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State of the Union

Interview with David Keene; Interview with Chris Murphy; Interview with Joe Manchin, Jon Huntsman

Aired January 13, 2013 - 09:00   ET


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN ANCHOR: The White House forces the issue, even signaling it will go it alone on gun control where it can.

Today, the Biden panel readies its report for a White House that's banking on public revulsion.


JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There is nothing that has gone to the heart of the matter more than the visual image people have of little 6-year-old kids riddled and not shot by a stray bullet, but riddled, riddled with bullet holes.


CROWLEY: Conversations with NRA president David Keene and Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy.

Then the dying art of bipartisanship with West Virginia Democratic Senator Joe Manchin and former Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman.

Plus, guns, spending, and all the president's men, and we do mean men, with Republican congresswoman Marsha Blackburn, Democratic Congressman Elijah Cummings, the New York Times Jeff Zeleny and TIME magazine's Michael Scherer.

I'm Candy Crowley. And this is State of the Union.

A month after the massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, the vice president is expected to present an array of gun control proposals this week. He has publicly mentioned universal background checks for gun buyers and restrictions on high capacity magazines. The White House adds that the president will also push congress for an assault weapons ban. A spokesman explained Biden did not mention the controversial ban, because the panel focused on consensus proposals.

It appears you can count the National Rifle Association out of that consensus. For starters, Biden talked about his conclusions before he met with the NRA. And after the Biden session the gun rights lobby said, quote, "we were disappointed with how little this meeting had to do with keeping our children safe and how much it had to do with an agenda to attack the second amendment."

Joining me now is NRA president David Keene. I'm very glad to see you.

Thanks for coming.

Let's just set the bottom line here. In that meeting, was anything said by the vice president that you could agree with in terms of a proposal? And was anything said by you that he could agree with?

KEENE: Well, he'd have to speak to that. We sent Jim Baker, the former director of our institute for legislative action to the meeting because he knows most of the people. He has been involved in this for a long time. And we went to the meeting on the assumption as the vice president and his spokes people had said several times that they enter this without any conclusions having reached.

Of course, as you pointed out, the conclusions were reached. We suspected all he wanted to be able to do was to say he had talked to us. And now they were going to go forward to do what they wanted to do.

We made the point that there are things that can be done. One of the things that we have pushed for, for a number of years is those who have been adjudicated to be mentally incompetent and potentially dangerous on to the list of those people who were prohibited from buying firearms. That has not been done. That should be done, because most of the people who engage in these sort of things are people who have had real trouble.

For example, some years ago the Virginia Tech shooter would not have been able to purchase a firearm had that been done in Virginia. We hope that the administration will get behind that kind of proposal.

CROWLEY: It appears that they positively are in fact doing that, but the question here is that there had been -- we know that the NRA, for instance, fought in one of the states that was trying to put -- you know, to say, look, folks that have had -- that are mentally ill may not have guns, and you wanted to make sure they had a right to go back and...

KEENE: Correct.

CROWLEY: And say, hey, I'm OK now. So in every -- even though you talk about it, it seems to a lot of people, that you put the brakes on things like that.

KEENE: Well, what we put the brakes on is anything that simply takes away a person's second amendment right for no good reason. I mean, you can restrict the constitutional right, like the right of free speech, famously you cannot yell "fire" in a crowded theater, if there's a very good reason and if there are safeguards.

What we have suggested is that, and this has particularly come up, because this administration and a previous one have attempted to bar returning veterans who sought psychological help from owning firearms. We said fine if there is an adjudication that they shouldn't be doing this. But if that happens, and they get better -- and after all, the whole point of a mental health system is not to permanently relegate people to an inferior status, but to cure them.

If they are cured, there ought to be a way out of that. That's all we've said. And we think that's very fair. CROWLEY: Insofar as the things that we have seen out there, universal background checks in -- assault weapons ban, something that contains these clips, makes them so that you can't have the large capacity, that is just a nonstarter for you.

KEENE: We don't think any of those things work.

CROWLEY: So, you know, the art of compromise in Washington is for somebody to give something up, and for the other people to give something up. What are you willing to put on the table?

KEENE: Well, you should absolutely be able to compromise on things that accomplish the purpose. Our objection to those things is that they interfere with people's rights without doing anything to solve the problem. If you are going to solve the problem, there are two things that you have to do. You have to get to the root of the problem, and in virtually all of these cases, that's a mental health problem. We have a mental health system that has collapsed.

And secondly, you have to provide security, because you can't always find somebody who is about to do something. Now, we are not experts on mental health. And we are really not experts on security, though we have set up independently somebody who is to look into that, but we do know a little bit about guns and firearms. And we know what works and what doesn't work. And we are not willing to compromise on people's rights when there is no evidence that doing so is going to accomplish the purpose.

