THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT IN INTERVIEW WITH CHARLIE GIBSON AND DIANE SAWYER OF GOOD MORNING AMERICA LIVE AT THE WHITE HOUSE: MOMS AND GUNS
The Oval Office
7:00 A.M. EDT
MR. GIBSON: This morning we are live from the White House, where we will bring together the President and some representatives of the army of moms who will converge on Washington this weekend to flex their muscles and join the Million Mom March against gun violence.
Good morning, America. We begin our broadcast this morning in the Oval Office of the White House.
MS. SAWYER: And it is Friday, May 12, 2000. Welcome to all of you. We're grateful to the President for the loan of the office this morning.
And as you've been saying, Charlie, the rumbling sound being heard out there, according to a lot of women is the sound of moms packing bags, boarding buses by the tens of thousands to come to Washington, they say not for symbolism, but for action. And specifically what these women want -- I'll run through the list of four main things -- they think that people who own guns should be licensed, just like car owners are. They want the guns registered. They also want trigger locks, safety locks on all guns. They say there should be background checks, even at gun shows, and they want longer waiting periods before the purchases of guns.
So, this morning, our questions are, are these the right things, and will they work?
MR. GIBSON: If you're a student of this broadcast, you know about a year ago we were here and we brought a number of students in to talk about gun violence, with the President and Mrs. Clinton. We have come back with some of the moms who will march on Sunday, and we've also brought in some mothers who feel those who will march on Sunday are simply wrong. And they're actually going to have a counter-march, and some of them are here as well.
MS. SAWYER: And so we also want to explore, are there consensus issues, things we can all agree can and should be done. Everyone certainly agrees there's a problem. Just yesterday we heard about Prairie Grove, Arkansas, where a 7th grader was believed to be on his way to school with a 12-gauge shotgun, got in a shootout with the police.
MR. GIBSON: We are here in the Oval Office with the President, who is joining us this morning. It's nice to have -- nice to be here. I shouldn't say nice to have you with us, since it's your office. Mr. President, good to see you again.
THE PRESIDENT: Good to see you.
MR. GIBSON: Diane is going to go over with the mothers and we understand you will join us in there in a few moments. But we'd like to talk a little bit first.
It as a year ago, Mr. President, that we were here with you with the students talking about gun violence. And you talked to me then about the hopes that you had for new gun control legislation. It hasn't happened. What went wrong?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, nothing went wrong. We passed legislation in the Senate -- Vice President Gore cast the tie-breaking vote to require child safety locks, to ban the importation of large capacity ammunition clips, which would make our assault weapons ban much more effective, and to require background checks when handguns are bought at gun shows and urban flea markets, just as they are now at gun stores.
It passed in the Senate; it didn't pass in the House. And, frankly, I think it was because of the intense lobbying effort against it and the longstanding ability of the NRA to influence congressman. I think that that was a big part of it.
I think, also, the label "gun control" is not nearly as effective as the specific safety measures. I mean, if I said to you, let's take these seatbelts out of cars and repeal the speed limits and repeal the requirement that drivers get licenses because it's "car control," you might be against it, too. When you talk about the specifics, do they make sense or not, do they work or not, the answer is, yes.
Frankly, I still don't understand why anybody would be against these things. And the evidence is clear that it works.
MR. GIBSON: But the Congress is jammed up. I've got here a pile of all the gun legislation that's been proposed in the past year, since we were here before, and none of it has passed. By my count, we have more states rejecting new gun control legislation than have passed it. We have 15 states that have passed prohibitions on cities suing gun manufacturers. That hardly seems like progress.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, I think you have to look at the fact that the states, which our founding fathers thought would be the laboratories of democracy, have seen some progress. If you look at what Maryland and California and Massachusetts have done -- Maryland particularly is interesting because it is not what you would think of a socially or culturally liberal state, and people from very difficult districts passed some very tough child safety legislation.
I think that there has been some movement at the state level. In Colorado, a conservative Republican governor proposed closing the gun show loophole, couldn't pass it through the legislature, and they're going to put it on the ballot. It will be interesting to see what the people of Colorado do.
I think that as a practical matter, until the public demonstrates its will on this, there may not be more substantive progress. The people are going to have to decide what they believe the right approach is.
MR. GIBSON: When we were here a year ago, you gave me a rather stern talking-to about the political realities on the issue of gun control. Isn't it fair to say that the political realities right now are that nothing is going to happen for this year, while people wait to see the results of the November election?
