Return to Transcripts main page

CNN TONIGHT

Review of the President's Guns Townhall Meeting. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired January 7, 2016 - 22:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[22:00:00] DON LEMON, CNN TONIGHT SHOW HOST: We're so glad you could be with us tonight. You heard President Barack Obama laying out his case on guns directly to the American people. But did he convince you? Did he convince you?

This is CNN Tonight. I'm Don Lemon.

Every single person in America knows that we have problems, a big problem with guns. Thirty thousand of us are killed by guns every year, 30,000. And just the last week, this is since the first of the year, in Chicago, 11 people were shot to death.

Five more shot just this afternoon. And the day is not even over in Chicago yet. So what are we going to do about it? What are we going to do about it? And we're going to keep that conversation going tonight to try to get some answers from people on both sides of this debate.

So, I'm glad you joined us tonight. It's going to be a great conversation all around here.

President Barack Obama answering his critics tonight, a gun executive, a sheriff, a rape survivor, and a widow among them. I want to bring in now CNN's Anderson Cooper who moderated that and had some great questions.

He's in George Mason University right now. First, Anderson, I'm so glad that you're here. It was an amazing, it was an emotional hour. The president tried to speak directly to his critics both in the audience and to the NRA who chose not to come. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA PRESIDENT: For the gun owners who are in attendance here. My suspicion is that you all had to go through a background check. And it didn't prevent you from getting a weapon.

And the notion that you should have to do that, but there are a whole bunch of folks who are less responsible than you who don't have to do it doesn't make much sense.

Part of the reason I welcomed this opportunity by CNN to have a good discussion and debate about it is because our position is consistently mischaracterized.

And by the way, there's a reason why the NRA is not here. They're just down the street. And since this is the main reason they exist, you'd think that they'd be prepared to have a debate with the president.

ANDERSON COOPER, AC360 SHOW HOST: They haven't been to the White House in three years.

(CROSSTALK)

OBAMA: Oh, no, no. We've invited them.

COOPER: So, right now tonight, you're saying you would be...

OBAMA: We have invited them repeatedly. But if you listen to the rhetoric it is so over the top and so overheated.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Mr. Cooper, do you think the president changed any minds tonight?

COOPER: I don't know that he changed minds. I mean, look, I think the lines are pretty firmly drawn here. I think certainly to those who agree with him he spoke passionately. He spoke sensibly. They would say to those who disagree with him, you know, they're concerned about some of the words he used, the conspiracy theories the idea that, you know, preparing gun ownership to the responsibility of driving a car.

The sheriff pointed out, you know, gun ownership is enshrined in the Constitution or the right to bear arms is in the Constitution and car ownership it is not.

So, look, the lines are pretty firmly drawn. But I think the president, you know, kudos to him and kudos to all of those who came tonight on all sides of this issue to put their positions forward to the president.

Those who disagreed with the president, you know, it's easy to sit at home and yell at the screen.

LEMON: Yes.

COOPER: It's another thing to actually stand up in front of the President of the United States and telling you that he is wrong and telling me you disagree with him. And a lot of people did that very well tonight. I think, you know, Taya Kyle did a great job and just a lot of people were very strong on defending their positions.

LEMON: I'm glad you said that because I found it interesting. I thought the president had a good point when he said, you know, the NRA is right down the street and they chose not to come.

And one of our panelists said, you know, why come and be lectured by the president? But why wouldn't you have the opportunity or want the opportunity to come and at least challenge the person who you disagree with rather than doing it on a Sunday morning show days later, or doing it to a newspaper or some other news organization? It's simply -- to, you know, to many people, it doesn't make sense.

COOPER: Look, I'm a big believer in discussing issues and meeting with people who disagree with you and walking in other people's shoes in trying to figure out there their perspective on things. So, I'm a big believer in more discussion rather than less discussion. I would love that they have been here obviously.

We put out the invitation to them. I don't think, you know, I would certainly not allowed the president to be lecturing anybody or yelling at anybody. You know, we wanted a sensible discussion here and I think that's what we got. Even though -- even though they weren't here.

I think a lot of different sides were represented. I thought it was interesting. You know, I wanted to put to the president early on the core about a lot of people's distrust in him is. With that he doesn't understand the -- whether the fear or just the desire to own a gun. He's never owned a gun.

[22:05:00] And that he really is, you know, wanting to come for their guns. I know I have a lot of friends who believe that. And so, I wanted to put that to him. And he told a story about being out on the campaign trail and being out with his wife in a rural area and she's sort of saying, you know what, I would actually -- if I lived out here I would want to have a shotgun or something. Let's play that.

