All In   |  April 17, 2013

‘A shameful day in Washington’

Chris Hayes talks with Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and the mother of one of the victims of the Virgina Tech shooting about Wednesday’s filibuster of the Manchin-Toomey background check amendement--an amendment that was supported by 90% of the American public. 

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> we're joined by senator richard blumenthal , democrat from connecticut who pleaded for support from the senate floor before it was killed by a minority vote. senator, i want to first just get your reaction to today's vote. what is your take away from what happened in the senate chamber today?

>> it was a shameful day. not only for washington, d.c., but for the nation, a real indictment of our democracy that there were 55 votes in the senate, 90% of americans , a vast majority of gun owners and even nra members, and yet we failed to meet the 60-vote threshold, and it was heartbreaking. the hardest part of the day was trying to explain to the families from newtown and virginia tech and other victim families how democracy could fail to work so deplorably.

>> what did you tell those, i mean, what would you like to tell those victims' families, i don't know if you got to talk to them, but when you heard that one woman say, "shame on you," what went through your head?

>> well, first of all, i spent some time with the newtown families after the vote, and i will tell you, they are resolute and resilient as they've been since december 14th , and really inspired me. i said to one of them, you know, we're not done. and she looked at me without skipping a bit and said, we're not even close to done.

>> yeah.

>> so, they are coming back. this cause is not going away. and my hope is that my colleagues will heed and hear the outrage that i hope america will express, not just from the gallery, as i heard today on the floor of the senate, but really all around the nation so that people can be swayed by that majority, that silent majority , may be too silent.

>> i want to ask you about members of your own party. even if every democrat had voted for the measure under the 60-vote threshold, even if every democrat had voted for it, it still would have fallen one vote shy, but four members of your caucus all voted to essentially sustain a filibuster of this piece of legislation. have you had conversations with those colleagues of yours and how do you feel about that?

>> over the last weeks, chris, i have talked to just about every one of my colleagues, and many of them on the other side of the aisle, but let's be very blunt politically, we needed republican votes. even if we had all the democrats, we still needed a bipartisan support, and that was the reason why the compromise forged by senators toomey and manchin was so critically important. it would have been a vast improvement on the current law. nowhere near as strong as i might have preferred or nowhere near as strong as many, including myself, but the point here is that we need a bipartisan vote. there should be nothing democrat or republican about supporting gun safety , and i think the brunt of it may well fall on republicans.

>> very quickly, senator, what should be done next? it seems to me if the current package is voted through, everybody gets to say they did something, and in some ways that's the most perverse result, or do you think what's left in the package is salvageable or meaningful enough you want to see that passed out of the senate?

>> this bill is coming back, chris, there's no running away from it, and the connecticut effect that the nra hope would dissipate, it said so specifically is not going away. so, i think a strengthened bill and some measure of bipartisan compromise is still very much reachable. remember, four and a half months ago this issue was thought to be politically untouchable. now we came very close to victory because the newtown families turned the tide.

>> senator richard blumenthal , thank you for joining us tonight. let's go to laurie haas, who yelled from the senate gallery who said they should be ashamed of themselves. her daughter emily was shot twice at virginia tech six years ago this week and survived. laurie , what caused you to yell out at that moment?

>> frankly, i was disgusted and ashamed myself for the senators voting the wrong way. i can't imagine what their thought process was and how they are going to explain it to their constituents and the rest of america .

>> the president today talked about, obviously, the newtown families have been very visible in this lobbying effort and as well as family members of those who died in tucson and some in aurora and virginia tech . i want to play you some sound of the president talking about criticism that he was, quote, using the victims' families as props. take a listen.

>> i've heard folks say that having the families of victims lobby for this legislation was somehow misplaced. a prop, somebody called them. emotional blackmail, some outlets said. are they serious? do we really think that thousands of families whose lives have been shattered by gun violence don't have a right to weigh in on this issue? do we think their emotions, their loss is not relevant to this debate?

>> i wonder what your reaction is to that, laurie .

>> well, i agree with him wholeheartedly. if i can't speak to what happened to my daughter, emily, laying on the classroom floor, she got shot twice in the back of the head, you know, i heard your comments earlier, that was terrorism laying in that classroom when the gunman came in three times. not only do i have more authority to speak to gun violence and how it touched my family, i think i have an obligation, you know, friends have said, colin goddard , i'm not doing this for me, i'm doing this for someone else. you know, we want to stop the gun violence from harming and hurting other families. all of the people that i work with, i've talked to people from tucson, aurora, newtown , they are doing this because they don't want other families in america to be harmed by gun violence . they don't want that pain and suffering visited on anyone. we all deserve to live free from gun violence , and we know what it's going to take, and these senators that voted the wrong way today, shame on them. and we are determined and we are coming back. we're not going anywhere. i'll be knocking on doors tomorrow.

>> let me ask you this question, the argument that ended up being marshalled ultimately against the even fairly moderate watered down legislation offered in the manchin-toomey compromise was that it wouldn't actually prevent gun violence , it was an amazing argument which the nra argued to water it down, then they said this isn't going to do much. i wonder what your response to that is. when you look at the actual scope of gun violence in this country and the kind of legislation proposed, there genuinely is a mismatch between what was proposed and the scope of gun violence , but how do you respond to this argument of futility of the legislation?

>> who's arguing the futility? let's be clear, the gun lobby that just wants to sell more guns. when we go to public safety experts, the law enforcement , they tell us we need to stop criminals, and the best way to do that is to do a background check on every buyer. we get our information about public safety from those experts. we don't listen to a special interest group . in virginia, we know that criminals are arrested, you know, about 79 annually at gun shows attempting to buy firearms. that is a criminal element. that's who we're -- exactly who we're after, who we're trying to stop when we do a background check on all buyers. i just think it's just, you know, garbage, frankly, they want to stop the discussion and they want to sell more guns. i'd like to save lives, and i think americans are with me. i think after sandy hook , americans became determined to do something about gun violence in america , and after today's vote, i think americans are angry, and i think those senators who voted no are going to hear from every american. either going to hear from me, and, i think, most americans are going to be with me and are going to speak up, stand up, and let their voices be heard.

>> lori haas, currently working with mayor against illegal guns. thank you for joining me tonight.