THE PRESIDENT: I'm not sure. That is one possible outcome. It may be the more likely outcome. But keep in mind, you've still got bills that have passed the House and the Senate. Essentially what's happened is, though, that this is the part about Washington that drives people crazy -- we've got a version of this bill that passed the House, a version of this bill that the Senate, and the conferees are supposed to get together, both parties, both Houses, come up with a bill and send it to me; I sign it or veto it, and then they override the veto or they don't if I veto it. That's the way the system is supposed to work.
As a practical matter, what happens is they're just not meeting, and because they don't want to report out a bill that, again, they can't label as "gun control," but it will have specifics, and people either like it or not, and it will either pass or not. That's what's frustrating. It's just been stalled. And I think the fact that what's really important about it is closing a loophole in a background check law that has plainly worked to save lives in America, closing a loophole in an assault weapons ban that the American people overwhelmingly support, and putting in child trigger locks -- those are the three main elements -- it's unconscionable that it hasn't been voted out.
MR. GIBSON: As a practical matter, doesn't this administration have something of a stake in Sunday's march, hoping that some mothers can do politically what Columbine, what a pre-school shooting out in California, what a six-year-old shooting another six-year-old didn't do, which is to create a gun control lobby as strong as the pro-gun lobby?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think, as a practical matter, what we really have is hoping that these mothers will create a sense of awareness in America that this is not a debate framed the way the NRA has debated, gun control or not, implying that this is the beginning of a slippery slope to take people's guns away, no matter how law-abiding they are, and that it's about very specific, very concrete measures of prevention -- to reduce the likelihood of guns falling into the hands of children and criminals. That's what this is about.
MR. GIBSON: You have made this very much a priority in this administration. Does it surprise you when you see the latest polls, Gallup Poll just out recently, indicating that a plurality of this country actually thinks that Governor Bush would be stronger on gun control and better equipped to handle the issue than the Vice President?
THE PRESIDENT: No, because I think the public doesn't have the information. I don't think there's any -- I think if you gave -- did the Gallup Poll give the public a test about whether -- which candidate was for the following specific measures? I think people form general impressions, and the Republicans, keep in mind, until our administration came in, because of their tough rhetoric and their theory that the answer to every crime was just to put more people in jail and keep them there longer, and they talked about it like that -- they had the overwhelming advantage on all crime-related issues.
But it's not like there's no evidence here. I mean, crime has come down seven years in a row -- eight years in a row, now. This is the eighth year that crime is coming down. Partly it's due to the improved economy, but partly it's due to the fact that we put 100,000 police on the street, that we passed the Brady Bill, that we passed the assault weapons, that we increased enforcement as well.
No one can dispute the evidence. And so what I think there is, when the campaign really starts in earnest, we need to make sure that voters have all the evidence, and then we'll see what they say.
MR. GIBSON: Don't you to some extent make the NRA's case when you say that, though? They say, enforce existing laws. You're not doing enough of enforcing existing laws. And yet you've got murder down 25 percent since '93; gun crime down 35 percent since '92; violent crime overall down 27 percent. That's done with a good economy, better policing, and not necessarily such stronger gun control laws.
THE PRESIDENT: That includes the Brady Bill, the assault weapons ban, a ban on cop-killer bullets. They were against all those things. When we passed the Brady Bill -- keep in mind, the Brady law, which requires the background checks, was vetoed in the previous administration of President Bush. We passed it again and I signed it. And what did they say? The same crowd here who is against closing the gun show loophole, what did they say then? Then they said, because they were making a different argument, because they're against all prevention measures, they said then, oh, this Brady law won't make any difference because criminals do not buy guns at gun stores, they buy guns at these gun shows or flea markets, or out of the back of pickup trucks on streets. It won't make any difference.
Okay, now, it's 2000, and since we passed the Brady Bill, over 500,000 felons, fugitives, and stalkers have been unable to get handguns. There is no question that they used gun stores and no question that the Brady Bill made a difference, and no question it would be even better if all handgun sales were subject to background checks, including the ones at gun shows.
Now, so we're not arguing about that. If it's a prevention measure designed to keep more guns out of the hands of criminals, they're against it. If it's punishment for any kind of gun violation, they're for it. They say that this is the one area of American life where there must be no prevention, and where people who own guns must be subject to no reasonable efforts to construct a system of prevention.
This is not gun control in the sense that we're taking people's guns away from them, or making the decision that they'd be safer or better off to have guns, or that they want to engage in a wide range of lawful activities. And that's really -- they've been working this for a long time and they're good at it. They just say the same things over and over again.
