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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Obama Presses For Gun Control In CNN Town Hall; Would Tighter Gun Laws Have Stopped Mass Shootings?; Obama: Theory I want To Confiscate Guns Is A "Conspiracy"; Obama: NRA "Down The Street," They Chose Not To Attend; Obama: Budget Cut Make It "Impossible' To Enforce Gun Laws; Rape Survivor: Carrying A Weapon "My Responsibility As A Parent!"; Obama: First Lady Said She Want A Gun If She Lived In A Farmhouse
Aired January 7, 2016 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[21:00:02] BARACK OBAMA, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA PRESIDENT: ... the conspiracy, yes, that is a conspiracy. I would hope that you would agree with that. Is that controversial? Except on some website around the country?
ANDERSON COOPER, AC360 HOST: There are certainly a lot of people who just have a fundamental distrust that you do not want to get -- go further and further and further down this road.
OBAMA: Look, I mean, I'm only going to be here for another year. I don't know when would I have started on this enterprise. Right? I come from the State of Illinois which -- we've been talking about Chicago but down State Illinois is closer to Kentucky than it is to Chicago. And everybody hunts down there. And a lot of folks own guns. And so this is not like alien territory to me.
I've got a lot of friends like Mark (ph) who are hunters.
I just came back from Alaska where I ate a moose that had just been shot, and it was pretty good. So yes, it is a, it is a false notion that I believe is circulated for either political reasons or commercial reasons in order to prevent a coming together among people of good will to develop common sense rules that will make us safer while preserving the Second Amendment.
And the notion that we can't agree on some things while not agreeing on others and the reason for that is because well, the president secretly wants to do X. Would mean that we'd be paralyzed about doing everything. I mean, maybe when I propose to make sure that, you know, unsafe drugs are taken off the market that secretly I'm trying to control the entire drug industry or take people's drugs away, but probably not. What's more likely is, I just want to make sure that people are not dying by taking bad drugs.
COOPER: You wrote an Op-Ed that just got published.
OBAMA: Yes. COPPER: A lot of people probably have not read it yet. One of the things you say in it, is that you are not going to campaign for, vote for, any candidate regardless of what party they are in if they do not support common sense gun reform?
OBAMA: Yeah. 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. And the way we break the deadlock on this issue, is when Congress does not have just a strangle hold on this debate or excuse me, the NRA does not have a strangle hold on Congress in this debate, but it is balanced by a whole bunch of folks, gun owners, law enforcement. The majority of the American people, when their voices are heard, then things get done.
The proposals that we put forward are a version, will be lawful, more narrow version, but what was proposed by Joe Mansion and Senator Toomey of Pennsylvania or Republican and Democrat both of whom get straight A's scores from the NRA. And somehow after Newtown that did not pass the Senate.
The majority of senators wanted it but 90 percent of republicans voted against it. And I'll be honest with you, 90 percent of those senators didn't disagree with the proposal, but they were fearful that is going to affect them during the election.
So, all I'm saying is, is that, this debate will not change and get balanced out so that lawful gun owners and their Second Amendment rights are protected but we're also creating a pathway towards a safer set of communities.
[21:05:01] It's not going to change until those who are concerned about violence are not as focused and disciplined during election time as those who are.
And, you know, 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.
COOPER: We have time for one more question. And we talked about Chicago a little bit. We haven't really heard from young people tonight, no offense to those who have spoken, because I'm in the same category as you all, this is sorry, father.
But there's a lot of kids as, you know, growing up in Chicago fearful of walking to school, fearful of coming home from school.
COOPER: A lot of kids have been killed on buses. There's a lot of moms of kids who have been killed in the streets of Chicago. And I want you to meet Tre Bosley. He's 18 years old. He's a high school student and his brother Terrell was shot and killed nearly 10 years ago when he was helping a friend in a church parking lot. Terrell would have turned 28 years old on this Tuesday. What's your question, Tre?
TRE BOSLEY, BROTHER KILLED IN CHICAGO SHOOTING: Yeah. As you said, I lost my brother a few years ago -- well, 10 years ago and I've also lost countless amount of family members and friends to a gun violence, as well. And just speaking on growing up as a young black teen in Chicago where you're surrounded by not only just gun violence but police brutality, as well. Most of us aren't thinking of our life on the long-term scale. Most of us are thinking day to day, hour to hour, for some even minute to minute.
I wanted to thank you for your stand against gun violence for are not only the victims of gun violence but those on the verge of being victims of gun violence.
And my question to you is, what is your advice to those youth growing up surrounded by poverty and gun violence?
OBAMA: Well, first of all, Terrel, I couldn't be prouder and I know -- is that your mom next to you? I know she's proud of you right now. So good job, mom.
You know, when I see you, Terrell, I think about my own...
OBAMA: Excuse me, 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. I'd get a second chance. There were a bunch of folks who were looking out for me and there weren't a lot of guns on the streets, and that's how all kids should be growing up, wherever they live.
I mean, my main advice to you is to continue to be an outstanding role model for the young ones who are coming up behind you. Keep listening to your mom. Work hard and get an education. Understand that high school and whatever peer pressure or restrictions you're under right now, won't matter by the time you're a full adult and what matters is your future.
