Roundtable I: Reflecting on Newtown

Rep. Donna Edwards, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, Joe Klein, George Will, and Donna Brazile.
17:28 | 12/16/12

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Transcript for Roundtable I: Reflecting on Newtown
These neighborhoods are our neighborhoods, and these children are our children. And we're going to have to come toge take meaningful angst to prevent tragedies like this regardless of the politics. It's not right to talk about this yesterday. It should have been a year ago. It should have been two years ago. It should have been three years ago. I'm going to take him at his word that we will try to do something to reduce gun violence in this country, and I'm willing to work with him on what that will be. I think we hao be careful about new -- suggesting it's new gun laws. I mean there's -- you know, we need to look at what drives a crazy person to do these kinds of actions and make sure that we're enforcing the laws that are currently on the books. And we are back in newtown, connecticut, for our special edition of "this week." I am joined on our roundtable by george will, donna brazile, joe klein of "time" magazine and congressman jason chaffetz and congresswoman donna edwards. Into friday and saturday, there is a depressing sameness to the conversation coming out of each tragedy. Yes, and our response is always to think is there some defect in the social system or some prompting in the social atmosphere that causes this and, therefore, we assume we can tailor a law to correct the defect. Thoblem is, the law can do three things. It can deter with severe punishments. Of course, we already have murder and impede the accesses to public spaces or to weapons or, third, the law can monitor and in some cases confine people who meet the profile of these people. The problem with this is these people are determined, psychotic and often suicidal. It's very difficult to deter someone like that or impede, and then when you come to the question of monitoring confining, you look at the profile. These are often men, young men, young unmarried men, young men who are soly awkward and sometimes young unmarried socially awkward men have been diagnosed or even prescribed some kind of psychotropic medicine. The civil liberties and privacy issues involved in trying to monitor people and this not insignificant cohort who fit that profile are inseparable. You laid so much on the table. You are nodding your head to parts of it. Angry, alienated, disconnectrom society at a time when we're talking about budget cuts. Two-thirds of states have cut services to mental health agencies. 1,300 is the policy of treating one with mental health disorders. 17,000 is what we end up paying when we have no beds, and medicare cannot fill the gap. Gun safety laws in this country are broken, and I would hope members of congress would like at commonsenseteps that we can take to at least fix the background or at least know when people are buying guns, who they are and if they have a record. I want to go to the members in just a moment, but, joe, let me bring it to you. One of the first things you'll hear in this case is that the background check wasn't even tripped because all the guns were in the home. Right, I mean I think there are things you -- there are things you could do that will limit these incidents, nothing that you can do that will totally eliminate them. The striking piece of news to me today was that the mother was very angry at the school system for not giving her the support she needed to deal with her son. Right now all over this country there are parents of young men with severe psychological problems who are scared to death that their kids are going to go and do something like this too, and in many cases after they pass the age of 18, these parents may want the children to be in, you know, in some kind of a residential setting, but they don't have the power, the legal power to have anything to do with it. We got rid of mental hospitals in this country 50 years ago, and that was a good thing. They were supposed to be replaced by medication and by residential settings like halfway houses, but nobody wanted to have halfway houses in their neighborhood. So we have abdicated our responsibility to the mentally ill in this country and to the parents of the mentally ill who are suffering right now. Governor, what is the government's responsibility? I wish there was one thing we could do to make sure it never ever happens again and god bless those families dealing with a situation. I can't even imagine but we have to deal with the mental health aspect and I think it's fair game, and we should talk about the intersection of a lethal weapon as it relates to mental health. Absolutely we have to have that discussion in this country and also have to deal with the new social ramifications of the bombardment and the immediacy of social interaction between violence, the realism you find in games and movies. Some people, the young people as they're making this transition from their teen years into adulthood aren't able to mentally make that transition and there does need to be help but we'll also need to look to families and communities and churches. It's not just a government solution. Based on what you said, there have been some reports, congresswoman edwards, this young man, was he playing a lot of those violent very realistic games? You know, I think there are multiple things we have to do here and use this circumstance, the tragedy in newtown to create both policy solutions but also cultural solutions. I think that it -- well, it is true. We have to rebuild or build a fabric for mental health services, especially for young people to give parents the resources that they need and wrap our hands around it that this community will need and surviving families and children. But we also -- we've got to get the guns. I mean, we just do. There were assault weapons used here, weapons that are used by military and law enforcement, and it seems to me that there can be a bright line for removing those kinds of weapons. There can be a bright line for background checks that don't just cover 60% of the guns that come through gun shows and individual sales. We regulate cars in that respect knowing who transfers a car more than we know who transfers a weapon. There are real things that we can do, and we have an obligation, and if this doesn't call us to action I don't know what will. That's one of the questions we will find an answer too soon, I suppose. But, george, on that, it's kind of striking, you read 24 hours after this that a very similar incident happened in china. A man in an elementary school with a knife, not an assault weapon, almost two dozen kids injured but not killed. In 1996 a man went into a gym class in scotland, killed 16 5-year-olds and 6-year-olds and the teacher. A few years ago in norway, a young, deranged, young man killed, what, 69 people on an island, mostly teenagers. Connecticut has among the toughest gun laws in this country. Didn't help. Scotland and norway have very tough gun laws, didn't help. Didn't stop but it does lessen the occasion of violence, doesn't it? Since columbine there have been 181 of these school shootings. Remember, we did have a ban on assault weapons. When we put the ban in place in a measurable way. And when we took them off they didn't increase in a measurable way. There were five guns in the house. The shooter chose two semiautomatic pistols and one semiautomatic rifle. He did not choose the two deer hunting rifles. It seems to me that the congresswoman is absolutely right, there is a bright line here that we should be able to, you know, hunt. You know, hunters should be able to go about their sport, but there's no need to hunt with a semiautomatic rifle. There's