Meet the Press   |  March 24, 2013

Guns in America: Comments from Bloomberg and LaPierre

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre discuss the gun control reform debate and the legislation pending on Capitol Hill.

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

>>> safety. mayor michael bloomberg of new york has announce d a big push to put pressure on lawmakers who will will vote on new gun control measures in congress. i discuss that and some other topics including the middle east when i sat down with him this weekend in new york . mr. mayor, welcome back to the program.

>> thank you for having me.

>> always good to have you. big week in the gun debate. i'll get to that in just a minute. let me start with the president's significant trip to the middle east . he's returned. do you think he's erased any doubts about whether he's a stalwart supporter of israel ?

>> no, i think he certainly said that he was and i think people believe that. this is going to go down in history as one of the few trips that an american president has made to israel where there really were deliverables. he got israel and turkey talking to each other and restoring diplomatic relations , and i think that's crucial for the security of that whole area. he's got the palestinians and the israelis thinking long and hard about they're going to have to find some ways to resolve their differenceses no matter how difficult they are. you know, when you get people talking, only good things can come out.

>> we'll be watching that closely as we're watching this gun debate as i know you are. here we are 100 days after newtown this weekend, after this massacre. there is a senate bill . it's moving forward with the assault weapons ban has been taken out of the main bill. it seems doomed in the view of most. here is what you said after newtown when i had an opportunity to ask you some questions about it.

>> the nra 's power is so vastly overrated. the public, when you do the polls, they want to stop this carnage. and if 20 kids isn't enough to convince them, i don't know what would be.

>> the nra 's power does seem to be where it has always been. do you fear that the moment that was create d by newtown has been lost?

>> well, it would be a great tragedy for this country and for tens of thousands of lives if it is lost. having said that, i am cautious cautiously optimistic. i think when you have an issue where 90% of the public, 80% of nra members even, say that they think we should have reasonable checks before people are allowed to buy guns, they all support the second amendment, as do i do. there are an awful lot of people that think that this is one of the great issues of our time. we have to stop the carnage.

>> you see that. you have democrats and republicans who are not moved by these polls.

>> be better able to judge that after the recess. we're running ads around the country. we have people manning phone banks and calling. we're trying to do everything we can to impress upon the senators that this is what the survivors want. this is what the public wants. this is what the 900-plus mayors that are in our organization want. they're the ones that have to deliver safety to the streets every single day. this is what the 1.5 million people who have signed up to our demand a plan website want. i don't think there's ever been an issue where the public has spo spoken so clearly where congress hasn't eventually understood and done the right thing.

>> you don't think the assault weapons ban is going to pass?

>> well, look, we've been fighting since 2007 to get a vote. we are going to have a vote for sure on assault weapons , and we're going to have a vote on background checks and if we were to get background checks it wouldn't be as good as if we got both. but we demanded a plan and then we demanded a vote. we have the plan. we're going to get the vote. it's incumbent on us to make our voices heard.

>> you sound much more resigned. you, after newtown , said the nra a is not as strong as it used to be. the nra is proving to be exactly as strong as it used to be, and here you seem to be celebrating the fact that there is at least a vote but that's a far cry from achieving the result that you said were essential.

>> yeah, well, i think we are going to win this, celebrating in advance isn't the right thing to do. we have to go out. we have a lot of work ahead of us. i don't think we should give up on the assault weapons ban . but clearly it is a more difficult issue for a lot of people. and i don't know that reflects the nra 's power. it may be just that people have different views about assault weapons than they do about background checks . 90% of the people want background checks , period.

>> but you know the nra says, look, if you do that there's a secret agenda that the nra and wayne lapierre talk about which is create a registry of all gun owners . they either want to attack the guns or take them away.

>> he can say whatever he wants. this isn't about wayne lapierre . this is about a public wanting to be safe on their streets. this is about the public having the right to buy arms and the right to protect themselves and the right to use them for sport or hunting. but, also, it's about the public's right to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill . that's in everybody's interests. if you go back to 1999 , wayne lapierre testified on behalf of the nra that background checks were appropriate and should be done and congress back in 1968 actually made them the law of the land , but they don't apply to 40% of the gun sales today. something like 58,000 gun dealers across this country, three times the number of mcdonald's stores, as a matter of fact, there are gun stores every place in this country, and those gun sellers -- they do background checks on all their clients. i think last year 78,000 times the government found reasons to deny people a permit to get a gun based on either they were criminals or they had mental problems. if that doesn't tell you that this is a real problem but good checks can really do something, i don't know what would.