But what I also want to say to you is that, you're really important to the future of this country. And I think it is critical in this debate to understand that it's not just inner city kids who are at risk in these situations. Out of the 30,000 deaths due to gun violence, about two-thirds of them are actually suicides. That's part of the reason why we've investing more heavily also in mental health under my proposal. But while the majority of victims of gun homicide are black or Hispanic, the overwhelming majority of suicides by young people are white, and those, too, are tragedies. Those, too, are preventable. I'm the father of two outstanding young women but being a teenager is tough and, you know, we all remember, you know, that there times where you get confused, you're angry and then next thing you know if you have access to a firearm what kind of bad decisions you might make. So those are deaths we also want to prevent.
Accidental shootings are also deaths we want to prevent and we're not going to prevent all of them. But we can do better. We're not going to -- through this initiative alone, solve all the problems of inner city crime. Some of that as I said has to do with investing in the communities and making sure there is good education and jobs and opportunity.
[21:10:05] And, you know, great parents and moral responsibility and ethical behavior and instilling that in our kids. That's going to be important.
So this is not a proposal to solve every problem, it's a modest way of us getting started on improving the prospects of young men and young women like you the same way we try to improve every other aspect of our lives. That's all it is, and if we get started as I said before, it used to be people didn't wear seat belts, didn't have air bags, it takes 20, 30 years, but you look and then you realize all these amazing lives of young people like this who are contributing to our society because we came together in a practical way, looking at evidence, looking at data and figured out how can we make that work better.
Right now, Congress prohibits us even studying through the Center for Disease Control ways in which we can reduce gun violence. That's how crazy this thing has become. Let's at least figure out what works and some of the proposals that I'm making may turn out are not as effective as others but at least let's figure it out, let's try some things, let's just not assume that every few weeks there's a mass shooting that gets publicity.
Every few months, there's one that gets national publicity. Everyday there are a whole bunch of folks shot on streets around the country that we don't even hear about. That is -- that is not something that we can be satisfied with and part of my faith and hope in America is just that not that we achieve a perfect union but that we get better and we can do better than we're doing right now if we come together.
COOPER: Mr. President, thank you very much for your time. I want to thank everybody here that took part, everyone who made this vital conversation possible. President Obama, all our guests, George Mason University everyone the conversation continues now with CNN Jake Tapper. Thank you.
OBAMA: Thank you guys.
COOPER: Thank you very much. Really an honor, sir.
(END VIDEO CLIP) JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening. I'm Jake Tapper and you just watched a remarkable event on live Town Hall meeting with President Obama and he spoke with CNN's Anderson Cooper and real people from across the political spectrum about guns and gun violence and gun control. Let's talk about it.
I'm joined here in Washington by an all star group of CNN analyst's and experts. You'll hear reactions from the folks who spoke face-to- face with the President.
Let's get some initial reaction from some of our commentators here. Hugh Hewitt, you're a skeptic of President Obama, a skeptic of his proposals. What did you think? Did he convince anyone in that room if he didn't convince you?
HUGH HEWITT, THE HUGH HEWITT SHOW HOST: No, I'm very disappointed, it was a terrific setting, Anderson Cooper opened with a very tough set of questions about why do you talk about confiscation? Why do you talk about Australia? What's your trust deficit? Anderson closed with tough questions, he got tough questions from Taya, he got tough questions from Kimberly, from Sheriff Paul, he answered none of them.
It's not a conspiracy to worry about this President's abuse of power. He put out an unconstitutional executive order about immigration. He unconstitutionally limited Hobby Lobby's rights. It is not a conspiracy to be concerned about where he is going and to mock, minimize and to denigrate the people whom you ought to be serving is deeply disappointing.
TAPPER: We're watching President Obama as he goes around of the room there at George Mason University and Fairfax, Virginia meeting. There's a lot of supporters as well as skeptics. There were certainly a number of individuals in the room who came armed with questions that were difficult for the President. People who were gun owners.
Jay Carney, former White House Press Secretary, you worked for the President during some very difficult times. I recall covering them, Aurora, the navy yard shooting and of course Newtown. I suspect that a lot of this you've heard from President Obama before but he's certainly making an effort like we've never seen before on this issue.
JAY CARNEY, FMR WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Well he is and, you know, Hugh, I guess I'm disappointed that you view it that way, because I thought the President and both his proposals and his demeanor tonight were pretty reasonable and pretty open to the fact that we're a nation with a lot of different views on this issue.
And I, you know, his executive actions have sparked this conversation in the wake of some more mass shootings, but they are extremely modest and maybe the courts will decide about their constitutionality, but they are very much on the margins of what can be done because the fact is only Congress can take the necessary action to make sure our background check system works efficiently and effectively across the country and that there aren't these giant loopholes and he tried that in the wake of Newtown. [21:15:09] And what was talked about in the event tonight where senators who were discussing a bill to simply close gun show, you know, background check loopholes said it was a conspiracy that would lead to confiscation, that was another misrepresentation and that was a law before Congress that if Congress had passed it become whether it become the law of the land, it was not about executive authority.
Unfortunately, though, 90 percent of the country supported it. Overwhelming majority of republicans and NRA members supported it. It did not get the necessary votes in Congress.
