Exclusive - Jim Himes Extended Interview

June 20, 2016 - Jim Himes and Jack Garratt 06/20/2016 Views: 8,457

Rep. Jim Himes explains why he refused to honor the House of Representatives' moment of silence after a mass shooting in Florida and discusses the NRA's political influence. (7:37)

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In the wakeof the Orlando shooting,

each house of Congresshad its own way

of responding to the tragedy.

In the Senate today,

they debated four differentgun control measures.

Now we're taping this showwhile they're voting,

so technically,before the vote comes in.

So while you knowthat these measures didn't pass,

we don't know that yet.

But last weekin the House of Representatives,

there was no such debate.

But they did follow theirpost-mass shooting tradition

of observinga moment of silence.

Well, some of them did.

Silence--that is how the leadership

of the most powerful countryin the world will respond

to this week's massacreof its citizens.

Silence. Not me.

Not any more.

I will no longer stand hereabsorbing the faux concern,

contrived gravityand tepid smugness

of a house complicitin the weekly bloodshed.

Joining me now to discuss this

is Connecticut CongressmanJim Himes, everybody.

-(applause and cheering)-Hello, sir.

Thank you for being here.Thank you for being here.

Thank you so muchfor being here.

Really powerful words.

You've seen mass shootingafter mass shooting.

You've had to observethese moments of silence

over and over again.

What took youto your breaking point?

You know, it was Sunday,and as it happened,

I bumped into one of the fathers

of a childthat we lost at Sandy Hook.

And Connecticut's a small place.

We know the families.We know the teachers.

And I bumped into Mark Bardenwho's here with us

tonight, actually,who lost his son at Sandy Hook.

And I imagined telling him,"You know, Mark, this is

"probably done a dozenmoments of silence.

"Here you got 435 people who,with about three hours of work,

"could pass a bunch of billsthat are supported

"by 80, 90%of the American public,

"doing whatwe are designed to do.

"But we're not gonna do that.

"Instead what we're gonna do is,we're gonna stop talking

"about sportsand stop talking about dinner

"and stop talking aboutDonald Trump for eight seconds.

"We're gonna be quiet.

"We're gonna put on our seriousface, and we're gonna be quiet.

How do you feel about that?"

And I realize that those momentsof silence don't honor anybody.

-Yeah.-They are emblematic

of congressional negligenceon this issue.

You're looking at, um...

(applause)

You're looking at a situationwhere, as you said,

80, 90% of the public isbehind a lot of these measures.

How do you consolidate that...between Congress and the public?

I mean, this...

Shouldn't Congress be tryingto enact,

you know, what the people want?

Aren't you supposedto be governing the people?

Isn't that what the functionof the system should be?

-You'd think.-I don't understand it.

How do people out here not...?

You know, what do you sayto somebody who goes,

"This is crazy.90% of us."?

Or are the ten percentjust really, really convincing?

Is that what it is?

You know, you have what's calledan intensity problem, which is

that the very small numberof people who are willing,

not even to enterinto the conversation.

You know,who whatever you say...

You know, you can point outthe fact that, you know,

if you really believethat the only way

to stop a bad guy with a gun isa good guy with a gun--

well, we got a lot of good guyswith a gun in this country,

-and we have a huge problem thatno other country has. -Yeah.

You know, they're out therejust saying...

They're spreading fear,and the fear is

that the president's comingto take away your guns.

That'sthe Wayne LaPierre special.

Or the fear is that, you know,it's a dangerous world,

and you better arm yourself.

Or the fear is, you know,

just that you need to beprepared to defend yourself.

When fear rules,you can't have the conversation

that you needto have about the fact that...

The fact is if you buy a gunand you put it in your house,

certainly if you've got kidsin your house,

you're actually saferif you hadn't done that, and...

But you've gota very small number of people

-who are in the businessof promoting that fear. -Yeah.

And it really is a business.

The NRA is moreabout promoting fear.

Listen to anyof Wayne LaPierre's speeches.

-It's all about fear.-But how do that translate

that fear into Congress, though?

I mean, I understandas a layman on the street,

everyone can fall for this.

But in Congress,the lawmakers themselves--

-how is this applying to you?-Right, right. Well,

you know, particularly,look, this is a...

There's a partisan divide here.

