Transcript for Powerhouse Roundtable discusses the political fallout from recent mass shootings
Let's bring in our roundtable. We have ABC news political director Rick Klein, "L.A. Times" columnist Jonah Goldberg, democratic strategist Stephanie brown James of Emily's list and a special welcome to our newest ABC news contributor, former North Dakota senator Heidi Heitkamp. Thank you all for being here. Let me pick up on what we were just talking about earlier on the gun laws. I know there's a debate over how much that would do or not do to solve this problem but there does seem to be a bipartisan consensus, Rick, on universal background checks and these so-called red flag laws. Has the political environment changed? Is something finally going to happen in those areas? Those are two different questions. The environment has changed but that doesn't necessarily mean that we're ripe to see something actually pass congress or get pushed from the administration. You saw Mick Mulvaney in your interview a few minutes ago, they weren't really budging on this issue of an assault ban. The public is there. The critical issue for advocates of gun control, particularly in the wake of shootings like this is how do you make it a voting issue? They've got the numbers there for universal background checks. We're starting to see that. We saw it a little bit in the midterm elections but we're not really seeing all the dots connected in that way that pushes it forward. Are conservatives moving at all on this? I don't necessarily sense it and I think part of the problem, as Rick points out, is it's not so much where the national sentiment is on a specific issue. It's what moves single issue voters. Now, there are lots of people -- there may be a majority of people who agree with the sort of Beto O'rourke or some version of it -- The numbers are good, just to interrupt for a second. 63% in the quinnipiac poll in March say they support an assault weapons ban. 94% say universal background checks. How many of those people though will vote based on that issue alone? On the other side of it, there are a lot of pro gun rights people who will vote simply on the gun rights issue and it's a much bigger motivator for single issue voters on the right than it is on the left. What's your sense, Stephanie? When is this -- I think that Beto O'rourke made it crystal clear that this is an issue of both guns and hatred. And until we really tackle these two issues seriously by talking about the fact that, yes, the president is responsible for a lot of the hatred that is spewing in this country because he consistently talks about it on a day-to-day basis. There's almost not a time when he's not saying something that at least comes off as if it's anti-women, anti-immigrant, anti-people of color, and it is something that -- it's crazy when a good tweet from him seems like it's written by someone else because you're so used to the tweets that are racist, the tweets that are against others in this country. Until we really tackle the fact that the Republican party which to me it's a horrible strategy for them to allow the president to go off the rails like this because they're not going to gain any more voters come November of 2020 if they continue to use this divisive language and tactics that they've used. You know what the president is responsible for? He's responsible for leadership, and he has been nowhere on this issue. He hides because the minute we get there, people start talking about guns. He relies very heavily on those single issue voters, very heavily on that classification of voters who will vote just on gun rights. So let's talk about his leadership. He has a moral leadership to quit dividing this country the way he's been dividing this country with tweets and with political strategy. And he has a policy leadership. Mick Mulvaney talked a lot about this is terrible, and yes, only one person's responsible for this, but they're responsible for policy. They're responsible for leadership. He's responsible for moral leadership and that's perhaps the biggest failure that we're seeing today in this administration. Does it help when somebody like Beto O'rourke comes out as he did this morning and say the president is a white nationalist? Isn't that also fueling the divide? I mean, is that an accurate statement about the president? It's one thing to say he's fueling. He said he is a white nationalist. And I think that this is a community that he is a member of, that he represented in congress and I think you all have to take a step back and say every person today, what is the one unifying discussion that we need a plan, that we need leadership, and it can't just be about guns. It's got to be about what we're doing with red flag laws, what we're doing to address the mental health crisis in this country. The president's biggest failure here is the lack of moral and policy leadership that's going to get us the answers, and that's how people are going to vote. When they see nothing, this void, they're going to say you are not -- you know, it's interesting because the president is positioning himself to be the security president, right? He promotes security issues, and guess what he's not providing, security in this country. How is this going to play out in 2020, Rick? The race looks different and sounds different I think than it did a few days ago. Just a few -- at the debate a few days ago the Democrats were arguing about the Obama legacy, including on immigration and whether Obama's policies were essentially liberal enough. That's gone now. I think it's a clarifying moment for this field and I've been struck by how many candidates have gone straight from the gun control debate to this broader issue that senator Heitkamp is raising about the environment that's being festered in this country of racial divisiveness, of the president's rhetoric. To me that is a powerful piece of messaging for Democrats because it gets bigger than just are you for gun control or are you against gun control or who's responsible for a particular shooting. That gets to really fundamental issues that are motivating issues for Democrats. I hate to sound like Marianne Williamson here but she was the only one in the debate that talked about dark horses which is a real thing. Reasonable people can disagree or debate on how much blame Donald Trump's rhetoric is attributable to all of this but I think senator Heitkamp is exactly right, he doesn't help. But there's another issue going on here. In terms of overall gun violence and murder, we are at historic lows but we've had something like half of the worst mass shootings in American history in the last five years. There's another factor going on here and white supremacy, wants to denounce white supremacy, this guy. But there are other things going on. We now though that about a fifth of American millennials say they have no friends. There's a mass loneliness crisis going on here, a mass crisis of meaning and they go into places like 8 Chan and they find people who are going to tell you you can matter, you will have meaning, you will belong to something if you join these ridiculous groups and go out and kill people like it's a video game. That's a huge problem and something that I don't know that we have the political skills to address right now. He's right, this is more profound than politics. There's a political element but this is more profound than politics. Let's be honest, it's only been recently where we've talked about white supremacy and white nationalists so open and honest and you can't address an issue if you don't talk about it. How often do with you hear presidential candidates say white nationalist and white supremacist? That hasn't happened in the past. To get this out in the open, let's have a conversation about it because it is a serious issue that we need to contend with. Or alienation. Do you know who has been talking about white supremacy? Dhs, the FBI. Warning. They have been warning and warning and warning. Fact, you know, when secretary Napolitano ran dhs, she was widely criticized for talking about white supremacy as a serious terrorism threat. It is time to take that issue, as you said, out of the closet, start really addressing it. But this isn't a new issue. This is something that has been festering and law enforcement knows it and the president has ignored it. All right, that is all the time we have. Thank you all for joining us.
This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.