TAPPER: S.E. Cupp, your not only a gun supporter you are a gun owner. What did you hear from the president today?
S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I mean to echo hue, I thought it was it was deeply divisive to divide people, into two groups and I quote him. "Those who are concerned about violence and those who aren't."
I don't think you could find a gun owner in this country that is not concerned about gun violence and just because we don't want to support a slew of meaningless laws that won't make us any safer doesn't mean we don't care. I also think his entire world philosophy as we saw tonight is really predicated on one uniting principle that criminals are somehow going to submit the laws and that require a total suspension of disbelief and a lot of the scenarios that he outlined tonight that he wants to prevent are scenarios that already illegal and he can't explain what new laws, what new legislation, new executive actions, expanded background checks are going to prevent any of these same crimes from being committed.
TAPPER: Van, I suspect you disagree with S.E. Cupp. You also worked for President Obama. What did you think?
VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I see it differently and first of all, I couldn't be prouder of this president. I just couldn't be prouder of this president. I was proud of him when he shed tears earlier this week. Sometimes he's speaking two millions of Americans. He was speaking four millions of Americans who were heart broken.
I also felt like if you were a Republican at some point can you take yes for an answer? Before he even announced any of the stuff, there was a hue and a cry. You had with the conservatives out there saying this is going to be the gun-grabbing apocalypse and then comes out with this very modest stuff that absolutely inside of what republicans said. They said don't make new laws and he didn't. They said focus on mental health. He's asking for a half a billion dollars.
They said enforce existing laws. That's what he's asking for support to do and so for me to sit here and to see this president, it takes character and it takes courage to sit there and have anybody throw any question at you. So he answered well. Some he answered poorly but I'm proud of this president tonight.
HARRY HOUCK, CNN LAW ENFORCMENT: How about some new laws on Van, how about some new laws a minimum mandatory for criminals that use guns in a crime.
TAPPER: Harry, you have to stay introduce you to the audience, Harry Houck, Former NYPD Detective, what exactly do you mean?
HOUCK: Well, you know, I didn't hear him talk anything about putting somebody in jail for something. Basically, you know, our big issue right now is crime in the inner city. That's the big issue. It's not AR-15s, machine guns, its 9 millimeter weapons something like that, small handguns, all right.
The fact is that, there is nothing being done in these cities to stop. You can look at the last, let say pick any city, Chicago, New York City, the last 50 gun arrests, just for me the possession. Go back and take a look at the persecution, you'll find that none of these people went to jail for that unless it was involved in some type of a crime.
TAPPER: Sunny Hostin, a Former Assisting U.S. Attorney, I want to get your reaction to a question put to the president this evening by Sheriff Paul Babeu of Pinal county Arizona. He's been an out spoken advocate for gun rights and here are the questions that I think a lot of people are wondering. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAUL BABEU, SHERIFF, PINAL COUNTY ARIZONA: What would you have done to prevent these mass shootings?
OBAMA: I think it's really important for us not to suggest that if we can't solve every crime, we shouldn't try to solve any crimes. And...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SUNNY HOSTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I think that the president's response was right on target. I was on the front line as an Assistant United States Attorney in D.C. I've been to crime scenes where I have seen bullet ridden victims on the ground, and I think that every responsible gun owner should visit crime scenes because once you see that, it changes you. The bottom line is that criminals are getting these guns, determined criminals are certainly taking advantage of these loopholes and a suggestion somehow that we shouldn't do anything because criminals, you know, won't follow the law is really false.
We know, we know that background checks expanded background checks tighter background checks will prevent criminals from getting guns because criminals do submit to background checks. It's really clear that since 1998, 2.4 million background checks have blocked gun sales to prohibited buyers. So those people that are trying to get guns have been blocked from getting guns but 40 percent of these guns are sold by private sellers and guess what?
[21:20:06] Those criminals are getting the guns there. Why can't we all agree that we don't want criminals to have guns? I don't want to see another bullet within victims that I saw.
TAPPER: So, Sunny has a lot of passion about this. I want to ask two political analysts here. Michael Smerconish and Gloria Borges, Sunny has a lot of passion about this, Harry does, Van, S.E. do we need to see -- I'll start with you Michael, do we need to see more passion from President Obama?
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN ANCHOR: We need to see more passion by those who were in the middle, who are I think the single largest demographic in the country. But passion tends to reside on the fringes on this issue and then other issues. I was struck by the irony tonight of a room full of people who come together to debate background checks. We've all been in that room, what do you have to do? Subject yourself to a background check by giving you're...
TAPPER: To be in the room with the President Obama.
SMERCONISH: And half of them are coming together to say, "Oh we can't have a background check." It's not about a background check. It's about a line that's been drawn in the sand by the NRA and there supporters about anything. Because I agree with Van. This is so modest. He's really seeking to add clarity and definition to who is a hobbyist at gun shows. And if we can't do that we're not doing.
TAPPER: And we should point out, Michael, you own guns.
SMERCONISH: Oh, several of them absolutely.
TAPPER: You have no problem with what the president's proposal?