LEMON: Yes. You have -- let's listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Michelle and I are then campaigning out in Iowa and we're going to farms and we're going to counties. And at one point, Michelle turned to me and she said, you know, if I was living in a farmhouse where the sheriff's department's pretty far away. And somebody can just turn off the highway and come up to the farm, I'd want to have a shotgun or a rifle to make sure that I was protected and my family was protected.

And she was absolutely right. And so, part of the reason I think that this ends up being such a difficult issue is because people occupy different realities. There are a whole bunch of law-abiding citizens who have grown up hunting with their dad or going to the shooting range and are responsible gun owners.

And then there's the reality that there are neighborhoods around the country where it is easier for a 12 or 13-year-old to purchase a gun and cheaper than it is for them to get a book.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: So, it was interesting, you know, him giving that answer about -- I had not heard that before about him being out on the campaign trail. And, you know, and obviously the other big issue we wanted to ask him about and many issue, but one of the moments we wanted to ask him was earlier in the week when he was making the announcement of the executive actions and his other guidelines and suggested policies, was this very emotional moment.

And this was the first opportunity to ask the president about that moment and about, you know, I think I said to him, you know, a lot of people were surprised by that moment. Let's play that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: I think a lot of people were surprised by that moment.

OBAMA: I was too, actually. You know, I visited New Town two days after what happened. So, it was still very raw. It's the only the time I've ever seen secret service cry on duty. And it wasn't just the parents. You had siblings. You know, 10-year-olds, 8-years-olds, 3- year-olds, who, in some cases didn't even understand that their brother or sister weren't going to be coming home. And I've said this before, it continues to haunt me. It was one of the worst days of my presidency.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Yes, and it was a very emotional moment there. He's also emotional when he, Anderson, when he spoke with Chris Kyle's wife as well, and the young man from Chicago and mentioned, you know, his mother, how proud his mother must have been of him.

Anderson, I want you to stick with me because I want to bring in someone now. This is Mark Kelly. Tomorrow is the fifth anniversary of the mass shooting in Tucson that nearly killed his wife, Gabrielle Giffords leaving six others dead and 12 injured. And they met with the president at the Town Hall tonight.

I'm so glad that you're here, Mr. Kelly, and I'm so glad that your is doing well and it's good to see her. How do you think the Town Hall went?

MARK KELLY, AMERICANS FOR RESPONSIBLE SOLUTIONS CO-FOUNDER: Well, first of all I want to thank CNN and I commend you guys for putting this on. I mean, it's a very -- very rare thing to have people on, you know, seemingly on two sides of an issue like this in the same room with the President of the United States. I don't think that's ever happened before.

So, it was a great -- it was a great debate. And I thought it went really, really well. I thought the questions from the audience were, you know, very -- were thought out well and they were good questions to the president. I thought he gave very reasonable answers. I thought he took the questions seriously and tried to address these folks' concerns. And it was nice to be part of that.

LEMON: You know, Anderson played his sound bite of the asking the president about, you know, the taking your guns away. There is, Mr. Kelly, a gut-level fear that so many gun owners have that the government wants to register their guns and eventually take them away. And you asked the president about that and here's what he said. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KELLY: As you know, Gabby and I are 100 percent behind the concept of somebody getting a background check before buying a gun. But when we testified in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee we heard not only from the gun lobby but from United States senators that expanding background checks will, not may, will lead to a registry which will lead to confiscation, which will lead to a tyrannical government.

[22:10:00] So, I would like you to explain, with 350 million guns in 65 million places households from Key West to Alaska, 350 million objects in 65 million places, if the federal government wanted to confiscate those objects, how would they do that?

OBAMA: This notion of a conspiracy out there and it gets wrapped up in concerns about the federal government. Now, there's a long history of that. That's in our DNA. You know, the United States was born suspicious of some distant authority.

COOPER: But let me just check, is it fair to call it a conspiracy? I mean...

OBAMA: Yes.

COOPER: ... a lot of people really believe this deeply. That they just don't...

OBAMA: No, no.

COOPER: ... they just don't trust you.

OBAMA: I'm sorry, Cooper. Yes. It is fair to call it a conspiracy. What are you saying?

(APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: Are you suggesting that the notion that we are creating a plot to take everybody's guns away so that we can impose martial law is a conspiracy?

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Not everybody but there is certainly...

OBAMA: Yes. That is a conspiracy. I would hope that you would agree with that?

(APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: Is that controversial except on some web sites around the country?

COOPER: There are certainly a lot of people who just have a fundamental distrust that you do want to get further and further and further down this road.

OBAMA: Look, I'm only going to be here for another year. I don't know, when -- when would I have started on this enterprise, right?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: I want to get reactions from both you guys. But, Mark, you first.