CROWLEY: So that's no assault weapons ban, no ban on these multiclips. So let me -- I don't think that, you know, I don't think that the White House is going to budge on their push for it. You are not going to budge on your push back. So let's talk about the politics of this. Do you think you have enough support on Capitol Hill to keep an assault weapons ban from passing?

KEENE: I think right now we do.

CROWLEY: As opposed to...

KEENE: And you have been watching Capitol Hill for a long time. And when a president takes all the power of his office if he's willing to expend political capital, you don't want to make predictions -- you don't want to bet your house on the outcome. But I would say that the likelihood is that they are not going to be able to get an assault weapons ban through this congress.

CROWLEY: How about a clip? Some kind of a restriction?

KEENE: I don't think ultimately they are going to get will get that either, because I don't think you can make a case, a, that you can really regulate it, because these things cost virtually nothing. You know, you and David Gregory could find one. But the fact is that we live in a society where first of all, we have constitutional rights, and secondly, there are millions upon millions of Americans who value the rights that they have under the second amendment and who are involved in the shooting sports or use firearms for self-defense and we think that they are going to be heard.

CROWLEY: And when you look at the power, one of the things that you said when you came in was our number one political priority is to defeat the president for a second term, that didn't happen. You also lost some pretty high profile senate races that you invested in. What does that say about the power -- because there are a lot of people out there who say, look, this has changed, that Newtown has changed public sentiment, and it has changed the mood on Capitol Hill, and yet you think that the NRA still has the power to block this?

KEENE: The NRA doesn't have the power, but those Americans who believe in the second amendment do. The races that were decided this year weren't decided on second amendment issues as you well know. It wasn't discussed. The president claimed he would never take your rifle. He'd never take your sidearm. He wasn't going to interfere in your second amendment rights. In those races where there is a clear choice, and let me give you an example, we were very involved in the the Wisconsin gubernatorial recall where you had a clear supporter of the second amendment and a clear opponent of the second amendment. And in that race, we made a six-point difference. Or I should say gun owners made a six point difference.

In that race, we did exit polls. And 45 percent of everybody that voted said they supported the goals and principles of the NRA. So, I'm willing to suggest...

CROWLEY: But you don't think the public...

KEENE: Gun owners in this country has as much influence as they always have, and perhaps more, because guns are more acceptable now than they were 10 years ago.

CROWLEY: One of the big questions here has been who does the NRA represent? You do take millions of dollars from people who make guns, and who make bullets, all perfectly legal. I'm sure they're all fine folks.

KEENE: Actually, Candy, we get less money from the industry than we would like to get.

CROWLEY: Right. But you get millions of dollars from them.

So the question comes up, and the criticism has been out there that the NRA and some other gun supporter groups gin up this, they are going to come take your guns away, because what happens those gun sales rise. And people go out, and you know, sort of frighten people into thinking your guns are going away when in fact even members that are sort of friendly to you all, that have A-ratings are saying we have got to look at this assault weapons ban. And the accusation is that you are ginning up this conversation, because it helps gun sales.

KEENE: The person -- the two people who were selling so-called assault rifles are Senator Feinstein and President Obama not us. They are the ones that are scaring American gun owners. It isn't the NRA, but we do say that one of the core mission, you know the NRA has been around since 1871, and from the 1970s on, we have emerged as the defender of second amendment rights, that is a core part of our mission.


But in that, do you support gun owners or are you supporting gun manufactures?

KEENE: We support gun owners, our members, and the people in this country who believe in the second amendment.

You know, we've had our differences in the past.

KEENE: If you know the history of the NRA with gun manufacturers, because that is not our constituency. Our constituency is twofold. It's American -- the American people who want to own guns and use them legally, and it is the Second Amendment itself.

CROWLEY: David Keene, president of the NRA, thanks for joining us this morning.

KEENE: Any time. Thank you.

CROWLEY: Coming up, while Washington debates gun control, Connecticut's governor pays tribute to the fallen.


GOV. DAN MALLOY, D-CONNECTICUT: In the midst of one of the worst days of our history, we also saw the best of our state. Teachers and a therapist who sacrificed their lives protecting students. A principal and school psychologist that ran into harm's way.


CROWLEY: A unique perspective on guns, background checks and mental health with Senator Chris Murphy next.


CROWLEY: Tomorrow marks one month since the deadly rampage at Sandy Hook elementary school. Newtown, Connecticut, has done what no other shooting has, prompted what may be decisive changes to gun laws.

Joining me now is Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy. Senator, you are in Newtown today and I appreciate you taking the time.