SMERCONISH: No I think that anyone -- I thought the father's question, was quite interesting when he talk about operating a motor vehicle. I believe that yes it's a right, it's not a pure right and I think that's its entirely reasonable to say if you want to own a dangerous instrument, there are certain parameters that need to apply.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Here's where the president seems to me to be the most passionate to use your work is when. He thought he was being accused of a conspiracy and it was sort of personal for him and that sense.
TAPPER: When he called Anderson Cooper?
BORGER: As in Cooper, Right.
BORGER: As we all do, we don't -- no, so, when he said, "What do you think? I'm only going to be here for another year. Do you think I m actually sitting here and trying to conspire to take away your guns?" It's very clear to me that this is a president where this argument, this gun control issue, it bothers him...
JONES: I tell you what.
BORGER: ... he cried about it obviously because Newtown bothers everybody. CARNEY: I was there for five and a half years, I was in a lot of policy in this session...
CARNEY: A lot issues including issues around gun control and crime and violence and nothing that the conspiracy theorist believe about what President Obama's true intentions are was ever uttered in any room.
HEWITT: Anderson Cooper asks a very important question, why do you keep bringing up Australia where guns were confiscated? He can't answer a direct question. You must -- did it drive you crazy that he can not answer a question?
CARNEY: What he has is gun is proposal anything like what is done in Australia. He can say he what brings that? Why is that...
HEWITT: ... response to mass shootings but he hasn't proposed as President of the United States anything like that and he's never talked about it in policy debates inside the White House.
CUPP: But he did the call for an assault weapons ban in 2013. That legislation...
HEWITT: The virtual outline is supposed and supported by Republican President.
CUPP: Just wait. Just wait. That legislation went to the floor. Diane Feinstein, it was not passed but if he's capable of and interested in banning an entire categories and not just of rifles, that's also hand guns that fell into that ban, why is it a conspiracy that I think he wants to ban some guns? I'm simply taking him at his word.
JONES: Because for me, here's the thing. I never know when I'm trying to get a bill passed what the actual objective of this person, to that person that I work with Newt Gingrich on Criminal Justice Legislation. We don't see eye to eye on very many things but when there's one thing you can't agree on, you should get that done. Oh, my problem is...
JONES: ... there is stuff we can get...
HEWITT: They have the omni on the desk in December. Because that I explain it...
(CROSSTALK) TAPPER: Yeah.
HEWITT: Everything in the world was on the table. The president did not ask for funding for FBI agents, the President did ask for funding for his...
CARNEY: When he asked for stuff...
HEWITT: We could have whatever no, I mean.
TAPPER: I want to ask Harry about the question. Harry, one of the points that the president made was that in his proposals and suggestions he's making, is relief for law enforcement more ATF agents, more FBI agents improving the background check system?
Things he said he was making the argument to a gun dealer or the head of a trade association saying, you should support this, this is going to help you with your job. As a former NYPD detective, do you agree with that part of the legislation and proposal?
HOUCK: Well yes. I think that's great. And listen, I have no problem as a retired New York City detective about the extended background checks. I have no problem with that. The problem I have is what's next? And what the American people and the gun owners are worried about is what's next? The president had said that he's not going to be able to pass gun reform in the last year that he's here.
All right now Mr. President you're talking about this right now. What is gun reform? Can you please tell me how you define that?
[21:25:00] HOSTIN: Well, he did in 2013 and it didn't go anywhere.
HOSTIN: It's so history. It's so absurd. No one is going to take your guns from you. We do have the Second Amendment.
HOUCK: Listen, here is the issue.
HOSTIN: It's different than Australia.
HOUCK: Here is the issue. Americans who own guns that are pro-gun do not trust the president of the United States.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, they don't trust any...
HOUCK: They don't trust in...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Anyone.
HOUCK: Let me tell you something. And I'll tell you why because he has lied to us in several other instances before but we're not talking about that right now. But f you sit there and you listen to him, all right, and the way he speaks, the he talks about gun reform and he talks Australia like you had said that in this man's mind, although he's not telling us, somehow he wants to restrict the Second Amendment further and further.
HOUCK: That's not going to happen.
TAPPER: Michael go ahead.
HOUCK: That's not going to happen.
HOSTIN: That's not going to happen.
HOUCK: That is going to be $1,000 for a gun permit...
HOUCK: ... and a five-year wait list.
TAPPER: Harry, let's take Michael.
SMERCONISH: Harry, this is reminiscent of telephone calls that I use to get on my radio program in 2012, by callers who are suspect of the president. And they would say beware of that second term. It was always what was around the corner. And I would say, if you think he's so got awful and has these evil intentions, why hasn't he done it in the first term? He doesn't know if he's getting a second term. He's now got a year on the clock and people are still worried about what's to come. The only here and now are background checks.
JONES: Well, I just want to say a couple things. First of all, it's just not true what you're saying. He actually is what he looks like -- listen, some of his answers made my skin crawl because there's a sound there, some of the stuff you said just -- was totally missing the point. You didn't understand what the issue was. That's OK. He's really who he is. He's not trying take your guns. And the other one, I want to say simply is this, we at some point have to be able to say yes to each other when we agree, even if he wants to take your guns. What is wrong with agreeing with him on its background?
HOUCK: I agree with the background check, you have that...