But why were they against this banning cop-killer bullets? Why were they against the Brady Bill in the first place? Why were they against the assault weapons ban? What's wrong with banning the importation of large-capacity ammunition clips? Let's get out of the name-calling and labeling and get right down to specifics -- is this going to reduce crime, or not, in America? Is it going to make Americans safer? I think it is.
MR. GIBSON: Let's get to the specifics of why the mothers are here to march. If you'd join us across the hall, we've got a number of mothers there anxious to talk to you.
Diane, let me go to you over in the Roosevelt Room.
MS. SAWYER: That's right, Charlie. Sitting in this room, I've noticed a lot of women nodding heads and shaking heads and bursting to ask questions. I'll give you a preview -- just one question, what's it going to be?
MS. HALPIN: I'd like to know why it's been held up in Congress as long as it has been held up in Congress.
MS. SAWYER: All right. We're going to come back after we take a break for your news and headlines and local weather just ahead, and hear what all of these women, with their hearts filled -- and believe me, some of them have stories that will stop your heart, as well -- have to say to the President, just ahead.
MS. SAWYER: Mr. President, as you know, the women in this room represent many sides of the issue. Some of them are here from the Second Amendment Sisters, the counter-demonstration to the Million Mom March. Also in this room we have many stories of personal terror, some of heartbreak, and a lot of moms who say they want to try to turn heartbreak into purpose, tears into something that matters.
So I'm going to start again if I could, sir, with Linda Halpin, who had that first question and wants to tell you about her son and why her question matters so much to her.
MS. HALPIN: Good morning, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning.
MS. HALPIN: My son was killed last Mother's Day. He was shot in the head, and of course, was pronounced brain-dead. When he lie in the hospital room I promised I would do something about it. So I'll speak on behalf of my son, Louis.
Mr. President, it's been so long that so many of these laws are being held up, and I understand that they're being held up in Congress. I understand that they've been sitting there. And in my heart I feel that if something had been done maybe a year ago, my son may have been alive. I need to know from you, Mr. President, I need to know and I need an answer today, what are you going to do about this in your remaining days in office? I don't want to know what has been done or what could be done, I want to know what you're going to do for my son, Louis.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, the short answer is I'm going to do everything I can. In our country's history, as far as I know, no administration before ours has taken any kind of systematic, aggressive approach to this, except after Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy were killed in 1968, President Johnson tried to do something. He tried to pass -- he did pass a very weak background check law, not as strong as he wanted, and he tried to pass licensing. And since then, until we came in and began with the Brady Bill and the assault weapons ban, no one had done anything.
I have done as many townhall meetings as I could; I have lobbied the Congress as hard as I could; I've also taken a lot of executive action the strengthen the enforcement of the laws and to give us some options we didn't have before. But the truth is, in the United States, we have, by far, the highest gun death rate of any advanced country in the world, and by far, the highest accidental gun rate in the world, because we have taken the position that any sort of sensible prevention measures here should not be passed -- I say, we, as a people. And I think that's the wrong position.
So I've tried to change what would happen. I thought surely after Columbine, we would get some action. The Senate passed, 51-50, the Vice President passed the tie-breaking vote, I think a good bill that would aggressively move us forward. But there are things we can do at the executive level, without congressional action, to continue to increase the effectiveness of the enforcement of the laws we have. And we're doing that.
But we don't have authority to apply, for example, background checks on people that buy guns at gun shows or at flea markets. We have an assault weapons ban, but people can import large-capacity ammunition clips and then adjust guns here and turn them into assault weapons. We have a few states that require safety locks on guns for kids -- that's one thing that not many people talk about, but let me just say, the accidental rate of death from guns of children under 15 in the United States is nine times higher than the accidental rate in the other countries combined.
So I am doing everything I can do. I am not a dictator. The Congress believes -- I'll just tell you the truth -- the Congress believes -- as Congresswoman McCarthy, she's paid a pretty high price for this -- they believe that if they vote with the NRA they will not be defeated. They believe if they vote with you they may be defeated.
This is not complicated. You have to understand, they believe that as long -- you know when Charlie Rose asked me about the poll -- I mean Charlie Gibson asked me about the poll -- Charlie Rose normally asks me about other things -- asked me about the poll in there. You have to understand what they believe. They believe that as long as they can turn it into a gun control, gun control, gun control debate, and stay away from the specifics, they can scare a bunch of guys into thinking that they're going to lose their guns, and that more people will vote against them for voting for gun control measures if it's called that instead of the specifics than vote for it.
Now, look, I know you're heartbroken. I'm doing everything I can. But let me remind you that Mr. LaPierre, the representative of the NRA, said that I wanted people to die so I could make an issue out of this. That's what he said. Now, I can only tell you that I wake up every day thinking about this. I am heartbroken about this. And I am frustrated. Because they do well if they can turn this into a gun control battle. We do well when we turn this into a specific battle.