Let me get a quick update from you about what we know. It has been a month. Are we any closer to understanding what motivated this shooter?

MURPHY: This is an ongoing investigation, and I think it has been very difficult for the police to find out the motive here. This guy did a pretty good job of destroying a lot of the evidence, his computer which he may have done a lot of gaming and correspondence on was ruined by the time that they got to the house. And although we expect that there will be a report, and the families desperately want as much information as they can get, we haven't gotten much yet. This community is still really grieving. This is certainly about the families of the little boys and girls who are lost, but it is also about teachers and administrators and first responders who may be in the fury of the days and weeks after the shooting didn't exactly understand how deeply this had affected them. This is going to take a long time even after that report comes out for this community to recover.

CROWLEY: Right. And the other question that I think is still outstanding there, is there any evidence that the shooter sought mental assistance or that his mother sought it for him? Was he ever in the system in any way?

MURPHY: Well, I think that's one of the big questions we're trying to answer. There certainly have been some reports that his mother understood that this was a deeply troubled individual, and that she was at or around the time of the shooting, trying to find some serious treatment option for him. But the fact is that she would have run into the roadblocks that thousands of mothers and fathers run into all across this country. There are a lot of kids who need help, and the waiting lines for mental health services are very, very long.

Clearly she knew that there was something wrong here, and was trying to figure it out, but there might not have been an option for her given the lack of funding for a lot of the services.

CROWLEY: So that turns me to what is happening in Washington now, because Newtown, you are right, it is going to take so much time to heal, and Washington has now taken up the other end of this, what can be done to prevent this, a kind of legislative look. We are hearing a lot about gun control, and I wanted to ask you because I know you heard the interview that we did with David Keene, the head of the NRA. Was there anything that he said there that you thought, OK, we can find some common ground. I should mention that you get an F from the NRA, so you are not exactly in sync with them when it comes to some of these issues, but is there some commonality there that you heard that is helpful?

MURPHY: Well, listen, if they want to work on funding for mental health services, then let's go to work on it. But what they have proposed is a national registry of everyone in this country who is mentally ill. You want to talk about an abridgment of the Bill of Rights. Let's talk about what that would mean to the people who have been diagnosed with depression, who would all of a sudden find themselves on a list.

The fact is that the NRA does not represent gun owners anymore. This is not your father's NRA. It represents gun manufacturers. Less than half of their funding comes from their members, and they make tens of millions of dollars off of the purchases of guns. But what your guest didn't tell you is that every time -- not every time, but when assault weapons and high-capacity magazines are bought in this country, often the NRA gets a cut of those sales through its round-up purchase program, where the purchase price is rounded up to the nearest dollar, and the NRA gets the difference. The NRA makes money. They pay their salaries off of these gun purchases. That is who they are representing in this debate.

CROWLEY: So, Mr. Keene also said that he believes right now that there is enough strength in the Senate and the House to block a ban -- how do we put this so it's not a double negative -- to keep a ban from assault weapons from going into place. Do you agree with that?

MURPHY: No, I think that he is wrong. I think that this issue is going to continue to move. He is right that when a president puts the full weight of their office behind legislative change, that certainly means something. And I do think that you see, even in the Democratic caucus, members like Joe Manchin and Mark Warner, who previously probably would have never considered a ban on assault weapons or high magazine -- high-capacity magazine clips now coming to the table. And even just this last week, one of the most conservative members of the House of Representatives, Phil Gingrey from Georgia, said that he would be willing to look at universal background checks and high-capacity magazine clip bans.

That is a sea change if people like that in the Republican House caucus are willing to look at this. Newtown fundamentally changed things, and the NRA just does not get this. They have got to come to the table on gun control, just as they are saying they are coming to the table on mental health, because their previous allies and backers in the House and the Senate are not with them anymore, just like (inaudible).

CROWLEY: And so let me ask you, because I know that Senator Feinstein and Senator Blumenthal are about to introduce a ban on assault weapons, what do you know about that piece of legislation?

MURPHY: Well, I'm going to be a supporter of that piece of legislation.

CROWLEY: What's in it?

MURPHY: This is a -- this I think will be a ban on assault weapons moving forward. It's a tighter ban than the previous ban, and it will address high-capacity ma magazine clips.

The fact is that as soon as we passed that ban back in the 1990s, the gun manufacturers found a way around it, and other states like New Jersey and California have passed much stricter bans, and that is what the Congress needs to do.

