Jim Himes - Why Gun Deaths Are a Uniquely American Problem - Extended Interview

Extended - October 3, 2017 - Jim Himes 10/03/2017 Views: 32,554

Connecticut Congressman Jim Himes discusses Congress's response to a mass shooting in Las Vegas and weighs in on how citizens can push for gun control legislation. (9:00)

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My guest representsConnecticut's 4th district

in theU.S. House of Representatives.

Please Democraticcongressman Jim Himes.

-♪ -(cheering, applause)

-Welcome back to the show.-Thank you, Trevor.

I wish, uh, I would meet youunder better circumstances.

It feels like I...

-I always see youafter a mass shooting. -Yup.

It feels like there is always amass shooting to see you after.

Um...

you tweeted,after this event, uh,

"Now we're obsessingover whether the Nevada carnage

"was terrorism.If we decide it is,

we'll mobilize untold resources.If not, nothing."

Do you believe that,and what does that mean?

I-I absolutely believe that,and I'll tell you,

it's the momentin the House of Representatives

where you just wantto set your own hair on fire.

Because here you arein the one space in America

where 435 could doan hour's work-- one hour--

and you'd pass stuffthat 90% of Americans support.

Things like universal backgroundchecks. Wherever you buy a gun,

we're gonna check to make sure

you're not a violent criminalor a terrorist.

And instead,you know what we do?

We stop talking for ten seconds.

That's what we offerto the people

who have been so traumatizedby the events in Las Vegas,

the events in Sandy Hook, theevents, the events in Orlando.

I-It's just the-the drumbeatof that impotence

and that silence--

I-I'll tell you,it just makes my head explode.

This is the second timeyou refused to participate

in the moment of silence.Some people would say,

"Congressman, you're-you'redisrespecting the victims.

"Why wouldn't you participatein the moment of silence

that Congress is holding?"

Anywhere else--

in a rotary club,at a baseball game--

do a moment of silence.

If you're in the one room

where you couldstart fixing this problem

that no other country has...

uh, that is, uh,

resulting in35,000 or so Americans,

every single year, dying,

and what your answer is...

"Let me just stop talkingfor ten seconds.

"And, oh, by the way, the flagat the top of our building--

we're gonnadrop that down 20 feet."

That's negligence.That's not honoring anybody.

Honoring the victimswould mean we're gonna fix this.

(cheering, applause)

Let's, um...

Let's talk about the argumentsaround the discussion.

Because there are peoplewho would say,

"Congressman, background checks

"wouldn't have preventedwhat happened in Las Vegas.

"This man was a...legal gun owner.

"This is someonewho had no record of anything,

so what's the point of passinga universal background check?"

Which-which is, you know,tool number seven

in the big toolbox of things

that the opponentsof any gun safety--

and the core of that,of course, is the NRA--

have to distract us,to make us forget.

You-you talked about it earlier,you know,

"This is not the moment to havea politicized discussion."

It's funny, after 9/11,I don't remember us sitting back

and saying, "Let's leta couple of days go by

"before we figure outwho did this to us, uh,

and how ought to address it."

You know, when a hurricanestrikes and island, uh,

you don't let it...Well, actually,

I guess they did let a littlebit of time go by.

But you shouldn'tlet a little-little time go by.

Uh, you know, this is the momentin which the American people

are looking to us for an answer.

And, uh, sayingthat this particular case

wouldn't have been solvedby things

that we know would dramaticallyreduce gun violence--

again,universal background check,

things like putting limitson the kinds of weaponry

that people can own.

Look, I'ma Second Amendment guy myself.

I-I supportthe Second Amendment.

I actually like shootingfirearms.

I don't want to take awaypeople's guns.

I just thinkthat we should check you out,

that there should be limitson the guns that you have,

and, yes, we should take upmental health care, you know?

Two-thirds of the gun deathsin this country are suicides.

That says there are a lotof distressed people out there

-that you ought to address,-Right.

but you also ought to make ita little less easy for them

to get the tool that will end...that will end their lives.

Don't you feel likethat-that would always end up

being the ultimate paradoxfor Americans,

is that, a lot of the time,you are in the place

where you say,"I love the Second Amendment.

"I love shooting guns.

"I think we should have gunsbut not certain guns

and not gunsfor certain people"?

How do you definewho those people are

and how do you definewhat the certain gun is?

Because, in America, mostgun deaths come from handguns.

So, someone would say,"But it's not the assault rifle

that causes the most deaths."

Maybe it'sthe most gruesome example

of people being killed,

because so many peoplecan be killed at one time.

But the handgunthen becomes the culprit.

So which guns do you tryand take away?

Yeah. No, and that's-that'sa really good point.

And the answer to your questionis, that's my job.

