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Sen. Blumenthal: ‘We must break the grip of the NRA’

The tragic shooting in Las Vegas has again prompted some lawmakers to demand action over the wide availability of guns. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., joins Judy Woodruff to discuss how this massacre might prompt new gun legislation in Washington and whether a consensus can be reached in the current political climate.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    The attack has opened up once again questions over the availability guns. It's a debate that comes up repeatedly after mass shootings.

    But little has changed in so many years.

    We're going to begin our own series of conversations on the subject tonight.

    And for that, we are joined by Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut.

    Senator, thank you for joining us.

    I want to ask you about this new information that the shooter was apparently able to modify some of these weapons in order to make them even more lethal. What does that say to you?

  • SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL, D-Conn.:

    This evidence of the use of a bump-stock, as well as a semiautomatic weapon, a weapon of war, along with a high-capacity magazine, shows the need to ban those devices, which are designed simply to kill and maim other human beings.

    They have no legitimate recreational or hunting purpose. And what it shows me very dramatically is that nothing has changed since the tragedy of Newtown, Connecticut, when the same kinds of weapons, semiautomatics, were used to kill 20 beautiful children and six great educators.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    What could be done about these so-called bump-stocks, this relatively inexpensive device?

  • SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL:

    Very simply, they should be banned. We have a bill to do so, which we're going to introduce, as well as banning the semiautomatics, which were designed as weapons of war, along with the high-capacity magazines.

    All of these devices, very simply, enable the kind of mass shooting that unfortunately occurs all too often, and obviously in Las Vegas caused the heartbreaking, gut-wrenching kind of tragedy that we saw.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Senator, we see after almost every one of these mass shootings, there's an examination of what kind of gun the shooter used, and then a movement toward trying to do something about that weapon or that device, and yet nothing much, if anything, has come of it.

    What makes you think that now the time is right to try again?

  • SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL:

    This nation often reaches a tipping point, as it did after the near assassination of Ronald Reagan. But it took 10 years.

    So it's a marathon, not a sprint, and what we need to recognize is that the tipping point comes through awareness and education and continued, persistent advocacy, which is to mobilize people, in the same way the NRA has done.

    The major obstacle to commonsense measures, like background checks and the ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and bump-stocks, and closing a number of the loopholes that enable domestic violence, which is a major cause of death as a result of gun violence, is very simply to break the grip of the NRA.

    We must break the grip of the NRA, which will be done through mobilizing the American people.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    If something had been done before this about the semiautomatic weapon, about the so-called bump-stock device, could that have prevented this incident?

  • SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL:

    There is no guarantee ever, Judy, that a single law will prevent this kind of mass tragedy. But 59 deaths occurred in Las Vegas; 92 deaths every day occur in America across the country as a result of gun violence.

    And we can at least save lives. Would it have prevented the Las Vegas atrocity, that unspeakable tragedy? We will never know. But it might have, and we can definitely prevent such mass shootings by adopting these kinds of commonsense measures.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    I want to ask you again, though, Senator, about the climate, because, as you know, this has been tried. Gun control advocates have tried in recent years again and again.

    This country is so divided. The polls show most Republicans oppose most kinds of gun control. Most Democrats favor it. There's another poll I saw today showing most Trump voters oppose gun control. Those who voted against Donald Trump feel the other way.

    How do you get a consensus? How do you reach a majority in that — under these circumstances?

  • SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL:

    The polls also show that more than 90 percent of Americans favor background checks.

    If you ask the ordinary American, are you in favor of criminals or people with records of dangerousness, with severe mental issues having easy access to these weapons of war, they will say no.

    And the Congress has to reflect the American people. If we can provide the kind of groundswell and grassroots advocacy that is building in this country and will reach a tipping point, I think we can win in Congress. But it will take persistent advocacy.

    And prayers and condolences are appropriate. They're necessary. They're not enough. And that's what we need more of.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    But background checks, tougher background checks wouldn't have prevented this shooter from getting these weapons, would they have?

  • SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL:

    Not this shooter, but the trap that is laid by the opponents here is to point to one or another instance of gun violence and say, one or another specific reform wouldn't have prevented it.

    Maybe that one wouldn't have, but others would. And the combination, the strategy of combining these measures is absolutely necessary. And we can save lives. To say we can't prevent all tragedies, there are going to be some, but that's a false analogy.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Just finally, Senator, what about the White House comment yesterday, again today, that it's just too early to be talking about laws? The investigation is not nearly over here.

  • SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL:

    The investigation will continue, and we will learn more about this horrible human tragedy.

    But we should honor the victims through action. We can say, enough is enough, and take advantage of the moment, seize this moment, and make sure that we honor the victims through action.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal.

    Senator, we thank you.

  • SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL:

    Thank you.

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