CUPP: Van is exactly right. We should all be able to say yes. There's currently a bill on the floor brought up by Senator John Cornyn...
HOSTIN: And others.
CUPP: ... that would have accomplish a lot of what the President wants to expand mental health. FixNICS is a program champions by NSSF which is the National Shooting Sports Federation -- Foundation and the NRA. There are things that the President could have done...
TAPPER: OK, we have to...
CUPP: ... through Congress...
TAPPER: OK, we have to take a quick break.
CUPP: ... and he decided not to.
TAPPER: Don't go anywhere. We'll going to come right back. A moment of tension here and also the nights of -- that we just witnessed. Anderson Cooper who was there with President Obama pressing him on what some Americans believe the lack of trust that he wants to take their guns away. We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Are you suggesting that the notion that we are creating a plot to take everybody's guns away so that we can impose Marshall Law...
COOPER: Not everything, but there is certainly...
OBAMA: ... not a conspiracy? Yes, that...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[21:30:57] TAPPER: Welcome back to CNN Special Coverage, "Guns in America." Anderson Cooper just finished an hour plus session with the president in a pack town hall. His questions put president Obama on the spot.
Let's go now to my colleague, Anderson Cooper. Anderson, I've been on the other end the receiving end of that withering glare from President Obama before. I'd never had and call me by my last name and last week I was accusing of a conspiracy, but you're a little that you have decide and what do you think was the big take away from this evening, what was it like in the room?
COOPER: Well was I -- I don't know that he changed anybody's minds. I mean I think obviously those who came here opposed to his executive actions are probably leading with the same thing. I think well, you know, from my perspective is I wanted an intelligent discussion. I wanted him to actually address people who disagree with him, not just people who agree with him and so often it happens that, you know, and presidential news conference or presidential announcement. And you know, to his credit, he came here. There were no ground rules. He didn't know, you know, any of the questions in advance, anything like that. People were free to ask whatever they wanted.
Some people, you know, changed the questions they told us they thought they might ask as always happens in a town hall. So I thought it was a good exchange of ideas. I hope it's the first of many, because obviously this is a topic which is incredibly important. I don't know that he, you know, converted anybody one way or the other. And I don't know that, you know, I'm going think he kept talking about, you know, we regulate cars and that was one of the question in the audience, Sheriff Babeu from the Pinal County, Arizona came back and say well look, cars aren't in the constitution, the Second Amendment is so.
I mean, I think there is a fundamental disagreement here. I don't know if the president broached that but I thought it was a good, you know, straightforward discussion.
TAPPER: Yeah, I know. It was great and you did a fantastic job. There were obviously people that didn't get to ask their questions, and I know it's difficult to balance a situation like this. What's the feeling like in the room from people who did get to ask questions, did they feel like they were answered? Did they feel like the President was listening to them?
COOPER: I definitely think people felt like the President was listening to them and I think they're going talk to Kimberly who did such an amazing job in just a moment. I think she was, you know, and just -- you know, to stand up in front of the President of the United States that close if you disagree with him and for a person who's not in this business to confront the president on something or a fundamental very personal issue, it takes a lot of strength. It's not easy and some people kind of start to step back from what they think they are going to ask.
I think Kimberly was very good in just coming forward directly on the President. I think he clearly listened. I think he clearly, you know, responded, whether or not it was the answers they wanted, whether they felt he answered as much or the essential issues, I think different people have different opinions, but even those who are still here and many people lingering around because lot of family members here. There are a lot of people and this is a very personal issue and they want to come and make connections with other people on all sides of the isle, there is a sense of a lot of people just even if they didn't get to ask questions, they appreciated the discussion and they were glad they were able to be here.
TAPPER: All right. Well great job, Anderson, thanks so much for joining us. I want to bring it back to my...
COOPER: Thanks Jake.
TAPPER: ... group of analysts and experts right now. S.E., the National Rifle Association, not the only but certainly the largest and most powerful gun rights lobbying organization in the country, only four or five miles away from George Mason University, where the town hall was they were invited. They declined. Actually President Obama talked about that briefly. Let's play that clip, if we can.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: 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 think that they'll be prepared to have a devate with the president...
COOPER: They haven't been to the White House in three years.
OBAMA: 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 over heated.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Should they have gone the NRA?
CUPP: You know, the front runner democrat running for president has identified the NRA as the enemy she is most proud of accruing.
[21:35:09] Democrats like President Obama routinely land base the NRA and by extension its members who were a law-abiding gun owners as the problem. Standing in the way of meaningful gun reform, unconcerned about gun violence. I think it's a ludicrous to suggest that they would show up and be lectured to, by the president, who believes that we are the problem. And let me just address something that Michael said, my colleague, why...
BORGER: Is this in our -- the problem?
CUPP: I love Michael, but to say that the NRA has drawn a line in the sand on everything is just not true. The NRA is backing the Cornyn bill. We only have background checks because the NRA fought for them as opposed to a five-day waiting period. The NIC system exists because the NRA helped get it's passed. If the president were really interested in passing meaningful gun legislation, he would work with the NRA...
TAPPER: Yeah, let's hear Jay Carney respond to this, he -- having worked for President Obama.