I get it. The NRA is going to use all of their resources to try to stop this thing, but ultimately, the people of this country have been transformed, and these assault weapons -- and they know it -- these are not used by sportsmen. You don't need an assault weapon to kill a deer, you don't need an assault weapon to do target practice. Sportsmen are not going to have their rights abridged or their ability to enjoy their sport changed by having these dangerous, military-style assault weapons taken off of the streets. CROWLEY: So, let me ask you a little bit back on the mental health issue. Does it concern you that when we are hearing things from the Biden panel, we are not hearing a lot about improving mental health services so that women like the mother of the shooter could maybe find some help? We're not hearing a lot about these videos that seem to have some sort of effect, at least on those whose minds are already a little warped. So are you concerned that this is going to become only a gun control issue?

MURPHY: I definitely want to hear us talk about mental health, because, you know, we are coming into lean budget times, and there is always I think a tendency and a risk to go after those line items that support mental health services first in these debates, so I definitely want that to be on the table.

But let's be honest, we are not always going to be able to find these individuals who on a dime turn into mad men, and what could have helped here in Newtown is a ban on assault weapons.

I have got to tell you, I fundamentally believe that if we had a ban on assault weapons and a ban on high-capacity magazine clips, this guy might never, ever have taken up arms to begin with, because what happens is these guys start to get courageous when they believe that they can walk into a school or to a movie theater with the kind of weapons that they see in these video games. There would still be little boys and girls alive in Newtown today, I believe, if you had banned assault weapons and these high-capacity magazine clips, and that is something that we can do and do now.

CROWLEY: Senator Chris Murphy, new senator from Connecticut, thanks for joining us from Newtown today.

MURPHY: Thanks, Candy.

CROWLEY: When we return, bridging the political divide in Washington and crossing the aisle to do it.


CROWLEY: For a moment, as the new Congress gaveled in, everybody got a whiff of bipartisanship.


REP. NANCY PELOSI, D-CALIF., MINORITY LEADER: I present the people's gavel to the speaker of the House, John Boehner.


CROWLEY: But now is the long winter of our political discontent, raising the debt ceiling, preventing sequestration, funding the federal government for 2013, passing gun regulations or not, and tackling immigration. The to-do list for Congress looks more like those new year's resolutions that you won't get around to.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. JOSEPH CROWLEY, D-ILLINOIS: Republicans in Congress brought this house to a new low last night.

REP. MO BROOKS, D-ALABAMA: The Senate proceeded like a bull in a china closet.

REP. SCOTT RIGELL, R-VIRGINIA: They are like salespeople who tell their customers they can have a $30,000 car, but only pay $18,000 for it.


CROWLEY: Now, a number of politicians, current and former, have joined forces to create a partisan-free environment. Called No Labels, they are pledged to one simple obligation, stop fighting and start fixing. We'll discuss congressional (inaudible) tricks, compromise and the chances for success with the No Labels chairmen, Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, and former Republican governor of Utah, Jon Huntsman, next.


CROWLEY: With me now, Senator Joe Manchin, Democrat from West Virginia, and former Republican presidential candidate and Utah, former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman. Thank you both for being here, joining forces here.

I have to say when I was reading about this, and I said, OK, their goal is to argue less and act more, and I'm thinking, yeah, but how do you go about that, particularly from the outside? Why is an outside group needed?

MANCHIN: Well, let me say from the No Labels standpoint, when I first became a senator two years ago, I was enamored with this, because I was -- I came from a governorship. Jon and I were freshmen governors together in 2-4, 2004, we got elected respectively in our state of Utah and West Virginia, became friends, Democrat and Republican looking to solve problems. I thought the same would carry over when I got to Washington. Candy, first you have to understand the dynamics of what we are dealing with. As a senator, we have, since I have been there two years, there has not been a bipartisan caucus where we sit down to talk with our Republican colleagues on the other side. Unless we do that behind what you see on the day-to-day basis.

Even think about taking it further, we don't even know our colleagues in Congress, the 435. So, this gives us a chance, No Labels gives us that venue to sit down and have meaningful conversation.

CROWLEY: But, you know, to have to do this just seems like you could tell 100 grown men and women, you guys need to talk to each other.

HUNTSMAN: Right. But did you hear what Joe just said? I mean, can you believe that there is not even a venue that allows people to come together to solve problems? So the premise is a very simple one. Joe and I come from a background of problem solving, as governor, and when you see that the dysfunction of Congress is now becoming our nation's dysfunction -- we are becoming disfigured, in a sense.

HUNTSMAN: Our economy is, because Congress is so far behind in the game. So the premise is a simple one, and that is that we want to create a new attitude around problem solving.