>> let me ask you about in new york the nra has failed a suit to try to defeat some of these gun control measures which are more robust than what the federal government is talk iing about within the states that are about magazines, background checks and assault weapons . how do you react to that?

>> well, anybody has the right to go to court and sue over anything. and in new york lots of people do that every single day. but the supreme court , which is the one that interprets what the constitution actually means and says, has said clearly that reasonable background checks are consistent with the second amendment. that's what in the end is going to stop all of these other suits. if the laws that they are trying to contest are consistent with that, they won't get very far.

>> one more on this. you made it very clear this week you're paying attention to the vote in the senate, in congress, and you're taking names.

>> yes.

>> will you target people, republicans and democrats, who do not support a weapons ban, an assault weapons ban , will you spend money, hots of money, to target them in 2014 in the midterm race?

>> well, let me phrase it this way. i think i have a responsibility and i think you and all of your viewers have responsibilities to try to make this country safer for our families and for each other. and if i can do that by spending some money and taking the nra from being the only voice to being one of the voices soap the public can really understand the issues, i think my money would be well spent and i think i have an obligation to do that.

>> you save money on ads?

>> we're starting to run ads today, tomorrow. i think i've spent $12 million on running ads in ten states around the country explaining to the public what the issues are and how -- and urging them to call their senators if they believe that we should have gun checks that stop criminals and people with mental illnesses from getting guns they should call their senators.

>> will there be a political price to pay for a republican or democrat who fails to vote based on this public polling to make assault weapons banned or to vote for background checks ?

>> if 90% of the public wants something and their represent representatives vote against that common sense is they are going to have a price to pay for that. the public is going to eventually wake up and say i want to put in office somebody that will do the things that i think are necessary for this country. that's what democracy is all about. and all we're trying to do is to tell them what people are doing in congress. who is voting for what. and then they can make their own decisions.

>> a couple minutes left. let me switch gears and talk about the fight for personal freedom in new york city . those people who oppose your effort in the name of public health to limit portion size when it comes to sugary drinks. a judge has ruled against you saying the law doesn't make sense at the moment. how far will you take this push to limit how much soda you can drink in new york city ?

>> we are appealing. we think the judge was clearly wrong on this. our department of health has the legal ability to do this, and we're not banning anything. all we're saying is we want to show you just how big the cup is. if you want 32 ounces, take two cups to your seat. if you want 64, carry four. our hope is if you only take one, you won't go back --

>> wasn't this really about public awareness?

>> obesity this year is going to kill more people in new york city than smoking. if you remember we put a smoking ban in, nobody thought that was going to work. today all of latin america , all of western europe , and almost every big city in america and most of the states are smoke free. this is another thing. obesity is going to kill more people this year in the world than starvation. we have to do something about it.

>> what about sodium linked deaths in new york city , 23,000?

>> you look at the packaged goods manufacturers are now advertising low sewodium and they reduced the sodium in their products. everybody is better off.

>> where is the line? would you ban the salt shaker ?

>> we're not banning anything. we're trying to urge them to tell the public -- our job is to educate. it's the public's job to decide when they look on the grocery shelf or have the lever on a soda machine which thing to take, which product is in their interest. all we're trying to do is educate and then hopefully if they understand they would be better off with one product or another, they'll make the in intelligent choice.

>> you could do ads for education as the executive of new york city , you are telling people what they can and cannot do. why is that government's job to do that?

>> we're not telling them at all. we're telling them what science says is or isn't in their interest. we allow you to smoke. we just don't let you smoke where other people have to breathe the smoke that you -- that you're exhaling or comes from your cigarette. the same thing with obesity which incidentally is a public interest because we're going to spend $5 billion on treating people of 0 obesity in our hospitals in new york city alone this year. but regardless --

>> where is the line? where is it too far for government to go?

>> i do not think we should ban most things. i do think there are certain times we should infringe on your freedom and that is, for example, if you're drinking we shouldn't let you drive because you'll kill somebody else. if you are carrying a gun, we shouldn't let you on an airplane. there's a lot of things that we do -- if there's asbestos in the classroom we should remove the kids from classroom until you clean the air. if you want to own a gun, i certainly think it's constitutionally protected. you certainly have a right to have a gun if you want. if you want to eat a lot and get fat, you have a right to do it. but our job of government is to inform the public.

>> mayor bloomberg being thanks as always.