Not perfectly,but there's a partisan divide.

And an awful lotof my good friends

on the other side of the aislethink that if they enter

into a common sensicalconversation about things

-that should be easyto talk about... -Yes.

...they will get primariedby somebody

who levels that fear at them.In other words...

Does the NRA have that power?

Like, can the NRA genuinely say,"Hey, Mr. Republican,

"we don't like whatyou're saying about guns.

We're going to get someoneto fill your seat."?

-Do they have that power? -Well,it's not that they can say that.

They do say that, and of course,they said that this week

when they knewthat these bill would come up.

And in a disjointed andcomplicated political time--

-and it is that right now...-Yes.

...there's a lot of fearamongst my colleagues, too.

So again, the NRA is partlypowerful for their money.

But they're mainly powerfulbecause for years now,

they have been spreading fearthat causes Americans

to say, "Well, we're not evengonna have that conversation."

And of course, that translates

into their representativegovernment.

If you all stand together,though,

surely there's a wayto stand up to the NRA

that seems to be bullyingCongress, strangely enough.

Is there no way thatcollectively everyone can...?

I mean, you walkthrough the hallways together.

Can you not talkto your friends?

Can congressmen not sayto each other,

"Hey, I know the situationyou face, I'm gonna help you.

Let us come together on thisand stand up to the NRA.3"?

You know, look,you-you previewed it.

I fear that these,uh, four votes

that my colleague Chris Murphyspoke for 15 hours

in the senate to get permissionto even have those votes,

I fear they're gonna fail.

And so what we need to dois we need to remember

that change comes to a countrynot overnight,

not over a couple of years,but because more and more people

get on board,they speak with passion,

they-they are out there workingday in and day...

We will... we will winthis fight eventually.

-but it's gonna be a while. -Howdo the people out there do it?

Because... after Orlando,the one thing I saw,

on Twitter, you know, everyone,"our thoughts and prayers,"

and what do we do,how do we... how do we help?

You know, we wantto donate blood, we want to...

-People want to do something.-Yeah.

People want to be a partof the change, but a lot of it

feels like people don't knowhow to be a part of the change.

-Yeah.-So how can the public help you?

How can the public help congressto get its job done?

We need more advocacy, and weneed it in those swing states.

We talk a lot aboutswing states, like, you know,

all seven of usin the state of Connecticut--

the five members of congressand the two senators--

we're on board.But in those swing states,

states like Ohio,Pennsylvania, North Carolina,

people need to stand up and sayof their elected officials,

"I care so much about thisthat my vote is at stake."

They need to make that case.And then it's up to all of us

to stop the insane debatethat the NRA wants us to have.

-Yeah. -They want to say: Areyou pro-gun or are you anti-gun?

Well, what about me? I supportSecond Amendment rights.

I actually likerecreational shooting.

But you know what?I believe that we ought

to probably test peopleand make sure

there's as much licensingand regulation around a gun

as there isaround an automobile.

-Yeah. Well, I mean..-(applause, whooping, whistling)

it is, uh...

it's always shockingto me that...

that somehow the conversationhas been convoluted

to a point where peoplehave been made to believe

that licensing somehowinfringes on their rights.

And really, that'sjust responsible ownership

-of these weapons.-We've got a big Bill of Rights

with all kinds of rights,

and not a single one of themis absolute.

You know,the one we talk about most

is the First Amendment--yes, we have a right

to free speech,but there's all kinds

-of restrictions on that:no screaming "fire" -Yeah.

in a crowded theater, et cetera.

So that's the kind of discussionwe need to have,

and we should have it withpeople who say, wait a second,

we have a huge problemin this country--

30,000 gun deaths.

Think about that. In two years,we lose as many people

to gun deaths as we lostin the entire course

of the Vietnam War.Two years.

-Wow.-We lose that many people.

And we should havethis conversation,

and people really need to pushtheir elected representatives.

Well, I think with your voice,with Twitter,

with what's happening out there,people are getting behind it,

and, uh, pushingtheir representatives

-Yeah. -is the most important.But thank you for coming.

-Thank you, Trevor.-Really appreciate it.

Congressman Jim Himes, everyone.We'll be right back.

Thank you so much for that.Thank you very much.

(applause, cheering, whistling)