Now how do you do that? You have got to get a critical mass together of problem solvers which is what we are doing. We have got 25 signed on. And our goal by the end of the year is to have 75. So if you can imagine 75 Republicans and Democrats, Senate and House members, who agree to meet, check their ego at the door, and sit around a table where they're putting their country first as opposed to party, as opposed to the next election they're thinking about the future when they deliberate about these very important issues, that is the objective. And so far as I can tell, Candy, and I'm a recent convert to this, they came to me most recently, there is nobody else in the world of movements now that is focused on bringing people together around the premise of problem solving.

CROWLEY: Well, certainly, there have been out there with Third Way, and a lot of groups out there that have sort of tried this, it's just in reality, you get, you know, bipartisanship on Capitol Hill tends to be, if you agree with me, then you are being bipartisan.

So let me try to get you to apply bipartisanship to the current issues.

Let's take gun control. I think we can pretty much see what the lines of delineation are here. You heard the NRA. You hear those -- some moderates and those on the left going, now wait a second, it can't be about guns, it's about society, it's about mental health. So you have these two sides that to me sound a lot like, you know, ten years ago when they were arguing.

MANCHIN: Well, Candy, you have two former governors that were raised in cultures of guns.

CROWLEY: West Virginia, Utah.

MANCHIN: I've been an NRA member. I'm a life member. I'm A- rated. I have always been supported. And I appreciate all the support I've received. I appreciate all of my friends that I have in the sporting arenas and hunting I hunt with and all of that.

I was taught at a very young age to use it safely, to respect the firearms, and make sure that I passed it down to my children and grandchildren. With all of that being said, never in my life could I imagine that I would see a time where mass violence has escalated to the point where 20 children, let's say 20 babies in their kindergarten were slaughtered. That has changed...

CROWLEY: And that's how everyone felt -- all sides of this one -- holy cow. MANCHIN: From that violence. But this has changed. We owe it to sit down and talk, but it has to be comprehensive. It can't be just -- it's about guns and guns only. It can't be just about the mental illness or the lack of mental illness care that we have. And it can't be just about the video violence in the media.

I want every NRA member, I want every gun, law-abiding gun owner to know their second amendment rights will not be infringed upon, the same as the first amendment will not be infringed upon. But as adults, we have a responsibility to sit down and have an adult dialogue and try to have a comprehensive package that works.

CROWLEY: You know we've had an adult dialogue about the budget deficit and we got Simpson-Bowles which everybody promptly ignored. And it's kind of going back into the conversation now. But the question is -- and I know that you have written in the op-ed -- what is reasonable, what is reasonable in terms of gun control when it comes to states who understand the gun culture and how deeply it is embedded in the culture of some of the states?

HUNTSMAN: Well, it has to be a little bit from all of the above. And that's why, you know, you're show...

CROWLEY: Should there be an assault weapons ban?

HUNTSMAN: Well, listen, we've heard from the special interest groups. We're hearing from, you know, one end of the spectrum or that end of the spectrum. But in the end, our duly elected officials get together with an open mind and, then, make decisions on behalf of the people they represent. And that is where getting back to No Labels is so important.

You know, we've got the politics of right and left and center, but we have forgotten the most important part of all, and that's the politics of problem solving, representing the people in all that we do.

What we are doing today isn't normal. And for the younger generation growing up seeing the way that politics is playing out, this is not the norm and that is why Joe and I coming from the backgrounds we do, you get the right and the left together in a room, whether it is on guns or anything else, and you say what is the pathway forward, how do we solve this for the American people?

CROWLEY: What is -- I mean, you have called for reasonable gun -- but what is reasonable to you? Is an assaults weapons ban such as the one we are about to get from Dianne Feinstein and Senator Blumenthal of Connecticut, is that reasonable? MANCHIN: First of all, how do you keep the guns such as assault guns out of the hands of mentally deranged people that should have -- should have help?

CROWLEY: ...seems to be commonality.

MANCHIN: And that's where it seems to be, whether -- if you look back at the Virginia Tech, the gentleman had been I think detained twice, only for 48 hours, because of the laws we may have. How do we...

CROWLEY: But it didn't apply in Arizona, because he apparently hadn't saw anything. Colorado, he apparently...

MANCHIN: So basically, but that is a huge part. The other part of it is what type of weapons, how registration, how they are getting in hands. So all of that is reasonable to talk about.

There is a premise now in Washington that guilt by conversation. It used to be guilt by association, we've moved on to guilt by conversation. We can't even sit down and have conversations about can you talk about any of these issues whether it is the clips and whether it is registration and whether it is bans on certain military -- you can't even talk about it. And if you don't have the people who are understanding that, the people that basically have expertise in that at the table, and if you keep pushing the NRA away, they have got to sit down. They have got to be -- have a responsible place at the table.

