Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) appeared alongside Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) on Sunday's "Meet the Press" to debate gun control laws. But host David Gregory didn't get the must-see TV he wanted, as Schumer came across as a cautious, even slightly pessimistic, politician instead of fiery gun control advocate.
During the interview, Gregory was taken aback by Schumer's lack of enthusiasm, saying, "Senator Schumer, I have to say, I detect some caution from you on this, that it might be the right direction, but you don't really expect much traction here." That prompted Schumer to admit, "look, let's, let's be honest here, there haven't been the votes in the Congress for gun control."
When Coburn weighed in with, "the people who are going to commit a crime or going to do something crazy aren't going to pay attention to the laws in the first place," Schumer went on to declare his support for the Second Amendment:
Well, let me say this. There is a right to bear arms. It's in the Constitution, and you can't ignore it, just like you can't ignore the others.
The lack of enthusiasm is surprising considering the renewed hope of gun-control advocates in the wake of the shootings in Tucson:
Transcript via NBC:
MR. GREGORY: Senator Schumer, I have to say, I detect some caution from you on this, that it might be the right direction, but you don't really expect much traction here. It's not...
SEN. SCHUMER: Well...
MR. GREGORY: ...the normal enthusiasm I would expect from you on this issue.
SEN. SCHUMER: Well, look, twofold. First, we want to be civil in the debate, so we're making every effort here. Second -- and respecting somebody's views who are different than ours. Second, look, let's, let's be honest here, there haven't been the votes in the Congress for gun control. We've had some victories, the mental illness bill that I mentioned. There was a proposal by Senator Thune that said if you were -- had a concealed carry permit in one state, you could use -- you could walk into another state. So laws like Arizona, someone could buy one there and come into New York and not even notify the police. That was defeated. But make no mistake about it, the changes are hard.
MR. GREGORY: Yeah.
SEN. SCHUMER: Senator Feinstein tried to bring the assault weapons ban back on the floor and it didn't pass.
MR. GREGORY: Well...
SEN. SCHUMER: So we're looking for things where we can maybe find some common ground and get something done.
MR. GREGORY: Senator Coburn, look, the politics are tough on this. And Senator Schumer reflects it because Democrats know it's a difficult fight. Look at the public attitudes about stricter gun control measures just since 1990, at that point. We have a graph we can show you. Seventy-eight percent favored it, down to 44 percent in 2010. That being the case, even as a supporter of gun rights, as Congresswoman Giffords is, can you not look at, at areas of access to weapons, but also looking at limiting the scope by these magazine clips and say there may be something that's common sense here?
SEN. COBURN: Well, I -- again, I would tell you that -- let's say you pass that. If, if you have somebody that is a criminal, that wants to get around the law, they're going to get around the law. The problem with gun laws is they limit the ability to defend yourself, one. But number two is, the people who are going to commit a crime or going to do something crazy aren't going to pay attention to the laws in the first place. And there's numerous examples over the last few years where concealed carry has, in fact, benefited people, especially in, for example, in Colorado Springs, where a individual with a concealed carry stopped somebody who was going to kill multiple people in a church, and, and, and wounded them so that they could not continue to do that. So it's a controversial issue. The fact is, I'd go back -- let's fix the real problem. Here's a mentally deranged person who had access to a gun that shouldn't have had access to a gun. Now, what is the -- how do we stop that? And, and there's a hole in what we need to do. And I'm willing to work with Senator Schumer and anybody else that wants to make sure people who are mentally ill cannot get and use a gun.
SEN. SCHUMER: Well, let me say this. There is a right to bear arms. It's in the Constitution, and you can't ignore it, just like you can't ignore the others. But like all the other rights, it's not absolute. First Amendment, you can't -- we have laws against pornography, you can't scream "fire" falsely in a crowded theater. And there should be limits on gun laws, as well, that still protect the individual's right to bear arms. And just one point about your little survey that showed that the support went down. One of the reasons is because of the success of gun control laws. The Brady Law has been a huge success. Gun violence went down, the number of people killed by criminals who have guns has declined. And so to me, it's a vindication that smart, rational gun control laws that protect the right to bear arms but have reasonable limits are the way to go.