The thing that the mothers coming here will do, I hope, is to make this a voting issue. But if it's not, they're going to keep winning. And you just have to realize that.
MR. GIBSON: Mr. President, I want to interrupt you for just a second. We're supposed to take a commercial break here at this point, but we're going to keep going. And we just want to tell our local stations we want to keep going -- because you want to follow up, I know.
MS. HALPIN: Mr. President, I understand you are frustrated and that you're doing the best that you can, but I want to know what are you going to do in your remaining days of office. I do not want another mother to see -- to look at what I'm looking at -- a death certificate for a boy at the age of 22 years old, gunshot perforating the brain, as my son was killed. I don't want to see these -- I don't want to see this anymore. I'm so fed up with what has been going on, with the school shootings -- Columbine, yes, I understand what happened there. My son sat with me and cried with me for the families. Little did he know he'd be dead 10 days later with the same affliction.
Mr. President, again I'm going to repeat it. I need to know, what are you going to do in your remaining days of office. I need accountability for my son's death. I need to -- not to blame it on someone, but someone, somebody has to be held accountable.
THE PRESIDENT: Where are you from?
MS. HALPIN: I'm from New York, sir. Howard Beach.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I'm going to do my best to pass this legislation, and I'm going to do my best to make sure that we're enforcing the existing laws, and I'm going to do my best to find more people like you to tell your stories in the hope that more people in the Congress will be emboldened to do what I believe a majority of them think is the right thing to do.
This has been a big issue with me, and I have been very frustrated in my inability to get more done. We did -- we got the Brady Bill and the assault weapons ban through. I just want to tell you this. This is a very -- you just need to know this. We have some people on the other side of this issue today, so I want to compliment them.
I got the first Congress I had to pass the Brady Bill and the assault weapons ban, and at least a dozen of them, maybe as many as 20 of them in the House lost their seats because they did that, trying to help people like you. Because the NRA beat their brains out, because they went home to their districts and told people they were going to take their guns away.
Now, seven years later, none of them have lost their guns and we've got a safer America. And so now they're fighting the new list of prevention measures. But you need to know what happened.
I know this hurts you. And I'm telling you, we're -- ask Congresswoman McCarthy -- we've been up here fighting this for all these years, and it is very, very frustrating.
MS. HALPIN: It won't bring our children back.
THE PRESIDENT: It won't bring your children back. But I'll tell you what will save more children, is if they believe people like you will mobilize other people to change the voting behavior of the American public. That is what will bring -- applause.) That's the truth.
I know this sounds so cruel in the face of your human loss. You have to understand how things work here. Look, I'm not running for anything. I'm doing what I think is right. I have taken on these facts; I have done everything I know to do. And you heard what Charlie said -- gun violence is down 30 percent -- gun crime -- since I took office, 35 percent. The crime rate is down, actually now, to about a 27-year low. The murder rate is down to a 30-year low.
We are making it better. But this is still way too dangerous a country because we take the position that when it comes to these issues, this is the only area of our national life where we will not have prevention. Now, that's really what -- that is the truth. And it breaks my heart, too.
MS. SAWYER: I want to ask you about something in the paper this morning -- I'll get it -- in the paper this morning, George W. Bush has announced that he's going to distribute free trigger locks for guns around the country, and that he pledges to create a national program to do this if he's elected President. Now, that's something, presumably, that could happen immediately, right away. Is it a good idea, and would you support it and do it, too?
THE PRESIDENT: It's a good idea, but why is he doing that?
MS. HALPIN: And why now?
THE PRESIDENT: No, no, wait -- yes, that's good -- that's also good. Why now? Because he's running for President. That's okay, that's what elections are for. People get better ideas all the time. We can't hold people -- anybody who wants to join and start doing things should be complimented. So that's fine.
But I think you have to understand what's going on here. There was a report in the newspaper last week that a lobbyist for the NRA said they would have an office in the White House if Governor Bush as elected. And they were I think the first or second biggest contributor to the annual Republican Party Gala last week. So he wants to move away from that image, he wants people not to think that he won't do anything -- that basically the NRA will control policy on this -- which they will if he wins.
And if he comes out and gives away gun trigger locks, then he doesn't have to explain why we're still importing large-capacity ammunition clips and why he doesn't want to close the gun show loophole.