And I have kept, and I'm pushing that. I want them to be there. But I want the people that understand mental illness. I want the people that understand the video games.

CROWLEY: The holistic approach.

HUNTSMAN: Here's why what Joe is saying is so important and why the No Labels dimension I think is so relevant here. Regardless of whether it's guns or whether tax reform or immigration or energy policy, it's all the same. They're going to have to come to the table with a comprehensive package. In the case of guns, you know the three or four components that will have to be included in the end. It's kind of a no-brainer for most, but we have a hard time getting there. That's why bringing together this coalition of problem solvers in congress that No Labels has been able to, it's a start. But by the end of the year, if we get 75 to 80 such people, you can imagine the progress on all of these important issues we'll be able to make.

CROWLEY: So senator, I'm going to give you the last word here, because now are a position that you do vote in the senate, and your words post Newtown were taken originally as, oh, Senator Manchin is now for a ban on assault weapons, probably what you were talking about.

MANCHIN: Guilt by conversation.

CROWLEY: The guilt by conversation. So the question here is, am I correct in interpreting what you're saying is that, sure, you would talk about an assault weapons ban, but it has to be in a more holistic package than just, here's an assault weapons ban?

MANCHIN: Well, let me just tell you about No Labels and problem solvers and to be a member of that doesn't cost a thing. It's, just sign on.

But with that, it brings people together. So I can talk about -- I want to know. I don't own an assault weapon. I own guns. I don't have the multi-clips. I need to talk to people that believe it's important for them to keep multi-clips. I need to talk to the people that basically think they need those assault weapons. I need to talk to people that go to gun shows don't believe they need to register. I want to hear from them.

Why is it so important you're protecting that position?

On the other hand, they're saying, how come you're not looking at the mental illness that we have and the people that are causing these mass violence, how come you're not looking at the video games that my eight year old can log into and see and really glorify violence. And it really is an all-inclusive approach, you know, it's building a consensus.

And you have to take it that way.

CROWLEY: If I can just get a yes or no, possibly, assault weapons only stand alone ban...

MANCHIN: Assault weapons stand alone ban on just gun alone will not in the political reality that we have today will not go anywhere. It has to be comprehensive, Candy, and that is what I have tried to tell the vice president and I've told everybody, it has to be a comprehensive approach.

CROWLEY: Senator Joe Manchin and former Governor Jon Huntsman, thank you both. Good luck. We will have you back and see how many you're collecting as you go along.

Thanks so much.

Up next, our political panel on guns and presidential nominations.

CROWLEY: Joining me around the table, Time magazine's Michael Scherer; Congressman Elijah Cummings, Democrat from Maryland; Republican Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee; and Jeff Zeleny of the New York Times.

Thank you all. Happy new year.

ZELENY: Happy new year.


CROWLEY: Thanks for being here.

Let's -- let's talk about guns. Do you sense -- I want to look at it from the inside-out and the outside-in -- do you sense that the steam for a ban on assault weapons is slowly coming out of the balloon?

It just feels a little bit like both sides have reverted to form. What does it feel like?

ZELENY: Well, you know, I had suffered the death of my nephew at handgun violence. And, you know, with regard to assault weapons, I think that we have a possibility, but I think it's going to be very difficult. I think the things that we do agree on, it seems, is the universal background checks and high-capacity magazines.

Ninety-seven percent of Republicans say that we ought to have the universal background checks, your own poll, CNN's poll. And then 61 percent said we ought to look at the high magazine capacity.

But I think those are the things that we will be able to get done, but I think we ought to try to approach it from a comprehensive standpoint and get as much done as we possibly can.

CROWLEY: And Senator Manchin mentioned that as well. He said, I think the only thing you -- the only way you can deal with guns is to deal with the rest of it. Do you sense among your Republican colleagues -- and, in fact, there are quite a few Democrats who also have been -- you know, have very high ratings from the National Rifle Association and that come from gun country, where gun isn't a dirty word, and all of that.

Do you sense that this is, kind of, fading away, or is there still a real drive for some kind of limitations on guns or the ammunition? BLACKBURN: You know, what I am hearing is that people want to make certain that, first of all, we protect the second amendment and their second amendment rights, protect their freedom and not impede that.

Also, I'm hearing from lots of teachers, mental health professionals, physicians, that we need to do a couple of things. Number one is to drill down on the mental health issue, and number two is to look at these psychiatric and psychotropic drugs, because that is many times linked to the individuals that carry out these crimes.

They're also wanting to make certain that we begin to get in behind these video games. I have -- I watched a couple of these last night in preparation for this segment, and, Candy, as a mother and a grandmother, I was astounded with some of the things that I was seeing on "Call to (sic) Duty." And of course we know the Norway shooter would go in and use that as target practice.