none. Congressman? Well, look I'm a concealed carry permit gun holder. I have a glock .23. I'm not the person you need to worry about and there are millions who deal with this properly. It's their second amendment right to do so. But we have to look at the mental health access. Is there such -- any kind of weapon, any capacity -- there are prohibitions -- gun rules are very stringent. There is a lot of conjecture out there that I don't think necessarily would solve this particular problem, and I want to look at anything that we think will solve all the problems, but we have to, i think, look at the mental health aspect. We do have to look at the mental health aspect, but the complex problems require complex solutions, and it isn't one thing. It's all of these things, and some people would like to deflect the conversation only to the mental health problems that are severe and that we need to deal with without dealing with the reality we have, a lot of weapons out there, and people have access to them, and we have to figure out a way that we can protect our children in their kindergarten and first grade classrooms. I want to bring this to donna brazile. And as I do this, donna, the politics of all this, generally show -- I want to show this pew support, support for gun control, generally doesn't go up after major shootings, after aurora and gabby giffords, it went down, and virginia tech went up a little back in 2007 and the president has been reluctant to take this on and you saw him say it's time for meaningful action. What do you expect and do you think now that the president won't face election again, he will address them in a different way? I hope so because there's expectations I think not just from the families but others who would like to see the president take some steps. He's talked about it before rora where he said we need tighter restrictions on people who have mental disabilities for having guns and spoke at the national urban league about this, but there's a time for this, and hopefully it's sooner rather than later. You know, I'm a -- as a southerner, I'm a big advocate of the second amendment and grew up with guns and grew up with people who understood how to use them responsibly. I did not grow up with people with assault rifles or semiautomatic guns. I do believe that we had need a conversation, a real deep conversation and this simply cannot be stopped simply because people are afraid of the politics. You also grew up to be the campaign manager of al gore who lost the home state of tennessee, the myth is at least in part because he supported gun control. This is a political, not a jurisprudential problem. The second part, the hiller case concerning an absurdly restrictive d.C. Law is really much more permissive than people realize, and I'm not sure there would be a second amendment impediment to banning a category of weapons. There would be a political one. 60,000 murders since columbine. And the large capacity of these were used in these weapons that allowed this perpetrator to go into a school and each of the victims suffering multiple gunshot wounds. This is just not acceptable. There's a -- you know, i think that we can't think about this in terms of irradication. These incidents are always going to happen. Reduction. We can think the mental health piece is obviously important. I think there is a bright line on gun control, as well but there's a third piece and that is the celebration of violence. We not only have a second amendment in the country, we also have a first amendment that protects, you know, sylvester stallone's right to fire thousands of bullets in any given movie, but I think that, you know, that what we need to do in this society is treat people who create violent movies and violent video games with the same degree of respect that we accord pornographers. They need to be shunned. I need to add to that. We're getting a lot of response on facebook about how all of us covered this and in the media and the way of these shootings. Scott lararche "media sensationalism contributes more to this than guns. It's always the person who pulls the trigger, not the gun that kills. We need to stop making these killers famous. Bill cotton "stop the wall-to-wall coverage. We tried to talk less about the killer but, congressman, this is something, joe brings up and those viewers bring up, as well, how do we talk about this in a way that doesn't encourage the contagion? I don't know that the news coverage that I've seen is glamorizing the killer as much as allowing the rest of the country to grieve. As a parent we all shed a tear. I do agree with joe that you put violence and death and gore in a movie, you're not going to get an "r" rating. You do something else, okay. I got to tell you, I think the movie ratings are terribly misleading when it comes to violence, death, gore and glamorizing it. All of those things are true because we do have a culture that celebrates violence, but it doesn't take away our responsibility, and I want to urge and challenge my colleagues to work with me to work with us on this so no parent has to experience what these parents and families do in newtown. The bright life between those who are hunters and shooters and outdoors people, but they don't need an assault rifle. They don't need high-capacity magazines that create havoc and viciousness and death and we can do that. Background checks. We can do that. We can close that up, and then we allow ourselves to have -- to enjoy the second amendment rights that are so important but also we respect human life. George, when my little nephews left new orleans after katrina, I'll never forget what they said. "Auntie, I don't hear gunshots at night." Too many of our kids are living with guns. They are living with the fear of violence. They are dying sometimes in their homes, sometimes walking home from schools and while this tragedy is incomprehensible, you got to understand that there are too many of our babies being murdered every day senseless and that's why we need to have this conversation. We're having it. The question is what to do and what is possible to do. Well, we ought to bring in mayor rahm emanuel of chicago. Chicago is in an epidemic of violence with young, largely unparented, that is, no father in the home, adolescent males. Now, that's a problem quite separate from this. Another thing that we're going to do and makes one's heart sink, george, is this, we're goint to ratchet up the public places.'Re already blighted by this. For generations people have been using the water on the mall to run little sailing boats. Now the government in its wisdom has banned remote control little boats on the mall water in washington because it somehow represents a security thre the country. We have to be a little bit reasonable, and unless we surround our citizenry with the quite false idea that this is an extremely dangerous -- and on that point, joe klein, people should be reminded. Parents should be reminded that the overwhelming majority of schools in this country are safe. That's right. Although, you know, I had this creepy feeling walking into this school this morning that i wasn't in a place of safety in this town. Even thought there was no rational -- it was a completely irrational thought, and when i say that I think about all the children who are going to be walking into schools tomorrow. And that gives us a place we have to stop because we want to talk about that with dr. Richard besser when we come back. This was not god's plan. This was not god's plan. This was a man with serious issues in his life. Why he'd want to destroy innocent children, no one can figure out. We're grieving with you. I appreciate it. I'm so tired.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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