KELLY: Well, I'm a practical I think and pragmatic person, you know, as a space shuttle commander, I like to think I'm driven by data. And, you know, the data is there are 350 million firearms and 65 million households, so thereabouts.

And it is inconceivable that the government, even if the government ever wanted to that they could. So, I thought that it was important to bring that up that night in light of Father Flagger's question and the president's -- president's answer. It's one -- it's just one of those things that, you know, has never been properly explained to me.

LEMON: Yes. Anderson, it was an interesting reaction. Do you think that -- people have strong reaction to this. Do you think the president understands the level of mistrust that some people feel about that issue?

COOPER: I think he certainly -- you know, he knows the level of mistrust that's out there. I mean, again, you look at the gun sales that go up, you know, every time he speaks out on this issue. We've heard this time.

And again, there was a guy quoted, an investor quoted that I think it was The New York Times yesterday saying that President Obama is the greatest salesman for guns or has been during his administration.

You know, look, I'm not a conspiracy theorist, I don't -- I don't, you know, see or believe that the government -- you know, that there are vast machinations going on or the people at the governments they can keep things secret, certainly in the United States.

But there is certainly mistrust. And I think that's what, you know, maybe I was -- you know, in artfully trying to get at with my question. By calling it just saying, oh, it's a conspiracy theory. I guess I wanted him to try to get at, that just the fundamental distrust that so many gun owners have out there about further background checks or further, what the president would call common sense gun reform.

LEMON: So, Mark, you know that firsthand the terrible toll that gun violence takes on families. And I think that anyone would know better than you. But what was the most meaningful moment at this Town Hall for you?

KELLY: You know, there's not a -- you know, one thing that jumps out at me. You know, the wife of Chris Kyle, you know, somebody who has, you know, served this country so honorably, you know, that he had to die in the manner that he did. You know, I thought it was interesting to hear her question.

I talked to her later and thanked her for the service for his service and hers as well as a military spouse. I think for me personally, you know, that was one of the, you know, more significant interactions that I had.

But, you know, overall, it was just having this debate with people who differ on issues. And I think the more we can do that the better and the more often we can solve this nation's problems.

LEMON: Thank you, Mr. Kelly. Thank you, Cooper. Anderson Cooper, nice job this evening.

COOPER: When the president calls you by your last name you know you're in trouble.

LEMON: You're -- it's like your mom using your full name. Anderson Cooper, get out that room right now. And your middle name and you're really in trouble.

All right, gentlemen, thank you very much. I appreciate you joining us. Nice job, Anderson.

When we come right back, who are America's gun owners and what can the president do to get them on his side?

[22:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: It has been an extraordinary Town Hall tonight, President Barack Obama speaking directly to the American people laying out his case on guns.

Let's discuss this with CNN's Gloria Borger and John King. I found it fascinating and that the president sat there and took it from all sides on this issue which he should be commended for. Maybe people didn't people didn't agree with him. Not sure if he changed any minds. But, you know, Gloria, Anderson asked the president about an op-ed that he wrote for the New York Times coming out tomorrow. Take a look at this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: You wrote an op-ed that just got published.

OBAMA: Yes.

COOPER: A lot of people probably have not read it yet. One of the things you say in that is that you are not going to campaign for, vote for any candidate regardless of what party they're in if they do not support common sense gun reform.

(APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: Yes. I meant what I said. And the reason -- the reason I said that is this, the majority of people in this country are a lot more sensible than what you see in Washington. And the reason that Washington doesn't work well, in part, is because the loudest, shrillest voices, the least compromising, the most powerful, or those with the most money, have the most influence. And the way Washington changes is when people vote. I'm going to throw

my shoulders behind folks who want to actually solve problems instead of just you know, getting a high score from an interest group.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: It's interesting because he is saying, Gloria, the loudest voices aren't necessarily the majority. Maybe they just have more money, maybe they have more influence. But essentially, he is laying out a litmus test for democratic candidates.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.

[22:19:59] LEMON: And that -- that is a big change because democrats have not always been so supportive of new gun laws, right?

BORGER: Sure.

LEMON: Is he playing with fire here politically?

BORGER: No. He's probably not because the democratic constituency, the Obama coalition is very different from the way Bill Clinton's coalition was when he ran for president. It's more urban. It's younger. The demographics have changed here and they figure the people they are going to lose on the gun issue, they've already lost, OK?

So, it's not dangerous for him and for Hillary Clinton, for that matter on the presidential level.

LEMON: Yes.