I know you have people here from Texas who believe that their concealed weapons law is very effective. I know that -- and we could talk about that if you like. But the truth is that everybody is going to want to look like they're doing something, but the most effective measures are opposed by most of the people in the Republican Party. I wish that weren't true. We do have some support from them, and I thank those who are supporting us.
MS. SAWYER: You've talked about the NRA, and as we've said, we have some -- some of the women here this morning, we want to make sure we hear their views, too, who are from the Second Amendment Sisters counter-march. Specifically on this question of a concealed weapon, I want to ask Suzanna Hupp to stand by here. And we're going to see a little taped piece, because she is really of the view that the fact that she couldn't have a concealed weapon may have cost the lives of some people she loves. And let's take a look at a tape.
(Technical difficulties.) We may have had the wrong tape coming up here.
MR. GIBSON: Well, Suzanna, where are you? Why don't you give me a basic -- of what happened in that restaurant.
MS. HUPP: Well, to put it in a nutshell, back in '91, at that point in time in Texas we were not allowed to carry concealed. I carried concealed illegally for many years, at the advice of an assistant DA friend of mine -- of an very urban area. Shortly before that, I quit carrying concealed because I was worried about losing my license to practice chiropractic.
That particular day a guy drove his truck through the window of a restaurant. To make a long story short, 23 people were killed. It was a very methodical killing, very execution-style killing --
THE PRESIDENT: I remember that.
MS. HUPP: My parents were two of those people. I will tell you that the only thing, the only thing, that the gun laws did was to prevent me from being able to protect myself and my family. That's it, that's the only thing they did.
MR. GIBSON: And you are now in the statehouse of Texas?
MS. HUPP: Yes, sir, I am.
MR. GIBSON: And there is now a concealed weapons law in the state of Texas.
MS. HUPP: Yes.
THE PRESIDENT: Okay. First of all, let's concede something. She might be right about this. That is, on this particular incidence, if there had been someone in that restaurant who knew how to use a gun and was lawfully carrying it -- for example, an off-duty police officer or somebody -- or in a state with a concealed weapon law, someone who was properly trained and had it, maybe they could have stopped this horrible incident.
There is no law that covers every set of facts. However, what the truth is in most instances is, is that a lot of people have guns who don't know how to use them, and the accidental death rate in America is -- again I will say this -- nine times higher than that in the next 25 biggest countries combined. So it's a question of what makes you safest overall.
But my view of the concealed weapons law is, if a state wants to have one, what do people have to prove to carry a concealed weapon; how well have they been trained; how likely are they to avoid doing something crazy, so that they're only used in cases like this.
But the second thing is, whether you've got a concealed weapons law or not should have nothing to do with whether you close the loophole in the background check, whether you ban the large-capacity ammunition clips, and whether you require child trigger locks, including those that are built into the guns, assuming they're feasible.
She may be right about this, about this example. But I don't think that example is an argument against our legislation.
MS. SAWYER: Mr. President, you talk about the rate of violence in this country, but the Second Amendment Sisters here have said that there is no evidence that there is a correlation between increased gun control laws, which tend to affect the law-abiding population, and a decrease in violence -- specifically, in England, where you have highly restrictive gun control laws, there's an increase of violence right now. What correlation is there --
THE PRESIDENT: Wait, wait a minute -- an increase of violence from a very low base.
MS. SAWYER: From a low base.
THE PRESIDENT: From a low base. In America, I will say again -- forget about the crimes, just look at the accidental gun rate -- in America, the death rate of children under 15 from accidental gun violence is -- I will say again -- 9 times higher than that in the next 24 biggest industrial countries put together.
So we say, in order to avoid inconveniencing people who have firearms or might want to get firearms, we will not have sensible prevention measures, because it scares everybody because we'll call it gun control. Now, that's a decision we've made as a society.
Look, there is no perfect system. The level of violence will depend upon the kind of people you have in your society, the condition of the economy, the way the children are raised, the values of the society, the values of the community, the effectiveness of law enforcement -- there are many factors involved here. And there is no perfect system. But there is no question that if we want to become the safest big country on Earth, without impinging on our freedom, we will have to do more in the area of prevention.
MS. HOWARD: Excuse me, could I ask a question if it's all right?
THE PRESIDENT: Sure.
MS. SAWYER: And we should point out, you are Susan Howard.
MS. HOWARD: Yes, I am. I would like to ask this lady --
MS. SAWYER: Let's tell people, Susan, who you are, those who don't know you. You've seen her in the ads for the NRA --
MS. HOWARD: Yes, for the child safety. Was your son killed accidentally with a gun, or was it a crime?
MS. HALPIN: It was a crime.
