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Tamara Keith and Amy Walter on Trump’s reaction to El Paso and Dayton massacres

NPR’s Tamara Keith and Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report join Judy Woodruff to discuss the latest political news, including reaction from Congress and President Trump after another series of mass shootings, how Democratic and Republican views on gun control policy have evolved since the 1990s and potential implications for the 2020 presidential race.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    And that brings us to Politics Monday.

    Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report and host of "The Politics With Amy Walter" on WNYC. And Tamara Keith from NPR, she also co-hosts the "NPR Politics Podcast."

    Hello to both of you on this time of serious reporting on the events of the weekend.

    Amy, as we have been discussing throughout this program, not a single serious gun control measure — significant gun control measure has passed in this country in two decades.

  • Amy Walter:

    Right.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Why not?

  • Amy Walter:

    Well, let's look back at where we were in 1993 and 1994, when you had two major pieces of legislation pass, the Brady Bill and the assault weapons ban.

    And look at how — the makeup of the Democratic and the Republican caucuses in Congress then. You had a lot of suburban Republicans who crossed party lines, supported a Democratic president in his quest to pass gun safety legislation. You had a lot of conservative Democrats from rural areas in the South who voted against it.

    And it was those coalitions that made something like that possible, a bipartisan coalition possible. Now, over these last 25 years, we have seen a major realignment in this country politically. There are very few Republicans left in suburban areas, in part because of the Republican position on guns.

    And there are very few Democrats left in rural small town America, in part because of the national Democratic Party's position on guns. And so what we have now are Democrats and Republicans in Congress that are geographically just so similar, right? They don't they don't represent a diversity of geography.

    And so what that means is, votes on guns now are purely partisan. They are no longer about the issues on the geography. You don't have a diversity within the caucus, so you're not going to have diversity in the vote.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    What would you add to that, Tam?

  • Tamara Keith:

    I would add that that's pretty remarkable, given this "PBS NewsHour"/Marist poll that we had — just got back fairly recently found overwhelming support again for something like background checks.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    We can show those percentages right here.

  • Amy Walter:

    Yes.

  • Tamara Keith:

    Yes.

    It is — you have got 96 percent of Democrats, 84 percent of Republicans, 89 percent of independents. That is — I mean, I don't think that many people support apple pie.

    And yet, in terms of Congress, it simply has not been able to be done. The legislation that passed in the House this year was the first time the House has passed legislation dealing with gun control since the 1990s.

    In the Senate, in 2013, there was this effort, the last serious bipartisan effort between — with Manchin and Toomey, a Republican senator and Democratic senator.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Right.

  • Tamara Keith:

    And that was after Sandy Hook. It's the closest that they have come, and it couldn't overcome a filibuster.

    Toomey, Senator Toomey, the Republican from Pennsylvania, has said he wants to try to revive this and bring that back. And yet he doesn't actually want the Senate to come back into session right away, because he doesn't think it has the votes.

  • Amy Walter:

    Yes.

  • Amy Walter:

    Oh, go ahead.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Could this be the impetus, Amy, to change in some way what the status quo has been?

  • Amy Walter:

    Well, you had the president today saying, we need bipartisan, we need unity.

    The ship has sailed on that. He is calling for unity. And yet that's not what he practices from his bully pulpit. That has not been his administration at all. So you can't now two years in, after running as an incredibly divisive administration and the rhetoric that has come from the White House, to say, well, now we're going to come together and change this.

    The thing too, about this bipartisan bill that passed the House, so it had eight Republicans that supported it, two Democrats who voted against it. Again, back in 1994, when they passed the assault weapons ban, 38 Republicans supported it, 77 Democrats opposed it.

    That is going back to this idea that we have just sorted ourselves, and now this polarizing — it's as much about the messenger as the message. Everyone agrees in that poll that we should do something about it, but they don't trust the other party to do it.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But we are reading and hearing, Tam, about some problems in the gun lobby. The NRA has had a lot of internal issues.

    Is there in any sense a weakening on the side of gun rights and a strengthening on the side of gun control, or are we — again, are we looking at things just staying this way in perpetuity?

  • Tamara Keith:

    Well, the NRA has had very public challenges. They didn't spend as much money in the midterms as they have before.

    And yet it isn't about the money. It is about the sway that they have in people's districts. And not yet have we seen a genuine erosion of that. And the other thing is, the NRA is only one group. And there are a number of other gun rights groups who sort of pick up the mantle.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And just quickly, Amy, among the Democrats, pretty much unanimity for the most part.

  • Amy Walter:

    Yes.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    They want gun control.

    Are we likely to — so are we just assuming this isn't going to be an issue?

  • Amy Walter:

    Among Democrats.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Among Democrats.

  • Amy Walter:

    Among Democrats.

    And it wasn't that long ago, Judy. You remember the 2000 election. And there were a lot of Democrats who said the reason that Al Gore lost in places like his home state of Tennessee, because of the Clinton administration taking a harder line on guns.

    And so Democrats are still that — they have made a lot of movement on this issue in the last 20 years to get to this place where they're totally unified in support for more gun regulation.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Amy Walter, Tamara Keith, thank you both.

  • Amy Walter:

    You're welcome.

  • Tamara Keith:

    You're welcome.

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