BORGER: On the congressional level, I'm not so sure. Because that goes state by state and district by district. But what the president is saying here is that I'm going to start behaving like the NRA. I'm going to be a single issue guy. Because the only way to beat the NRA is to be as strident about our position on gun control as the NRA is about its position.

He's saying I'm going to fight fire with fire and he knows that this election is not going to be a persuasion election. People are already pretty much decided on this issue but it's a mobilization election. It's going to be about intensity and getting your voters out. And what he's trying to do is stir up that intensity on the democratic side.

LEMON: John Carlton King.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, sir.

LEMON: Yes, I know...

(CROSSTALK)

KING: Call to the principal's office.

LEMON: I know you're listening now. So, you know, CNN has a new poll on the president's actions. I want you to run through some of the numbers for us.

KING: It's fascinating to look at because the president is on very solid ground with what he wants to propose, but he is on very difficult ground with how he is doing it.

Look at the numbers here. Sixty seven percent of Americans favor what the president outlined the other day. His, you know, more background checks if you sell guns online, you have to register as a dealer, more money for mental health, more investigative agents to speed up the background checks.

That's a big number, 67 percent support, only one third opposed. Look at the party break down, 85 percent of democrats were in the president's cap, and majority only 51 percent of republicans but still that's a majority and 65 percent of independents.

But here is the problem, Don. They like what he wants to do, they don't like how he is doing it. Look at that, only 44 percent support and a majority oppose the use of the executive actions. And if you look at the partisan break down there, 78 percent of democrats say, OK, Mr. President, use your executive powers, but 80 percent of republicans, 79 percent of republicans and 60 percent of independents say, no, Mr. President. This is not the way to do it.

So, what he wants to do they're fine with, most Americans, how he is doing it, that's the big problem.

LEMON: All right. Let's listen to another exchange.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: First of all, it's important for everybody to understand that what I proposed and what I haven't proposed. What I said consistently throughout my presidency is I respect the Second Amendment, I respect the right to bear arms. I respect people who want a gun for self- protection, for hunting, for sportsmanship.

But all of us can agree that it makes sense to do everything we can to keep guns out of the hands of people who would try to do others harm or to do themselves harm. Because every year, we're losing 30,000 people to gun violence. Two-thirds of those are actually suicides.

Hundreds of kids under the age of 18 are being shot. Or shooting themselves, often by accident. Many of them under the age of 5. And so, if we can combine gun safety with sensible background checks and some other steps we're not going to eliminate gun violence but we will lessen it.

And if we take that number from 30,000 down to, let's say, 28,000 -- that's 2,000 families who don't have to go through what the families at New Town or San Bernardino or Charleston went through. And so, what we've proposed is that if you have a background check system that has a bunch of big loopholes, which is why a lot of criminals and people who shouldn't have guns are able to get guns.

(END VIDEO CLIP) LEMON: You know, Gloria, he said that partially during the White

House speech a couple days ago. He is limiting expectations here saying that his plan will not necessarily stop mass killings or even most of the day-to-day killings that take place. Is that why he is getting so much criticism?

BORGER: Well, look, his plan is really clarifying existing law. It's not huge.

LEMON: You call it minuscule. And it was like, no, no.

BORGER: It is -- it is -- well, you know, in the grand scheme of things...

LEMON: It's limited itself.

BORGER: ... let me just this, compared to what he proposed in 2013 after New Town, which was background checks, you know, all kinds of stuff.

LEMON: Semiautomatic.

BORGER: A semiautomatic -- right. Limiting the number of rounds, et cetera, et cetera. This is -- this is small compared to that. And I believe that what he's trying to say and he has said it is that, look, this isn't going to happen in my administration but I am laying down a marker here.

[22:25:00] What he thinks of as common sense, others see as a grand conspiracy, as you pointed out in your bite earlier in the show. And I think the common ground here is on the mental health issue. And what surprises me is that the president hasn't sat down with a group of people. There are lots of bills pending on Capitol Hill.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Bipartisan group, right?

BORGER: And let's say -- let's find out a way on this mental health issue to at least get a small part of this done. Because when you talk about suicides, et cetera, that's a mental health issue.

LEMON: Yes. Hey, John, I really want to get this in because I think it's important. Over 300 million guns in America -- you heard Mark Kelly talked about that. So, who owns them? Shed some light on that for us.

KING: Well, we asked to our poll. Are you a gun owner or someone in your house, in your household a gun owner? Forty percent of Americans say, yes, there is a gun in their household, you see the bare majority that 51 percent say no. Again, a big partisan difference. Thirty one percent of democrats say there is a gun in their household, Don, 53 percent of republicans say that, you know, guns.