MS. HOWARD: Mr. President, I really have to ask you something. You just made the statement that just sent shivers up and down my spine. You said, let's forget the crimes and --
THE PRESIDENT: No --
MS. HOWARD: No, no, no, sir, excuse me --
THE PRESIDENT: This is the way the NRA operates.
MS. HOWARD: No, sir, it's not. No, sir --
THE PRESIDENT: All I did is -- I don't want to forget the crimes --
MS. HOWARD: No, sir, you said, let's forget the crime and talk about the accidents -- because there is nobody that --
THE PRESIDENT: You know that's not what I meant, to forget the crime, Ms. Howard.
MS. HOWARD: But that's what you said, Mr. President. And I guess this is --
THE PRESIDENT: Well, what I -- I was making the prevention --
MS. HOWARD: No, sir, let me finish.
THE PRESIDENT: All right.
MS. HOWARD: Please may I finish, because you have a bully
pulpit, and I know every single person here in this room, the majority of them, are really for you and they love you and they trust you and they believe you. But we are right now living in a country, sir, where our children -- it's not how many gun laws you can continue to pass, it's about my grandchildren, it's about their children, it's about your daughter and whether she ever has any children or not.
Bottom line, the issue is about are we ever, ever, ever, ever going to look at the children and say, that's the focus. Because right now what this is all about is the children have been pushed out of the side -- they do not exist right --
MR. GIBSON: Get to the question.
MS. HOWARD: No, what I'm saying is, if we -- you are the education President, am I correct? Are you the education President -- that is what you have built your --
THE PRESIDENT: Well, that's what the teachers said yesterday when they all came here.
MS. HOWARD: I agree, but I think that's what you built your platform on. What is it about educating children and gun safety that you have a problem with?
THE PRESIDENT: Nothing. Now, wait a minute. Charlie, I have to answer this. On many occasions -- not one, many occasions -- I have complimented, as President, in the face of all the criticism I've gotten from the NRA -- on many occasions I have complimented the NRA on the gun safety legislation -- efforts they've made, the gun safety education programs. I have talked about what they did when I was governor. I've also complimented them on some other things they did when I was governor to reduce violence -- but wait a minute, let me finish.
I think the laws should be more vigorously enforced. I have asked for more resources to do that. Gun enforcement is up since I've been President. But I've asked for resources to do more.
Look, here's my argument. Let me just be very careful here. I do not believe that America has done enough on the prevention side. And I do not believe this problem can be addressed solely by stiffer punishment, by education, and in the case of the Texas -- if a state wants to have a concealed weapons law. I believe we must do more to try to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and away from children in the first place. That's all I said. That's my only position. (Applause.)
But I think the NRA, the education programs, the gun safety education programs are good and would do a lot of good.
MR. GIBSON: Susan, let me address this. Marjorie Hardy is here --
MS. SAWYER: Marjorie Hardy -- she is a psychologist --
MR. GIBSON: -- and assistant professor who worked -- Marjorie, if I quote you correctly -- you worked with your children on education over and over again, correct?
MS. HARDY: That's correct --
MR. GIBSON: And you used those children as part of an experiment that we did on 20-20.
MS. SAWYER: -- which we did at 20-20. And we also had the Eddie Eagle education program come in. And we were talking with kids about how -- what you do when you see a gun in the room, specifically. And they all sat there and nodded, yes, they got it, you get an adult, you don't touch it, you don't touch it -- including Marjorie's son, Matthew, who had grown up with nothing but education against guns.
I'm going to roll the clip. And what happened with Marjorie's son was a traditional -- or typical with what happened with the other kids, as well. And we found that the education, by and large, didn't work with this age kid. Here is Marjorie's son, Matthew --
THE PRESIDENT: How old is your son?
MS. SAWYER: He was age 4 at the time.
(Clip is shown.)
MS. SAWYER: And I want to point out, Marjorie, that the kids knew these were not toy guns. You could hear them saying, "this is a real gun" and reacting to the fact that it was a real gun. Anything you want to add?
MS. HARDY: I do. I actually would like to ask the NRA what evidence they have that their Eddie Eagle program is even effective. You have no empirical evidence that it's effective. Anecdotes, testimonials, that's not empirical evidence. A correlational study, that's not empirical evidence. That doesn't show us that your program works.
And I'm not against education, I think it's important. But to get on the grandstand and to say this is the answer, is wrong.
MS. HOWARD: Okay, in our ad, if you have seen it, is what it's all about is we are not saying we are the only one with the answer. What we are saying is education is an imperative; that it is the same thing if you took your child, I don't care how old they are, and you walk them out to a street corner, and you say to that child, look left and right before you cross the street; look at the light, look at the red light.
