more important than yours? Then why is he skeptical about putting armed security in our schools when his kids are protected by armed guards at their schools? The talk about the president's children or... See More
more important than yours? Then why is he skeptical about putting armed security in our schools when his kids are protected by armed guards at their schools? The talk about the president's children or any public officer's children i think is reprehensible. I started getting a lot of letters from kids. I've been watching the children as human shields show that is now going on at the white house. It's stunning. The gun debate already hot and heavy this week before the second term even begins. Let's talk about that right now on our roundtable joined by george will, as always, cokie roberts, rick santorum, former republican presidential candidate and senator, now the head of patriot voices, former michigan governor jennifer granholm, thanks for joining us and matthew dowd and, george, we do have so much to get to today, but let's begin with the debate joined. It wasn't even on the agenda a couple of months ago, the president saying he's going to do everything he can to pass gun proposals but david plouffe signaling they're pretty realistic about what they can achieve. Well, are they? The endurable myth about the obama presidency to which mr. Obama subscribes is that he's tremendously persuasive. I don't think his advocacy of obama care and the health care bill supports that. It did pass. It did pass with chicanery and reconciliation and lots of other things, but he did not move the country which is what he's trying to do with the nra. Obama's approval rating 52%, the nra's approval rating 54%. Republicans in congress is 17%. Since gun control came back to the top of the agenda, the nra has acquired 250,000 new members, so we're going to find out. You saw by putting up the statements by some of the democratic senators that there's a resistance in the democratic caucus because they have six seats up next time. All of those senators, i showed. In states where mr. Obama got less than 42% of the votes, the republicans need to control the senate six seats. So how hard does he push this, cokie? I think he pushes parts of it. The assault weapons ban is obviously a huge problem and that's what most people are pushing back against. Although it is interesting with the increased number of women in congress that it might have a better shot than 1994, 29% of republican men voted for the assault weapons ban and almost 70% of republican women. So you could see a difference because of that. But I think that background checks, waiting period, you know, the biggest gun violence is suicide. And to put in a waiting period could help with suicide. Rick, how do you -- so I think you could start to see some movement on those aspects. How do you think republicans should play this? I think we should stick to our guns and, you know, george reminded me of something I said to him back in '94 when I ran for the senate in pennsylvania. He said, how am I going to win? I said, guns. I don't think -- I think it's an even more important issue for people today given the increasing level of violence in our society. People feel unsafe and having a gun and gun ownership is part of how people can feel safer, and when you look at in my opinion the disingenuousness of the administration, they met with the nra, as you know, joe biden did, and the nra brought up the fact that prosecutions for gun crimes and prosecutions for people who fill out -- lie on their registration forms or gun forms are down under this administration, and the vice president responded, we don't have time to devote to seeing whether people fill out a form right. Well, wait a minute. They're asking for more forms and they're saying they don't have the time to to check -- are they serious about this or is this just about politics? Well, first of all, let's be clear about why there has been fewer enforcements, and the head of the atf feels there's been a failure to confirm because the nra has objected and they have objected to reasonable pragmatic solutions, and that's what this is all about. This is not about taking people's guns away. It's about a narrow set of proposals that will enable us to help enforce the existing gun laws, the ban on assault weapons and a ban on high-capacity magazines and even a ban on armor-piercing bullets are overwhelmingly supported by the citizenry. 50% of men, 57% -- 59% of women support an assault ban, assault weapons ban. Same number for a ban on high-capacity magazines. I think the president views I think the president views this -- he is really -- he sees himself as the protector in chief and that's true on foreign policy and it's true on domestic -- he clearly seems to have been personally affected, matthew dowd, by the newtown tragedy, but how much -- if you were advising him, how much should he iest in this at the beginning of what is a packed second term? He definitely was affected by it. Every american was affected by what happened in that awful situation. I mean the president could have done a lot of this in the last four years which he chose not to do. He could have done a bunch on executive orders and decisions he chose not to because he understood the political problem with this. To me this whole issue -- I live in austin, texas, and texas is a place where people love their guns. I have five -- owned five guns. Most people know something has to be done. Most people know there has to be something done. How far does it is extended is a question of debate. Something will get passed -- but I'm just -- before that, my fear is the real thing that won't get done is what the real issue is which is mental health. It's going to get -- it's huge. The way we treat mental in this country is in jail. That's it. We have no mental health treatment, and it is shocking, and it was, you know, liberal good intentions of deinstitutionalization sending people out into a community where there was nobody to take care of them. He said he's called for investing up to $100 million in this project aware and have identify people who might have mental health problems and be prepared to turn them in. The last bill jack kennedy signed before flying to dallas where he was murdered was the deinstitutionalization bill which closed a lot oflums and sent people into the society where we did not provide the community health centers. Second point, the vast majority of people involved in gun violence are clinically sane. Third point, defining an assault weapon is hard enough. Try to define mental health and try to do so with respecting the privacy concerns with doctor and relationships. Rick referred to the feeling of increased violence in the country. It's not true, though. You may feel that way, but there's been a stunning drop in gun violence and mrs, cut it half really in 20 years. Except for the suicides, and we had more troops commit suicide in afghanistan last year than were killed in combat. That happened with guns. And the other thing is there's been an increase in these mass shootings, all of which are related to a combination of a gun, a high-velocity gun with large magazines and somebody that was mentally ill, and part of the system, which i give thesident credit for, is there was an ability of people in hospitals and people in institutions to ask somebody that came in -- right. Ill health, mentally ill and ask if there were guns in their home and even ask that question. The nra kept that out of the -- the shooter in aurora, colorado, had passed two background checks, the shooter at virginia tech had passed two background checks. So the idea that there is a panacea out there -- there is not a panacea, but what about the president's argument if it can stop even one of these, it's worth a try. Well, how many people are you going to deny guns who you are going -- who are going to protect themselves? There are more people who protect themselves and stop violence having -- having occurred -- having happened to them with the ownership of a gun than it is people who commit crimes with a gun. So this idea that the problem is -- what about the magazines? Why have a magazine that can riddle a 6-year-old into shreds? Here's what I would say about that. 50 years ago you could go on a catalog and buy a gun. There were no restrictions on gun ownership. No restrictions on magazines. There were no restrictions on anything. And we had a lot less violence in society than we do today. The idea of pointing to the gun instead of pointing to society and not one thing the president did dealt with hollywood and gun violence and video games and -- all of the vilification of violence. What about armor-piercing bullets, why do we need that? Why do we need to protect hollywood putting -- I'm not talking about that. But I am. I'm asking specifically. One at a time. You are too. why do you need armor-piercing bullets? Because we're talking about a particular type of bullet that is and can be available -- why do you need an armor piercing bullet? But criminals could and having -- and police officers certainly do. And having the ability to defend yourself is a right in this country.
This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.