So, republicans are more likely to have guns, which of course then, you can make an obvious connection to the debate the president has right now. But back to your broader point about this, I think it's fascinating tonight that, this is why I wish we had question time in our system, like the Britt's have where the president, you know, the prime minister has to go before the parliament.

LEMON: Exactly.

KING: If the president had to go before Congress all the people who stood up and have the courage to opposed the president, standing a feet away, that's a hard thing to do as Anderson noted earlier. I bet most of them left the room at least understanding the president's view a little bit and respecting a little bit more.

And hopefully, he left the room understanding and respecting his critics a little bit more.

LEMON: Yes.

KING: Imagine if we had that conversation between the president and Congress.

LEMON: It was interesting for me when at the same moment, Michael Smerconish and I have the same idea. He was sitting there and watching it. When he said, everybody in that room if you are going to go anywhere the president is you have to go through a background check.

If you're going to go, who up at the White House...

BORGER: Right.

LEMON: ... you have -- you must go through a background check. So, you know, the idea that people are opposed in some ways to a background check, many of the people who are in the room...

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: Well...

KING: It's much more of a distrust of government. It's not so much his position of background check.

BORGER: Right.

LEMON: Yes.

KING: It's so much broader mistrust of government that gets you into this political...

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: Yes. And they don't think it will work. So, they don't the government for it.

LEMON: I'm getting -- I'm getting my full name in my ear that we have to go.

BORGER: OK. LEMON: So, thank you. I appreciate it. See you, guys, soon. Thank you, Gloria. Thank you, John.

Up next, will republicans in Congress work with President Obama on any of his proposals? I'm going to talk to the congressman who says the president's plan won't stop gun violence. Coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[22:30:00] LEMON: President Barack Obama holding a nationally televised Town Hall right here in CNN to rally public support for his executive action on guns and really answering some questions and clarifying what he has proposed.

So, joining me tonight is Congressman Luke Messer, republican of Indiana who is chairman of the Republican House Policy Committee. Thank you, sir. How you doing?

LUKE MESSER, INDIANA STATE REPRESENTATIVE: Don, I'm doing great. Great to be on.

LEMON: President Obama -- is President Obama coming after guns? Because that's what many republicans are saying. Do you believe that personally?

MESSER: Well, you know, as I listened to the president tonight I couldn't help but think of his campaign seven years ago, where the president spoke in really moderate tones, but if you listened the essence, he said he want to fundamentally change America.

And I think tonight, you heard a very similar presentation. The president gave and put on a good show, he talked in very moderate tones. But if you get to the essence of what he is saying he wants to fundamentally change gun ownership and Second Amendment rights...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: How is that fundamentally changing gun ownership by -- because the Second Amendment is not unlimited and even conservative members of the Supreme Court have said that that it's not unlimited.

MESSER: No.

LEMON: By having people who should -- don't have the mental capacity to carry or own a gun and not have one, how is that fundamentally changing America?

MESSER: Listen, I mean, when the president talked about mental health reform and when he talked about background checks or enforcing the current law, those are all things that there is really an opportunity for consensus.

But when you get past those conversations and he really -- and he talks about his anecdotes of the problems with guns in America, all of those would be solved by limiting gun ownership. Now the president made a lot of promises tonight, but, you know, as

you know, Don, this is a president on his health care law who promised that if you like your doctor you could keep him. And he said that if you like your insurance...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: But, Congressman, isn't that -- with all due respect, but isn't that the exact opposite. Because the president, instead of taking something away, he was trying to give every single American health care. He's not saying taking -- he's not saying, hey, listen, I'm going to take your health care away and therefore you can't get it. He is giving people health care. But I still did understand...

(CROSSTALK)

MESSER: No, listen -- you don't understand -- let me finish -- Don, let me finish my comment.

LEMON: But you didn't answer my question. But you didn't -- let me get the question in. I will let you finish.

MESSER: No, let me finish first.

LEMON: But you did not answer my question when I asked you how is that fundamentally changing America? By not allowing people who shouldn't -- who don't have the mental capacity to carry a gun, not to own it. How is that change fundamentally?

MESSER: I told you precisely that the president talked about two or three different things, mental health reforms, background checks, enforcement laws that wouldn't change America.

But when you get past that to his agenda, and as you and I both know he has proposed gun control laws, it would be a fundamental change. And the point I was making that you interrupted, Don, is that this is a president that has made promises before that he has broken.

He drew a red line in Syria. He didn't keep it. So, you've got to give the American people a little bit of slack when they question whether this president will keep his promises.

LEMON: OK. So, you saw how irritated the president got to the idea that this is part of a conspiracy to take away guns. So, for the record, are you saying that you don't believe him? That he is lying to the public?