MS. SAWYER: -- I engage the President on this issue, if I can, this question of parental responsibility and parental role in general. If I can just move to that -- when you talk about everybody being responsible. The question really becomes, are there just too many guns out there for parents to be able to maintain control --
MS. SAWYER: And what do you do about your neighbors. And I'm going to show you a tape, and then we're going to meet Lori Smith, because this is the story of what happened to her daughter, Shannon. Let's see if we have the tape.
MS. SAWYER: I'm going to go to Lori and let you tell us what happened.
MS. SMITH: Well, on June 14th of last year, my daughter was -- my 14-year-old was standing in the backyard, walking around, talking on the phone to one of her friends, and a bullet fell from the sky and hit her in the head and killed her instantly. The bullet came from a mile away, they believe, and we don't know who did it. We know the direction from, from our house. But in Phoenix, Arizona, people -- or in Maricopa County, people shoot guns all the time, every night, up in the air, in celebration or whatever, for whatever reasons. And it doesn't matter where they are -- they're in their backyards, on the canal banks. And these bullets are found everywhere. And, unfortunately, they hit my child and killed her.
MS. SAWYER: And random accidental shootings, as we know, take place by the thousands all the time. Mr. President, what about the guns out there?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, here's a case -- of course, that probably is illegal. And if it isn't, it should be.
MS. SMITH: It was only a misdemeanor two --
THE PRESIDENT: Did they ever find out who did it?
MS. SMITH: No. And we fought the Arizona State Legislature to elevate the penalty to a felony. We had great opposition from the NRA and the gun lobby -- even though they said, we won't oppose it, they attempted to amend it to the point where it was not going to be enforceable. But we were able, on April 3rd, the Governor did sign Shannon's Law into effect and elevated the penalty to a felony. But before that it was just a lowly misdemeanor, and people didn't care -- they would take a $250 fine if that's what it was.
THE PRESIDENT: There's a case -- let me just say this. First, I'm very sorry about what happened. It's a terrible thing. And I think what you did in the legislature was a good thing. But I think there's a case where people really do need to be sensitized to the fact that bullets that go up will come down. I think there are some of these things where a public campaign to educate people would make a difference. And that's one I think would make a difference.
The larger question for me -- going back to this question of whether there are too many guns in the society -- I think that sometimes there's a lot of loose talk about this. We ought to talk specifically about what we mean. A lot of these --most of the guns in America are in the hands of hunters and sports people and law enforcement people, are those guns -- most of the guns that are in those people's hands I think are safe and they're going to be properly used. But there's a huge, sort of sea of guns that's out there just kind of flowing around.
And that's one of the reasons I think that all the sales have to be checked, there has to be a background check on all the sales; and one of the reasons I support these gun buy-back programs that a lot of cities are doing. And we're trying to put more money into it now, as well, because -- (technical difficulty) -- are law-abiding citizens, and you've got as many of these loose weapons as you can off the street.
Is your film on now? Are they trying to get it on now?
MS. SAWYER: No, no, I think we've got you in an echo chamber there for a moment.
We're going to take a break, in fact, Mr. President. And when we come back, we can explore more issues of, do we hold the parents accountable? To what extent? In what ways?
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, I think you should. I think you should. (Applause.)
MR. GIBSON: Back to the Roosevelt Room of the White House with the President and some of those who will march in the Million Mom March on Sunday and some of those who are opposed to those who will march.
We were talking about parental responsibility, and there is an idea afoot in many states that there should be parental responsibility laws, so-called CAP laws, where parents are held responsible if their children get hold of a gun that they have in this house and commit a crime.
I'm just curious of this group, anybody on either side opposed to parental responsibility bills? No?
Q I have a caveat to it, though.
MR. GIBSON: All right, but basically not opposed. Because I want to get the question to the President. People seem to believe in this bill, and yet it's a law in only 17 states, and in only 3 states is it a felony.
THE PRESIDENT: And we couldn't get it in the legislation here. Representative McCarthy just pointed out that that was the one provision in my bill I couldn't get in either the Senate or the House version. So I think maybe -- this is something that is encouraging to me, because what you saw on that film with those young children -- below a certain age you can't expect an education program to work, you have to keep the guns away from the kids.
I think that's something we could all agree on we could get done here. That's very important. And I think the adults should be held responsible.
MR. GIBSON: And yet when you proposed it on a national level, neither House or Senate --
THE PRESIDENT: In the Kayla Rollins case, there is no question in my mind that if there had been responsible adults in that home, that child would be alive today.
