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The attack at the Uvalde, Texas elementary school has once again raised questions about how to prevent the next tragedy. A bipartisan group of lawmakers met on Thursday in Washington to discuss what, if any, potential solutions could earn 60-votes in the Senate. Carl Hulse, chief Washington correspondent for The New York Times, joins Judy Woodruff from Capitol Hill to discuss.
This latest attack has once again raised questions about how to prevent these kinds of tragedies.
And here in Washington, a bipartisan group of lawmakers met today to discuss what, if any, potential solutions could earn the necessary 60 votes in the U.S. Senate.
Carl Hulse is the chief Washington correspondent for The New York Times. He joins me now from Capitol Hill.
Carl Hulse, welcome back to the "NewsHour."
Your piece that you wrote this morning was headlined: "Why Republicans Won't Budge on Guns."
And you quoted a comment from North Dakota Senator Carl — I'm sorry — Kevin Cramer. Tell us about that exchange and what he said.
Carl Hulse, The New York Times:
Well, Senator Cramer — I give him credit for being pretty forthright — was engaged in a discussion, said: Well, I'm not — I don't want to take things off the table. I'm going to consider things.
And I asked him, I said: "What would happen to you, how would your voters respond if you backed gun control?"
And he said: "They would probably throw me out of office."
And I think that kind of sums up where a lot of Republicans are on this issue, Judy. Unfortunately, we have been here before. There's a terrible, horrific mass killing, pressure on Capitol Hill to do something about it. Talks start about doing something about it, but they don't really lead anywhere.
I mean, there's a little bit of optimism this evening that this bipartisan group could get somewhere. The members say things feel different this time. But it's hard to imagine in this environment, in a midterm election year, them finding any really significant agreement. So we're just going to have to watch it.
Congress left today, the Senate, until — for about 10 days. And that could take momentum out of these talks, too. So a little bit of hope, but not much optimism, if those two things can go together.
And we have heard in the past a little bit of hope after these kinds of incidents, but, most of the time, it's faded after.
I do want to ask you, Carl, where this opposition comes from, since there are public opinion polls…
… that show a large percentage of Americans favor some kind of regulation, background checks, for example.
So where does this opposition come from?
It is an interesting thing. It's overwhelmingly popular, but these members here, they're — the Republicans, they're from conservative states. People take their gun rights very seriously, certainly in North Dakota, South Dakota, those states that — where these votes would have to come from.
And they — members just worry that the backlash is going to come from those people. It's almost a single-issue voter-type situation, where, if they go ahead and agree with some kind of gun control, that that's going to be it for them. Of course, the NRA is still — it's wounded and weakened, the NRA, by some internal scandals, financial improprieties, but it is still a force in Republican politics.
No Republican wants to be attacked by the NRA. It can bring a primary challenge. Of course, a lot of the primaries are already done this year.
But that doesn't change the calculation.
A lot of Republicans really think that gun — gun rights just have to be unfettered, and they're going to act that way. It's hard to see — as you said, it takes 10 — it's going to take 10 votes from Republicans to break a logjam or a filibuster on gun rights. It's hard to count to 10.
So, just to be clear here, you're saying that, even if there weren't the NRA out there lobbying — and, of course, they're a powerful organization, and they give a lot of money. Different gun rights organizations give a lot of money.
You're saying, even without that, because of the grassroots support for gun rights, you believe the Republican numbers would be what they are?
Yes, I do believe that.
I think they're responding not only to the NRA, but to their constituents. They hear this from their constituents. There's a lot of fear in that community that the federal government is really out to take their guns. Of course, that's not correct.
And even with the limited universal background check that people are — would like to see put in place, Americans have a lot of opportunity to buy guns. But it's just this ideological issue, and they're not moving away from it, even in this setting.
However, these talks might produce something. There are some new developments. Senator John Cornyn, who, of course, you know from Texas, former member of the leadership…
… he seems to be taking part. It's his home state. People are saying that he's someone to look at here. It's possible.
But Chris Murphy, senator from Connecticut, Newtown, who's been a big leader on gun control efforts in Congress, said today, it's like, we're going to try, we're going to give it a little time, maybe two weeks. But if there's no agreement, we're still going to force votes on the Senate floor and get everyone on the record.
Yes. And we actually spoke with Senator Murphy here on the "NewsHour" last night.
What is so interesting is seeing this opposition to any regulation stay so strong, despite these rapid-fire military-style weapons that are being used.
Carl Hulse with The New York Times, thank you so much.
Thank you, Judy.
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