CARNEY: The bill that you mentioned, Senator Cornyn's bill, which does provide funding that the administration and democrats support for mental health issues, that's a very important piece of it. It also, and nobody talks about this, strips from existing law the requirement that if you are committed involuntary to a mental institution and therefore are deprived of the rights own a firearm, the requirement that you then when you leave that institution have to petition a judge to be able to buy a gun.
CUPP: There's not a place to start
CARNEY: The Cornyn bill does away with that.
CUPP: But, it's not a place to start...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, there should be, that there is a reason for the NRA.
TAPPER: Let's go to Gloria.
BORGER: Because there are four or five other bills, some of which are sponsored by republicans, some of which are sponsored by democrats, like Chuck Schumer. It seems to me that if you don't like the Cornyn bill and say that and say that provision is apparent (ph) to you, or to the president, that you get everybody who has sponsored these bills in a room and you say, you know what, the mental health issue is something we actually all agree on.
CARNEY: I couldn't agree more.
BORGER: And then, why do -- OK. So you're doing this minuscule thing which we all agree which is essentially clarifying an existing law.
CARNEY: It's not minuscule to people who oppose it though, I mean...
BORGER: Well, that everybody is saying its use. But in fact, Jake...
CARNEY: But also has $1 billion in additional funds.
BORGER: OK. I won't call it minuscule. I'll say relatively modest.
JONES: Relatively modest.
BORGER: Thank you very much, Van.
BORGER: But then, why not sit down in a room and I know they had a bad experience in 2013 and I felt burned by it and the rest after Newtown and I understand that. But why not start with this proposal, get everyone in a room and say, OK, we don't agree with this proposal but we all agree that something has to be done about mental health.
TAPPER: Let's go to Hugh first.
HEWITT: When I was in the White House Counsel's Office, I was not an exulted senior staffer like Jay or Van and I wasn't a prosecutor, I was constitutional lawyer and that's what I continue to teach. The reason that is not a small issue in a republic of laws, it is not up to the president to decide who is a gun dealer or not. It's up to the Congress of the United States. And there's a doctrine called void for vagueness.
And when the president said tonight rather brightly, we're going to tell you if you're breaking the law. What he was saying, he was putting everyone in jeopardy of prosecution without a rule out there saying, what is a gun dealer? I'll turn it to Harry. How much ambiguity did you hear in that? HOUCK: A ton. Let me tell you something here. Let me give you a real life example about what the president is talking about here is not going to work. We know that more laws don't work. Why? Let's go back to pre Giuliani, New York, in Chicago. I'm friends with a lot of Chicago cops. Also this combat zones pre Giuliani. All right.
Now, what happens? Giuliani comes in and Bratton comes in. No gun laws but do your job. Let's start with some effective police work. All right, Bratton comes out, says you're a cop. You make an arrest, simple as that. All right.
So what happens? We go from 2,000 homicides to 300 because of effective police work and broken windows. All right. Chicago is still a mess. Chicago still a mess and there's no -- we know that works, the president doesn't want to put anybody in jail. He wants to take people out of jail.
TAPPER: Well, hold on.
HOUCK: Come on.
JONES: Oh, that's ridiculous.
TAPPER: We got -- let's let Van...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Inaudible) all the time.
TAPPER: Let's, let Van respond.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did it for a living. Are you kidding me?
JONES: Listen. I can't deal with every crazy thing you just said. I would deal with one. First of all, statistics should matter. I agree with you 100 percent. But to say that no background check laws matter, that's completely false. In Missouri, when they repeal...
JONES: You had your turn. In Missouri when they repealed a tough background law, they got a 14 percent spike in murders. OK. That is 49 to 68 more people a year who died and surrounding states suffered. So, these laws do matter. Then, counter, in Connecticut when they passed the law.
[21:40:01] Hey listen, this is John Hopkins studies. So you've got your statistics, I've got mine. My problem is that...
HOUCK: I got real life statistics.
JONES: Hold on a second. There is no monopoly on concern at this table but right now there's a monopoly on effective action. This president has actually stepped forward to try and do something. And part of the is, most of the people sit here and give you 1,000 reasons why what he is talking about won't work. They won't tell you what will work. What do you have besides being an apology for the status quo right now?
HEWITT: I haven't touched about the...
HOUCK: And telling you what's work...
HEWITT: ... the House of Representatives that increases mental health funding and provides for a list that can be effectively cross-checked which the president could have asked for in the indubious (ph) negotiation which he did not because he is interested in constructing at the temple...
TAPPER: Let's go to Harry about what works and then Sunny. Harry?
HOUCK: Yeah, I tell you what works. I just gave you an example of New York and Chicago. It works. But nobody wants to look at it because every time a police officer makes an arrest somebody is crying about this because somebody has a broken finger or something when he takes them down.
HOUCK: Listen, you got a president...
HOUCK: Hold Jay, Jay yeah, but then Chicago
CARNEY: ... across the county.
HOUCK: ... and not in the other major cities.
CARNEY: What works, Harry?
HOUCK: What works is effective law enforcement and effective prosecution. It worked in New York and it can work everywhere else.
TAPPER: Hold on. Sunny, you had worked on -- you worked as an assistant U.S. attorney putting people behind bars. What works in your view?