MESSER: You know, it was a classic President Obama argument, he put up with Anderson Cooper a straw man argument that somebody was saying he is going to confiscate all guns in America. I don't believe that the president is trying to confiscate all guns in America, but the president is trying to limit access to guns.

And the fundamental disagreement here is that criminals don't care about gun control legislation. Those who will murder will murder in regardless of gun control legislation. Gun control is only proven effective in keeping guns from law-abiding citizens. That's why the millions of Americans who are law-abiding citizens and owned guns are concerned about efforts to limit them.

LEMON: OK. So, all right, there is a lot to impact there. But I'll just -- for the sake of time. Is there common ground between you and the president? Is there something that you could agree on that would limit gun violence that won't strengthen do you think or threaten, excuse me, the Second Amendment?

MESSER: Yes. I think there is some real opportunity in looking at mental health reform. There could be bipartisan support there and enforcing current laws. There could be a lot of opportunity for bipartisan support there.

I think that the president makes those things difficult when he leads with rhetoric that talks about gun bans and gun control. Listen, we are all heart broken by the tragedies in this country, gun tragedies in this country and we can do more. I think there's an opportunity for common ground.

But the common ground isn't in gun control. And the reason for that is not some boogeyman of a gun lobby. It's the tens of millions of Americans who are concerned and fearful of their government limiting their ability to have access to guns.

LEMON: Congressman, thank you so much. We appreciate you joining us tonight.

MESSER: Thanks, Don.

LEMON: Thank you. I want to bring in now a young man from Chicago named Tre Bosley who lost his brother to gun violence. He got a chance to ask the president a question tonight at the Town Hall. Here is what the president told him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[22:35:06] BARACK OBAMA, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA PRESIDENT: Tre, when I see you I think about my own youth. Because I wasn't that different from you. Probably not as articulate, and maybe more of a goof off. But the main difference was I lived in a more forgiving environment. If I screwed up, I wasn't at risk of getting shot.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So, joining me now is Tre Bosley and his mother Pamela Bosley. It's good to talk to you. I haven't seen you in quite some time. The last time was Father Flagger's search at St. Divine and it's been years ago that we have been covering in this issue and trying to deal with it, right? So, how are you, guys, doing?

TRE BOSLEY, BROTHER OF MURDER VICTIM: That's correct.

PAMELA BOSLEY, MOTHER OF MURDER VICTIM: We're doing OK.

LEMON: Yes. Tre, you asked the final question to President Obama. What did you think of his response?

T. BOSLEY: I was very excited by his response. I was really happy to hear what he had to say. And I really liked how he gave me a genuine answer to what I wanted to know.

LEMON: yes. As you sat in the room, mom, and you listened to, you know, both sides. Again, he said, you really must be proud of your son and I know you are because I've spoken to you about that.

P. BOSLEY: Yes, I am.

LEMON: Yes. That point is moot because you are. But as you sat there in the room and you listened to people, you know, talk about, you know, taking away their guns and, you know, on and on and on, the NRA was not there, what was going through your head? What did you think?

P. BOSLEY: You know what? My son was murdered on the streets of Chicago 10 years ago, and they don't get it. In Chicago, our crime rate is high. I know that he was talking about violence decreasing in America.

But in Chicago it's not. In the last seven days, we had 55 people shot, 10 dead or more. And I'm concerned about my son, Tre, you know, walking up and down the streets. He can't go outside and he don't feel safe. I don't let him go to the basketball court to play basketball or anything.

So, I'm concerned of my other two sons, I don't want to lose another son to violence. So, I want the president to -- this is an emergency for us. Do something to change these laws.

LEMON: Yes. You mentioned you said in the past how many days. But I have information from the first of the year and we just had it up, 11 homicides in 2016 in Chicago. That's been a week, right? Five people shot -- not really quite a week yet. Five people shot in Chicago this afternoon...

(CROSSTALK)

P. BOSLEY: No.

LEMON: ... from 1.57 -- yes. And it is -- you know, one is in critical condition. The day is not even over in Chicago, yet 9.37 Central Time now. Tre, do you think there it needs to...

P. BOSLEY: And three yesterday.

LEMON: yes. Do you think that there needs to be more done beyond the executive action of what the president is proposing, Tre?

T. BOSLEY: Of course, yes. Because he can only do so much. So, I'm part of a group, anti-violence group called Brave. And what we do is go out in the community and we do different anti violent things, but we are stopped by different funding issues.

So, it's -- I think we need more groups like us and more funding put into groups that are guest violence or are trying to make a change against the violence. And other things such as like jobs. Because most of the people committing the crimes that I know where I'm at, and getting these illegal guns and what they're doing is because they have no other outlet. So, they have to go and do these little illegal things and only just to survive.