You know, I get elected to-to...

and my colleagues get electedto draw those lines.

And you're absolutely right.

Assault weapons,which we tend to focus on

in gruesome moments like this,

when we're in Sandy Hookand Orlando,

they can cause a lot of damagevery rapidly,

as we saw in Las Vegas.But you're right.

Uh, again, the number one,uh, source of gun deaths

-in this country is, uh...is suicide. -Right.

Um, and so... but-butI really object to the idea

that, okay, we shouldn't focuson assault weapons.

Australia in 1996 hada brutal, brutal,

uh, violent, uh, mass shooting,

and they took action against,uh, these weapons

-that can kill a lot of people,uh, quickly. -Right.

And since then, they've reallyhad no mass shooting incident.

So that's a part of it. But whatit can't be is it can't be like,

"Well, you know, we shouldn'tdeal with assault weapons

'cause most of the deathsaround guns are suicides."

-We should also deal with that.-Right. But-but some would say,

"Congressman, the differencebetween Australia

"and-and Americais the Constitution says

"that we havethe right to bear arms.

"And, more importantly,we need these arms

"to protect usfrom the tyrannical government

that may one day comefor our guns."

Well, you know, it's...

that's sort of insaneon the face of it, right?

And, uh, you know,it's worth reflecting on that,

uh, you know, instead ofresponding constructively

to what we just sawby passing any of these bills

that have 80%, 90%, uh, supportamongst the American people,

instead, right now,where I work,

there's somebody havinga conversation about,

what is the decent intervalof time

after a mass shootingin Las Vegas

-that kills dozens of people-Right.

before we introduce a bill

that makes it a lot easierfor people to buy silencers?

-Yes. -That's the discussionthat is happening.

And that's what should outragethe American people.

What's interesting, though, isyou have a colleague

who was shot during...

uh, it was a baseballor softball game.

-Yup, baseball.-It was a baseball game,

and you had a colleaguewho was shot,

and yet, that same colleagueis coming out

on TV and in an interviewsaying,

"Yeah, but I still don't believewe should be restricting guns.

"I-I was savedby people with guns,

and so, I don't thinkwe need to restrict this."

How do you respondin that situation?

What is your argument then?

You know, to-to seeit happen today,

to see the speaker of the housestanding there

with Steve Scalise,my colleague and my friend...

He's in cru... he's on crutchesbecause he's suffering,

uh, you know, still recoveringfrom this wound.

And to hear the speaker say,"No, what we really need

"to focus on right nowis a budget

so we can get the tax reform,"uh, it's just...

it's just surreal.

But I guessSteve proved the case.

He was saved by trained securityprofessionals with guns.

-Nobody is saying they shouldn'thave guns. -Right.

In fact, we're sayingthat they're the ones who,

from a standpoint of security,should be doing the work.

Not that, you know,if you're a, uh...

-You were talking about SeanHannity earlier, right? -Right.

You know, if you've gota little bit of training,

and that guy opens up at me,"Well, I'm gonna fix that."

No, it's trainedsecurity officers with guns.

But again, you know, there arelots of other countries

that have lots of guns.

Canada has a lot of guns,but nobody has this problem

because we don't put an...you know,

any meaningful, uh, regulation,uh, on this stuff.

And I object to the ideathat people like me

who simply want the same kindof controls

that you would put on any otherdangerous technology--

a car, an airplane--uh, that somehow,

this very lethal technology, uh,is, uh, is exempt

from the things that wouldstop people from dying.

So, realistically,where to from here?

If you're in a place where,after children have been shot,

after members of Congresshave been shot,

after people at a music festivalhave been shot,

if nothing gets done,then, realistically,

what could people do?

How do you movethat conversation forward?

Well, this is a case where, um,

the facts are on the sideof those people

who supportreasonable restrictions,

reasonable gun safety measures.

The people are on the side.

Many of these measuresare supported

by 80 and 90% of the population,

including a lot of gun owners,most gun owners.

So, I think the best answerto your question is,

the kind of active, uh,activism,

the kind of mobilizationthat we saw...

that we've seen for a long time,but that in particular

that we sawthat prevented the repeal

of the Affordable Care Act...

The attempts were thereand there and there,

and, you know, people showing up

at town hall meetings,and saying,

"Don't take away health carefrom 20 million dol...

-from 20 million people."-Right.

If people show upat town hall meetings

to their Republicanrepresentatives

and say,"No, I'm not gonna accept

"that this is not the right timeto talk about this.

People are dying.What are you gonna do about it?"

If people show upat those town hall meetings,

over time, uh, opponents

of any progress on this issuewill necessarily listen.

Oh, thank you so much forjoining me again on the show.

-Thank you, Trevor.-Appreciate it.

Congressman Jim Himes,everybody.

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