILAR: This idea of a waiting period for AR-15 style weapons, purchases for younger buyers. So under 21, before it was 18, now it is up to 21, you would have to wait to have for instance juvenile records reviewed.

Do you think that that would prevent some of these needless shootings from happening considering the shooters in Buffalo and Uvalde were both 18?

SLOTKIN: Well, look, I mean, the data doesn't lie. So many of these mass shootings are committed by people who are between the ages of 18 and 21. And so, at a minimum, raising the age to 21. But -- I mean, I'm supportive of a waiting period, of course. I mean, you look at what happened in Uvalde, this person turned 18, went and bought a weapon and turned around and committed a horrible mass shooting.

A waiting period to cool off but also to really research the background of younger people, I just -- again, I think that there -- I come from a state where we have a tradition of hunting, of sportsmanship with weapons, I grew up with, you know, 20 guns.

I mean, it's just -- I carried a weapon in Iraq for three tours. It's not about your access to a weapon if you are a law-abiding, reasonable, responsible citizen.

KEILAR: Do these shooters, as you understand it, would those kinds of reviews have turned up records that would have made it impossible for them to get weapons?

SLOTKIN: I think -- I don't know the details of every single case, but I think it's at least possible.


SLOTKIN: And that's why a waiting period is also interesting. Just -- you want to take someone out of the heat of the moment, if they're going to buy an AR-15, take them out of the heat of the moment, let them wait if they want it that badly at this point.

So, raising the age and a waiting period, I'm definitely supportive of.

KEILAR: Congresswoman Slotkin, we appreciate your time this morning. Thank you.

SLOTKIN: Thank you.

KEILAR: Happening now, Boris Johnson getting boos and some cheers as he answers questions from parliament following his narrow survival in a confidence vote. We're going to listen into to that.

And Steve Bannon under indictment for contempt of Congress tries to turn the tables on Speaker Pelosi in the January 6th Committee with revenge subpoenas. BERMAN: Plus, a medical breakthrough, a cancer drug makes tumors

disappear in 100 percent of patients in a new trial. The remarkable details ahead.



BERMAN: Quite a morning for Boris Johnson. The UK prime minister is fielding questions from parliament after narrowly surviving a vote of no confidence earlier this week.

CNN's Bianca Nobilo joins me now in the United States, came all the way over just for this discussion.

BIANCA NOBILO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Just for this discussion.

BERMAN: Quite a morning for Boris Johnson.

NOBILO: Yeah. This is the first time that we're seeing him face the House of Commons since 41 percent of his own lawmakers voted against him. And bearing in mind, most of those lawmakers are on the government payroll in some capacity, so it is like three-quarters of his own MPs wanted him out.

Now, the ones that were against him were hoping to see some signs of contrition today. Some humility, and signs that he's going to change as he continues.

But let's listen, because that's not exactly what we saw.


ANGELA EAGLE, BRITISH PARLIAMENT: This week's events, Mr. Speaker, have demonstrated just how loathed this prime minister is. And that's only in his own party.

Can the prime minister explain if 148 of his own back benches don't trust him, why on earth should the country?

BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: In a long political career so far, and, of course, picked up -- I of course picked up political opponents all over. And that is because this government has done some very big and very remarkable things which they did not necessarily approve of.

And I want everyone to know is that absolutely nothing and no one, least of all her, is going to stop us with getting on with delivering for the British people.


NOBILO: Now, it might seem like a strange concept in one of the oldest and most advanced democracies in the world boos, cheers, whether or not people have their arms crossed and look annoyed is one of the key barometers that we're looking at in terms of the health of the democracy and the prime minister. But based on that performance, we heard cheers from a slice of his party, but a lot of people looking extremely unhappy.

And that quote there, nothing or no one will stop me continuing as prime minister, I mean, it says it all to many who believe that they tried to oust him, now they have to come up with a very creative way to do it because technically he's safe for a year from another confidence vote.

BERMAN: But he's known as something of an escape artist and the question is, will he emerge from this unscathed enough to continue?

NOBILO: Well, he's built his political brand on being able to bob and weave through any kind of political scrape. This has been the worst to date. His next existential crisis as prime minister is the two bi- elections coming up at the end of the month which are damaging the party brand.

One is because one of his own lawmakers was found to be watching pornography in that chamber during a session that we were just looking at. He said he was looking for tractors and something went wrong. So, he's stepping down.

BERMAN: Different view of tractors than I think most people have.

NOBILO: Different view -- I think so, John. And the other MP is one that had -- he was arrested and is now going to spend 18 months in jail for sexually assaulting a 15-year-old boy.

So, both of those seats are up.


And now, neither are expected to be won by the prime minister's party. They should typically be safe seats.

So the conservatives are now in this identity crisis, they don't know whether or not to agree on backing Boris Johnson for the short or medium term, but what is helping the prime minister here is there still isn't any obvious coalescence of support over a possible alternative.

BERMAN: Bianca Nobilo, great to see you. Thanks for coming in and explaining this to us so we can understand it.


KEILAR: A horrifying scene in Berlin this morning after a car left the road and plowed into pedestrians in a busy shopping area. Officials say one person died here. Eight others were injured. Large numbers of rescue vehicles and first responders are reportedly on the scene. Police say they arrested a man believed to be the driver. Investigators working now to learn whether this was a tragic accident or a deliberate attack.

Brand-new CNN reporting, January 6th committee is about to get its hands on 159 emails from right wing attorney John Eastman, related to his efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

BERMAN: And this just in, the victims of former USA Gymnastics Dr. Larry Nassar now suing the FBI. New details ahead.