LEMON: Yes. So, we've got to run. But thank you, guys, so much. Happy New Year to you, and we appreciate you coming on CNN. That is pretty brave of you, Tre. I'll see you, guys, soon.

T. BOSLEY: OK.

LEMON: Thank you.

T. BOSLEY: All right.

LEMON: Coming up, the parents of Jessica Ghawi, one of the victims of the massacre at the movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado. Sandy and Lonnie Phillips were also at the president's Town Hall tonight; they will join us live next.

[22:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: President Obama taking questions from all sides tonight about guns in American in a Town Hall right here on CNN.

So, joining me now, two people who were in the audience, Sandy Phillips, mother of Aurora victim Jessica Ghawi, and Lonnie Phillips, Jessica's stepfather.

It's good to have you here. We have been texting all day but I have not been able to talk to you, Sandy, and text this since the Town Hall. This was personal for you. So, what did you think?

SANDY PHILLIPS, MOTHER OF AURORA VICTIM JESSICA GHAWI: It was such a nice evening and I think the best part of all of this is that the American public are finally hearing the details of what's missing in the gun laws that everybody says enforce the laws that are already there.

They're now learning that there are big chunks that are missing in these laws and these laws are old. So, addressing the online sales and that the mental illness part that has fallen apart in our country over the last few years, last 20 years, this is all really good information for the American public to have.

LEMON: Yes. You're talking about progress and the president talked about making progress. So, let's hear a little from the Town Hall.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: I just want to emphasize that the goal here is just to make progress. It's interesting. As I enter into my last year as president, I could not be proud of the work that we've done but it also makes you really humble. Because you realize that change takes a long time. And a lot of the work you do is just to incrementally make things

better so that 10 years from now, 20 years from now, the crime rate has gone down.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So, either one, Lonnie or Sandy, did you leave there feeling positive about the future?

LONNIE PHILLIPS, STEPFATHER OF AURORA VICTIM JESSICA GHAWI: Oh, absolutely. You know, this conversation needs to happen just like it did tonight. You know, it's a shame that the NRA didn't take the president up on his invitation to come and talk because the people that represented the NRA, the ones that he asked them to ask him questions, and the president's answers was very clear and concise and to the point. And very respectful to the people that were asking the questions.

[22:44:57] The whole thing was respectful. And that's what we need to do all over the country. We need to stop with all the screaming, the shouting, the rhetoric and just listen to each other and see that we're not trying to take anybody's guns.

What is he going to do with the 350 million guns? He doesn't have a place to store them.

LEMON: Yes.

L. PHILLIPS: So, like he said, he just...

LEMON: Go ahead.

L. PHILLIPS: Go ahead. He's just -- he's just trying to help the American people understand. That we want to make some progress. He's not trying to pass any new laws. He's just trying to improve the ones that we've already have.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Would you have like the NRA to have been there tonight?

L. PHILLIPS: Absolutely.

S. PHILLIPS: Well, of course. You know, I think what's being exposed now is all the NRA lies and the rhetoric that they've had free rein with for the last 20, 25 years. And now they're being called out on it.

And I think he did an excellent job of saying, you know, we've spread paranoia and fear and that's been done by the gun lobby. Sensible Americans and most of us are sensible Americans, look at what they have to say and go, how can anybody by into that rhetoric?

But unfortunately, there have been people who have and now they are very radicalized and very angry and very fearful of their own government. LEMON: Do you think he changed any minds?

S. PHILLIPS: I don't know it's his job to change minds. I think it's a cultural issue. And it will change over time. I think he just defended his stance and he's been listening to the American people and he's doing what he knows is the right thing to do. He's taken the moral high ground. I'm very proud of our president.

L. PHILLIPS: I think he's taken away some of the -- he's taken away from the public 90 percent of us, 80 percent of gun owners, 74 percent of the NRA members want reasonable background checks. And I think that's the point he's trying to make. To just inform extra movement.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: He's trying to inform the public about -- yes -- about progress. And again, this conversation is about progress.

S. PHILLIPS: Exactly.

LEMON: I have got to run, guys. So, thank you so much. It's always a pleasure to talk to you.

S. PHILLIPS: No problem.

LEMON: And Sandy, hopefully I'll see you at the end of January, OK?

S. PHILLIPS: I'm looking forward to that.

LEMON: All right. Thanks a lot.

L. PHILLIPS: Thanks.

LEMON: The big question in the wake of tonight's Town Hall, will the president's plan work?

When we come right back, two perspectives on that.

[22:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: President Barack Obama answering questions from all sides on the gun debate tonight in Washington, D.C. at a Town Hall. But did he change any minds?

