Did Orlando change the conversation about gun control in Washington?

Senate Republicans agreed to allow votes on gun control amendments after Democrats led a filibuster for nearly 15 hours in favor of barring gun sales to those on a terror watch-list. Judy Woodruff talks to Sen. Al Franken, D- Minn., about the latest push in Congress for gun control and stopping more shootings like Orlando from occurring.

Read the Full Transcript


    The debate over gun control took center stage in the U.S. Senate for nearly 15 hours, as Democrats pushed for votes on measures they say could help prevent another mass shooting.

    Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid confirmed this morning that Republicans will allow votes on gun control amendments to a larger money bill. But he complained it's not at all clear they can pass.

    SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), Minority Leader: Republicans must join us for those measures to pass. But that won't happen if Republicans continue to take their orders — and I mean orders — from the National Rifle Association and the Gun Owners of America.


    Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had a ready answer, that Democrats played politics yesterday while the FBI briefed senators on Orlando.

    SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), Majority Leader: Senate Republicans attended, and asked serious questions. A rather significant group of Senate Democrats skipped it, skipped the briefing altogether, for a campaign talk-a-thon out here on the Senate floor, which also prevented us from going forward on the bill.


    Connecticut Democrat Chris Murphy spearheaded the filibuster that ran nearly 15 hours, until early this morning. He evoked the 2012 massacre at a school in Newtown, Connecticut, and a teacher who shielded a child.

    SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D), Connecticut: It takes courage to look into the eye of a shooter, instead of running, wrapping your arms around a 6-year-old boy and accepting death for a little boy under your charge. Ask yourself, what can you do to make sure that Orlando or Sandy Hook never, ever happens again?


    Murphy wants a vote on barring gun sales to those on a terror watch list. He drew support from a number of fellow Democrats.

    Republican Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania also spoke up.

    SEN. PAT TOOMEY (R), Pennsylvania: I'm of the view that it's time to get something done here. What I think we need to do here is do everything we can to make sure that terrorists are not able to buy guns, at least not legally.

    But we also need to have a meaningful mechanism for people to challenge their status of being that list, and that's what we haven't put together here.


    A GOP alternative calls for not barring gun sales, but delaying them by 72 hours, for anyone on the watch list.

    This afternoon, the Senate's number two Republican, John Cornyn, said the Senate will vote on four gun-related measures on Monday.

    Joining me now is one of the more than 20 Democratic senators who took part in last night's filibuster, Senator Al Franken of Minnesota.

    Senator, thank you for joining us.

    Given the implacable opposition of virtually every Republican in the Senate, what do you think this filibuster accomplished?

    SEN. AL FRANKEN (D), Minnesota: Well, I hope it changed the conversation, in light of the just horrific events — event in Orlando, the worst mass shooting in our country's history.

    Chris Murphy represented Newtown when he was in the House of Representatives, and said how difficult it is for him to talk to the families of the kids who died there in that shooting and tell them that, four years later, nothing has happened.

    And I think that — I commend Chris Murphy for doing this. And I think it changed the conversation. And that's why we're having these votes. We're going to have these votes on Monday. And I think anything that we can do to stop one of these events is a good thing.

    And Dianne Feinstein is putting forward a bill that will take people who are on the terror watch list and make it so they're not able to buy a gun.

    And Chris Murphy has offered legislation to close the loopholes and the background checks at gun shows and online, because anyone who is on a terror watch list, if they get turned down at a gun store, they can just right now go online or go to a gun show.

    And we have got to do everything we can to prevent something like this happening. We're not going to get all of them, but any one that we can stop, we must do.


    Well, Senator, I'm sure you know Republicans are arguing. They have got their own arguments on every one of these proposals. On the terror watch list proposal, they say, well — they still think that, since — or they argue that buying a gun is a constitutional right.

    And even for someone who is on a terror watch list, maybe there's a short delay, but you still have to give that person an opportunity to buy a gun at some point.


    Well, you know, we can — we should be talking about how to do this.

    But talking about a three-day delay, I don't think makes sense. The GAO just came out with a report that says that people on the no-fly list, 91 percent of them were able to buy guns at gun stores. The ones that were turned down, they weren't denied because they were on the terror watch list. They were denied for some other reason.

    We have to make sure that people who shouldn't have guns do not have guns. That is a priority. And, yes, if you want to adjudicate somebody who is wrongly on the list, that should be done, but it shouldn't be done in three days.


    Senator, what makes you think a compromise can be worked out now, when even when the Democrats were in the majority in the Senate, after the Newtown school shooting, they were not able to enact significant legislation on guns?


    One, we came very close then.

    And, two, I think this terror watch list is a different issue. And I think that what we saw in this filibuster last night and the reaction of people to it around the country, I think that my Republican colleagues who are certainly up for reelection — you see it with Donald Trump, whose response to this has been, you know, in many ways terrible, is seeing — he's running for president.

    He sees that, you know, 80 percent of Republicans are for these measures, and 80 — some 87 percent of the American people are for that. So I hope that my colleagues understand that this is just the right thing to do, and that they will not give into the pressure from the NRA.


    Even if the Senate were the pass some language, Senator, we have every expectation that the House wouldn't. So is this just then an exercise in what?


    This is an exercise in trying to prevent these from happening.

    That's what this is. And there has been movement on this issue because of this horrific event. And I believe that's being felt in the Senate and in the House.


    So you do believe next week we may see some of — one or more of these proposals pass the Senate?


    I hope so. I don't know what Senator Cornyn's proposal is. I don't know what Senator Grassley's proposal is. But you will notice that we are getting proposals from them now.

    Now, they may have — they may be like we have seen before, with poison pills or something like that. But I think the conversation has changed in the wake of this horrific event.


    Senator Al Franken of Minnesota, we thank you very much.


    Thank you, Judy.

Listen to this Segment