HOSTIN: You know, I think prosecutor have a really difficult job. I think background checks will make that job easier. I do think that there are some laws on the books that need to be enforced. Like the lie and try offenses. I mean, we all know that when a criminal lies...
TAPPER: Explain that us again.
HOSTIN: When a criminal lies about their criminal history on the background check form, that subjects them to -- they committed another felony subjecting them to about five -- up to five years, I believe, right, Hugh in prison? We also know that sellers of guns if they have reason to believe that someone couldn't pass a background check yet they continued to sell the gun to that person, that in and of itself is also a felony for the seller. So, I think you can be effective on both sides from the gun buyer side and the gun seller side by enforcing those laws that already on the books. And unfortunately, those...
TAPPER: Sunny, well, hold on a second. At one point during town hall, President Obama talked about his view about the need for ATF agents. This is when the sheriff was talking about why aren't there more ATF agents enforcing the laws that are already on the books. Take a listen what the president had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: One of the most frustrating things that I hear is when people say who are opposed to any further laws? Why don't you just enforce the laws that are on the books? And those very same members of Congress then cut ATF budgets to make it impossible to enforce the law.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: So well, but why not, I mean, why not fund that part of it?
HEWITT: They didn't ask for it. I mean, the only he could ask for...
TAPPER: But he's asking for it now. Forget about December and the army.
HEWITT: Five weeks, too late now, you're going to wait for the next incorporation cycle for an entire year. But he have also brought up a mythical van, a van in Indiana that gets loaded with guns and driven to Chicago. I just want to ask a prosecutor because I'm not a prosecutor and I didn't stay at a holiday inn. Have you ever heard of a case like that?
HOSTIN: I have not heard of a case like that, but I suspect that it exists. I do suspect that it exists because how do these guns...
HOUCK: I just -- I didn't hear anything about it.
CUPP: I think we shouldn't be creating laws based on your suspicion that these crimes exist.
TAPPER: Could we go back to -- let's take Michael.
SMERCONISH: It's unfortunate how often the conversation is monopolized by street crime. Street crime is a real issue. It's not driving this equation. I mean, if you paid close attention tonight, there was a lot of conversation about suicide. I don't know how many saw the cover story last month from Atlantic about suicide rings and Silicon Valley. Two-thirds of gun issues that we're here to discuss are by suicide. And I think there ought to be some common ground in that regard.
I'll never forget the first case that I tried in Federal Court pertained to suicide and then the Voir Dire process, selecting a jury, I had to ask how many have had personal experience, you, your family, your neighbor, your cousins, uncle, half the hands went up. I'll never forget that scene 15 years ago because that's when I first realized how many Americans are affected by this. Last week, cover story of Newsweek about opioids. It's all related. And that ought to become...
TAPPER: And what's remarkable is with the president -- this is one area where President Obama is his language is a little different. Van and Jay, I think you'll agree me having covered him. He now talks about suicides a lot more as part of the equation. He was accused of fudging the numbers by making it sound like 30,000 Americans a year were being gunned down in the street when it's actually, two-thirds of them are killing themselves. He now talks about that openly.
This town hall, obviously, was filled with a lot of emotion. One of the most powerful moments of the night was when a rape survivor told the president how she feels it's her responsibility to own a gun to protect herself, to protect her children. Did President Obama address her concerns? We will ask her, live, next.
[21:48:05] TAPPER: Welcome back to CNN Special Coverage, special Town Hall "Guns in America". There were many powerful questions from both sides of the argument this evening, one that struck us here in the studio came from Kimberly Corban She was raped in College by a stranger who broke into her apartment. Before her rape, she was in favor of gun control and since then she has changed her views. She even appears in ads for the NRA. This is what she asked the president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KIMBERLY CORBAN, RAPE SURVIVOR: As a survivor of rape and now a mother to two small children, you know, you know, it seems like being able to purchase a firearm of my choosing and being able to carry that wherever me and my family are, it seems like my basic responsibility as a parent at this point.
I have been unspeakably victimized once already and I refuse to let that happen again to myself or my kids, so why can't your administration 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: Well, Kimberly, first of all, obviously, yeah, your story is horrific. The strength you've shown in telling your story and, you know, being here tonight is remarkable and so really proud of you for that. I just want to repeat that there's nothing that we've proposed that would make it harder for you to purchase a firearm. (END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Kimberly Corban is now nice enough to join us. Kimberly, thank you so much. You had remarkable poise asking the president a question on which you disagree with him so strongly. What did you think of his answer?
CORBAN: You know it's tough because I went into this knowing that no matter what I say, it's not going to change his mind.
[21:50:03] He's going to do what his administration is going to do. And it's more about getting the message out that this isn't about his administration versus the NRA. I think that kind of use NRA is a boogeyman where as really the people that are on the pro-gun side of this argument are people like me that had no interest in this until I became a victim of a horrendous crime and it wasn't until that point that I realized my vital right to self-defense is going to be the most important things for me and now my two kids.
TAPPER: Can I ask a question and I'm started it even in true, but you're raising the subject of having firearms in the house when you have two children. I assume that they are young based on the fact that you look young. How do you keep the guns safe and protected so your children don't have access to them?