Joining me now two people with very different perspectives. Suzanna Gratia Hupp, who lost her parents in a mass shooting at Lois Cafeteria, that was in Texas in 1991. She's the author of "From Luby's to the Legislature."

Also, Van Jones, a former Obama administration official. I'm so glad to have you here and I have been watching you, Van, I'm watching the Town Hall.

SUZANNA GRATIA HUPP, FORMER TEXAS STATE LEGISLATOR: Thank you.

LEMON: It was just really amazing. You, Suzanna, you know, you are a shooting survivor with very different perspective than some of the others we've heard from this week.

HUPP: Sure.

LEMON: And tonight, quite frankly, so, what don't you like about the president's executive actions?

HUPP: Oh, my goodness, where can I begin? I can tell you this. Not only am I a survivor but I lost my both parents that day. So, I can tell you that the only thing that the gun laws did was prevent me from protecting myself and my family.

And that's typically the only thing that gun laws do, is to keep people like me from protecting ourselves. It's a Second Amendment right, in fact, that's the only right that I can think of in the Bill of Rights that we keep putting hoops in front of people that they have to jump through to exercise their right.

LEMON: But no one has really made any difference or changed any gun laws -- if ever when it comes to -- you know, except for George Bush when there was a temporary ban on semi-assault weapons and, you know, then it was reinstated. So, what hoops.

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Are you asking me?

LEMON: No, Suzanna, can you hear me?

HUPP: I'm sorry? Oh, I can now, yes, try again.

LEMON: OK. I'll go out to Van Jones since you heard the question. Van Jones, what hoops?

JONES: Well, I don't -- first of all, I just have so much sympathy for her loss and for the loss of so many people have faced because of gun violence.

I do take issue with the constant assertion that nothing can be done and nothing is effective. If you look at Missouri when they took a step back away from background checks they had a 14 percent increase in homicides, about 60 more people a year started dying.

So, if you look at Connecticut, when they implemented background checks they had a 40 percent drop in gun-related homicides. So, the statistics show that when you have the background checks that this president is talking about making sure it apply to everybody you do see a statistically significant decrease in violence.

That doesn't mean every case. But the idea that there is nothing you can do is not just proven by the facts.

LEMON: So, Suzanna, I know you want to respond to that. But -- and you response, I want you to listen to this first.

HUPP: Yes.

LEMON: And then I promise you that you can respond to what he said because I think this is all part of it. HUPP: OK.

LEMON: In the Town Hall tonight the president was confronted by a victim of violent crime. Her name is Kimberly Corban. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KIMBERLY CORBAN, VIOLENT CRIME VICTIM: I have been unspeakingly victimized once already and I refuse to let that happen again to myself or my kids. So, why can't your administration and see that these restrictions that you're putting to make it harder for me to own a gun or harder for me to take that where I need to be is actually just making my kids and I less safe?

OBAMA: I just want to repeat that there's nothing that we proposed that would make it harder for you to purchase a firearm.

You certainly would like to make it a little harder for that assailant to have also have had a gun. You certainly would want to make sure that if he gets released, that he now can't do what he did to you to somebody else.

[22:54:59] And it's going to be easier for us to prevent him from getting a gun if there is a strong background system in place.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So, what's your reaction, Suzanna?

HUPP: I have to tell you, that was the one absolutely shocking point for me in the whole show. I thought he was incredibly condescending to that rape victim. He indicated or insinuated to her that she wasn't capable of being able to take care of herself with her gun.

I thought that was very clear. And frankly, I was genuinely offended by it. I can tell you this that over the last 25 years or so, the one thing that's become crystal clear to me is that these mass shootings occur where guns are not allowed.

I can't imagine how different it might have been in the Paris shootings if there had been just a few people in that room that had weapons, maybe they wouldn't have come out alive, but it certainly would have been -- it certainly would have changed the odds.

And it certainly wouldn't have been as high of a body bag count, in my opinion.

LEMON: Van...

HUPP: These things only happen where you take away people's right to carry.

LEMON: So, Van, in the current legislation with the president is proposing...

(CROSSTALK) HUPP: I know you're saying, well, we're not talking about taking away

people's rights.

LEMON: You bet.

HUPP: You're saying we're just looking at creating a few more hoops to jump through.

LEMON: Well, I have to -- I do have to run. So, that's going to be it. But I don't think anything in this legislation is talking about taking away anyone's rights in that way. It's just people who are mental -- this is just background checks.

So, thank you, guys. I appreciate you joining us. Unfortunately, we're out of time. We'll be right back.

[23:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: I really appreciate you just paid this conversation with us tonight. We'll see you back here tomorrow night, special time...