I mean, you know, this is something where you say, number one, let's keep children safe. Number two, let's protect our freedoms and let's put these issues on the table and have a good solid conversation about it.

CROWLEY: Where is this going?

ZELENY: I think the White House is still interested in a perfect world for an assault weapons ban, but there is a lot of evidence out there that, A, it didn't necessarily work last time, but they are more interested in getting something accomplished, so I think that we'll probably see that as part of the vice president's proposal, but it's not going to be the be-all and end-all.

If that doesn't happen, that's not going to, sort of, bring down the whole effort. I think that the president is committed to this, and I think, you know, it is going to...

CROWLEY: And by this...

ZELENY: Some type of work on this, probably background checks; it will probably be ammunition clips. But there is going to be another shooting, probably, sadly. So this is going to stay in the consciousness, I think. I don't think this is going to recede, sort of, into our memory here.

BLACKBURN: But the problem is, you know, it -- it could be a hammer, a hatchet, a car, a gun...

CROWLEY: But hammers and hatchets and cars aren't quite as fast as those clips.

BLACKBURN: They're still needing to look at this mental health, and you have to make certain that you're protecting an individual's rights.

SCHERER: To that point, very quickly, 30,000 people die as a result of handguns in this country, 10,000 homicides, but the vast majority of them, Candy, are suicides.

CROWLEY: Right. And a lot of these mass shootings are suicides as well, if that makes sense. People say, no, they go with the intent of dying, doing this, so it's part of a suicide.

How do you see this panning out?

SCHERER: Yeah, well, we're going to have proposals next week. It's going to include, I think, everything that everybody's been talking about from the vice president, but that's really the first step in this process. You have a House right now that can't even pass the speaker's bills, and so the Senate will probably act later this year, and then it's a long-term process about figuring out whether you can continue this outside pressure, this outrage from the country.

I think there is common ground on background checks. There's going to be a dispute over whether it's universal or just gun shows. I think there's not going to be common ground over magazines, initially, but there's room to move there, because a lot of these shootings, there's evidence that reloading clips -- I mean, in the case of Gabby Giffords, it was clear that, when he tried to reload his clip, that was when he was taken down, does matter; it does reduce the number of people you can be -- who can be killed.

And then, I think, improving the background check system, the NRA is more or less on board with, I think they're going to -- they're going to have to niggle with some of the details. And then the assault weapon ban is really the -- is the reach at this point.

CROWLEY: And when you look at it, one of the things, I thought, that Senator Manchin said that was interesting was, unless you put this all together in a single bill, it's not going to pass. You can't just go "Here's the assault weapons bill," that it's got to be a part of the package to show what the president actually said when he set up the Biden panel, which is we have to look at mental health; we have to look at these videos. So...

CUMMINGS: I think we may very well start with a package, but I think that, with the way the Congress has been divided, I think it's going to be hard to get a total package through. This may have to, Candy, be a project and not a product.

In other words, we may have to do it piece by piece. I would rather see a comprehensive bill, but one thing is for sure, if we don't act now with 20 young kids being murdered, I don't know when we're going to act.

CROWLEY: Exactly. Will you all stick with me and we'll be right back?

Up next, the president makes some Cabinet picks for his second term. We'll be right back with our panel.


CROWLEY: We are back with Michael Scherer, Congressman Elijah Cummings, Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn and Jeff Zeleny of the New York Times.

So, switching gears here. There is a lot made about the president's latest picks in the cabinet: Jack Lew, Senator Hagel, Senator Kerry in key positions here -- Treasury, Defense, State Department.

It's something that your colleague, Congressman Rangel said about the lack of diversity in the cabinet thus far.

I'm sorry. This is -- yeah, he said, :it's embarrassing as hell," his words. "We've been through all of this with 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney. And we were very hard with Mitt Romney with the women binder and a variety of things. And I kind of think there's no excuse with the second term."

He just talking about when are all these -- and there was a White House cabinet picture, a photo that went out. And it was kind of astonishing in its white male variety.

First of all, does it matter?

CUMMINGS: It does matter. I think women are very, very -- it's very important that we have women in the cabinet. It's important that we have women in the congress. I would hate imagine the congress without women, to be frank with you.

But I think it's a little bit early, Candy. I really do. You know, he has the EPA position to fill. Governor Solis at Labor and Commerce. He has to fill.

I think if we just wait maybe a week or two, I can almost promise you we won't even be having this discussion.

CROWLEY: No offense, but as you know, State, Defense, Treasury. I mean, that's the -- those are the crown jewels of the cabinet, are they not?