CORBAN: Without disclosing exactly where I keep them, I go through a lot of training and make sure that these are kept completely out of hand. They are always out of reach to them. I make sure that I take the additional safety precautions, because of their ages, I'm going to make sure that my choice is to have a gun with a safety. I know that there are some from manufacturers that make those without safeties is not completely fine. But for this point in my life, I want to make sure that that's more of a concern for me and my family. And yes they are young. They are 1 and 2.
TAPPER: OK. So, they're not even that barely off the floor. But one of the things that the president talked about and it certainly is devastating to me and I'm sure to you and all of our viewers when you pick up the newspaper or you pick up your phone and you read about a 4 year old who's got his hands on the family gun and killed the local 3 year old or whatever.
I know you said it's your personal decision to have safeties on your guns and to put your guns in safe places. Do you think that that should be a requirement at all just because I think that you sound very responsible and it breaks my heart every time I read about somebody who isn't?
CORBAN: Yeah, absolutely. And I think that that is something that absolutely strikes me right in the heart every time I hear about it, because there are certain precautions that you're going to take but at the end of the day, there are certain things that are left to chance.
But one of the other things that was left to chance was the fact that somebody broke into my apartment and I had no means of defending myself at that point. We can't play the, what if, what if, what if game. I'm sitting here saying, "I was raped 10 years ago." This is my story, this is what happened, this is what I'm choosing. And it's regardless of what I want to carry or where I want to carry, I want to continue to keep that right to carry without the restrictions that he's placing on us now.
TAPPER: Well, it was a very compelling story and you're nice to join us again after participating in the Town Hall. Thank you so much and best of luck to you.
CORBAN: Thank you so much for having me.
TAPPER: Van, let me turn to you because you did not think President Obama exactly hit the ball out of the park when it came to his response to Kimberly Corban. What would you have said had she said that to you?
JONES: I would have said, you know, "Ma'am I'd like to buy you a gun," after what she went through. I mean, I think I'm a Southerner. I'm a good strong liberal democrat. I was born in Tennessee, I went to public schools, church every Sunday.
And I get how folks here, sometimes folks on the coast when they talk about the stuff and such abstract terms. The president made a very good argument about gun safety in the home. I just thought it was ill time. I think the first thing you got to do is say, "You know what, you deserve a gun, you have a right to have a gun and I want you to have a gun.
TAPPER: Nancy, I want to play this bite for you, President Obama who clearly is not a gun owner, talking about trying to relate and understand those who are while campaigning in Iowa with Michelle Obama. Let's play that clip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Michelle and I had been 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 is pretty far away and somebody can just turn off the highway and come up to the farm, I want to have a shotgun or a rifle to make sure that I was protected and my family was protected."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUPP: Protectors well then, you know, there's a reason to Kimberly's reason that the largest rise of people going out and buying guns is a-- and that's because whether you're a student on a college campus or you're a young mother, like Kimberly is, like I am, you want the right to defend yourself at the scary world. And so much of this argument doesn't seem to relate individually, humanly, to the woman who wants to protect herself. And for men, primarily in Washington to tell a woman how to protect her family and her body, what laws she's got to follow is I think rank also has a lot of women to the court.
TAPPER: Sunny, go ahead. [21:55:00] HOSTIN: As a woman and as a mother and as a prosecutor, you know, the bottom line is that what the president is suggesting and recommending doesn't take away your right to protection. It doesn't take your right away your right to get guns. So, women are still going to be able to get guns.
CUPP: No, that's base upon where they lived.
HOSTIN: But there still going to be able to get guns and you know that.
TAPPER: Hold on, hold. Just let Sunny finish her point.
HOSTIN: I think the other point is that this sort of defensive gun ownership argument we know the stats. First of all, there's no academic support in any public health literature to suggest somehow that you are safer as a woman or as a man because you have a gun in the home.
And the other thing is many of the stats quite frankly support the notion that gun owners are far more likely to accidentally shoot an innocent person or a member of their family. And that is true. What I can say to Kimberly is she can still have her gun.
BORGER: Can I just say about President Obama where he's saying Iowa. He didn't say that when he was campaigning in Iowa at the time, because when he was campaigning in Iowa at the time, democrats were afraid of talking about gun control.
TAPPER: Talking about gun control.
BORGER: Talking about gun control. And it's now and far be it for me to raise politics into this equation. But it is now because the democrats understand that there coalition, the Obama coalition is more likely to support them if they are for some form of gun controls or not and that hasn't changed.
TAPPER: Let's let Harry the last word and we are done.
HOUCK: I was on patrol for eight years in a high crime area, eight years and it was a rarity that we arrived in the nick of time when a crime was being committed.
And that's why just like this woman, you know, the only thing for her to do is to call the police after it happened. So, she couldn't protect herself. Like I said, it's a rare occasion that police officers roll up while there's a rape in progress or robbery in progress, something like that, very rare. So, the people don't need...
TAPPER: ... I thank you all, I have to end it there. I'm sorry. Thanks for joining us. CNN's coverage continues next with "CNN Tonight" and Don Lemon right after this.
DON LEMON, CNN TONIGHT HOST: We're so glad you could be with us tonight. You heard President Barack Obama...