BLACKBURN: The president passed over a very well qualified woman, Michelle Flournoy, who was kind of the next in the cue, if you will, for defense and went with Chuck Hagel. And I know -- I've got friends that are for him and against him. But, Candy, the thing is, there was a woman who would have been the best person for the job. And why did he step over her? It would have been a historic choice. And I think there are a lot of people who are disappointed in that.

CROWLEY: But what's the implication there? That we have a president that's not interested in diversity. I mean, you know, I'm not sure we can make that case, can we?

CUMMINGS: 43 percent of the folks that we have now are women, Candy. He does believe in diversity.

CROWLEY: Two supreme court justices.

CUMMINGS: Yeah, I mean, in his cabinet he had five women, four African-Americans, three Hispanics and two Asian-Americans. That's diversity.

I really believe that this president believes in diversity. And that's why I say, I think it's a little bit early.

SCHERER: I think this whole conversation is really a symbolic way of talking about a deeper issue, which is that it remains in Washington, in politics in general, more difficult for women to rise to the top and it's worse in politics, I think, than in academia or corporate America where women have made more gains.

You know, ten years I've been here, I have yet to cover a campaign or a White House or even congressional offices where there are not complaints from the women about the sort of boys club atmosphere, with the exception of those offices that are run by women.

And I think that is really the deeper issue we're trying to get at. Cabinet picks are important, but there's a broader problem in Washington.

BLACKBURN: Well, and I agree with that. With what Michael is saying somewhat, that there is -- having enough women in the process is a bipartisan problem.


BLACKBURN: And many times women are the most qualified, but they're not a part of the good old boys club. And it is more difficult to make that, to have those open doors. And that's one of the reasons that the DOD pick, which would have been historic, is very disappointing.

And I do think people are going to be watching very closely to see if the steps this president takes are going to be the same type steps that he took in that first term. And I think there's an accountability there. ZELENY: I think this problem in the short term is going to get worse for the White House because the chief of staff pick could come this week, likely to be Dennis McDonough, or Ron Klain, but it is sort of interesting, I think. I'm not sure that I heard anyone on the hill praising the choice, potential choice of Susan Rice for secretary of state as a woman. I mean, they were criticizing her for her positions and other things.

So, I think at the end of the day, it's optically not good. You know, obviously, for this president. He has sort of a strong record, but probably more important are those people around him, that White House photograph was very real. And that's how it is on a day-to-day basis with a couple of exceptions. But that's how Senator Obama and President Obama has sort of always been, always surrounded by usually men.

CROWLEY: And congressman, last word. Because this is also true of people of color. The president, obviously, we have Holder at the Justice Department. We have Kirk at the U.S. trade rep, but are there enough minorities? And should it matter to us? Should we be discussing this?

CUMMINGS: It should matter, because diversity must be a promise and not a problem. And, you know, when you have first man of color in the White House, it becomes even more significant. But I believe that the president truly believes in diversity and I think that, again, I think we'll see the diversity coming down the pipe.

CROWLEY: Congressman Elijah Cummings, Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn, Jeff Zeleny, Michael Scherer, thank you for joining us.

When we return, strike up the band, the inauguration is a week away, but you can buy your mementos now.


CROWLEY: And finally today on the east side of Capitol Hill, rehearsals are under way for President Obama's inauguration parade a week from tomorrow. But closer to the White House, the party has already begun.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thousands and thousands of Americans will make their way into D.C. over the next couple of weeks.

CROWLEY: With a marching band and a cameo appearance from the 16th President, the official inauguration pop-up store opened for business this week, because what's an inauguration without kitsch, t- shirt, teddy bears, hats and tube socks -- not just any tube socks, mind you, official tube socks.

Recession immune Obama supporters can also pick up a medallion coin set for $7,500.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's a small piece of history that you can keep.

CROWLEY: For the budget conscious inauguration revelers...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Buttons, people are buying buttons.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My merchandise, my buttons.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everybody wants these buttons today.

CROWLEY: For just $2.50 a pop, there are Barack buttons, Biden buttons and if you're doing it up big, Bo buttons.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE; I think my favorite one has to be this one. It's kind of -- it's the old one from the first family. I really like this one.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congratulations, Mr. President.

CROWLEY: Fewer people are expected for the second Obama inaugural than the million plus who showed up for the first. And there are fewer activities, as well. But a die-hard Obama fan with the right hat can party anywhere she wants.


CROWLEY: Thanks for watching State of the Union. I'm Candy Crowley in Washington. Head to for analysis and extras. If you missed any part of today's show, find us on iTunes. Just search State of the Union.

Fareed Zakaria GPS is next.