MS. SAWYER: That is the Michigan case, we should point out, where a six-year-old boy killed a six-year-old classmate.
MR. GIBSON: A question here. Your name?
MS. THOMASES: I'm Donna Thomases. I feel that we all agree here that education is important. Like Ms. Howard said, we teach our children not to cross the street in traffic. But we also expect the drivers of the automobiles to be licenses and respect the laws, and if they run the red light and hit my child and they speed off, I want to know what that license plate is so the police can go after them. And that's all we're asking to march on Washington for, is something -- the simple licensing and registration of handgun owners, so they do have accountability, so that we can trace where these guns come from and how they get into the wrong hands. It's just common sense.
MS. SAWYER: We should point out to our viewers that Donna Thomases is, in fact, the organizer of the Million Mom March. (Applause.) It began in her living room.
MR. GIBSON: Comment on the registration --
THE PRESIDENT: I think -- let me back up and say, we cannot pass in this Congress licensing of handgun owners, which I have proposed. I think when people buy a handgun they ought to pass a Brady background check, have a gun safety education program, and have a photo ID license, just like when you have a car. That's what I believe.
And the registration of guns, the main virtue of that would be that you could trace them when they were used in a crime. If I steal your car, Charlie, and I drive it down to Maryland and rob a bank, and I leave it in a shopping center parking lot, and it's found, because the registration is on the National Crime Information Center computer system you can find out within literally 30 seconds after it's found what happened to your car.
But we can't even pass a bill to close the loophole in the Brady law when we know the Brady law has kept 500,000 felons, fugitives, and stalkers from getting handguns in the first place. So we can't pass that now. But should it be done? Well, of course, it should be done.
MR. GIBSON: I apologize. We're going to have to take another commercial break. Such are the imperatives of television. We will come back, and I should say -- because I know a lot of you have things you want to say -- that we're going to go on through out second hour with all of you. So hold on here just a moment and we'll be back.
MS. SAWYER: I want to ask another question, because we were talking about safety locks again in the break. How many of you here oppose safety locks on guns?
Q Safety locks, or a law that requires safety locks?
MS. SAWYER: Okay. How many of you are for mandatory safety locks? And how many of you are for only voluntary. All right, we almost have a consensus issue there. At least safety locks should be on guns, one way or the other.
MR. GIBSON: You have a comment over here.
MS. JOHNSON: Yes. Good morning, Mr. President, and I want to thank you for inviting us here. I'm also from New York, and my son was killed last year. I have one question. Over 30 cities are suing the gun industry for flooding our cities and towns with guns. Will we continue the right to sue dangerously irresponsible people who are selling the guns to us?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think we should. And we supported the development of that lawsuit. But there is a move on by the gun manufacturers and their allies to try to get state legislatures to prohibit cities from being able to bring such suits, and their theory is -- I'll make their case for them real quick -- they say if a gun is a legal product, it's wrong to be able to sue the person who makes it.
The other side of the argument is there is -- if you look at the way the guns are marketed and sold, a relatively large percentage of guns used in crimes and used illegally are sold by a relatively small number of the gun dealers in America, and there is some evidence that the people who distribute the guns know that and do it anyway. And that's basically the argument behind the lawsuit.
And lawsuits are supposed to find facts, and this is the fact-finding process we're going to find, to see if a change in these policies, again, would make us safer. That's what it's about. Do I think they ought to have the right to bring the suit? I do, and I have supported it, and I've done what I could to protect it.
MS. SAWYER: On that front, Mr. President, I'm going to give the microphone to Lynn Dix, who has a story to tell.
MS. DIX: I have a lawsuit against the gun manufacturer because my son would be here today if there had been a load indicator, if there had been an integral trigger lock -- he would be alive. And to me, the gun manufacturers are really responsible in that, in addition to parents, in that we know it's predictable -- for decades we have known that children have died in accidental shootings. I mean, there's no question. So if you know your product is involved in this, you can do something about it. You can put in integral trigger locks, you can put in load indicators so a child can pick up a gun -- or any gun owner, isn't that the first thing you want to know, whether there is a bullet in the chamber. Anybody would have to know that.
So I cannot understand why anyone would oppose prevention measures. I don't want to sacrifice another child so that somebody can be prosecuted. What's the sense in that?
THE PRESIDENT: I think one of the most troubling things that I've seen in this whole episode is a lot of the people who are opposed to what I want to do say these things should be voluntary, trigger locks should be voluntary -- let me just finish -- because I'm where you are on this -- so Smith & Wesson comes along and they say, okay, we'll put the trigger locks in and we'll stop dealing with bad dealers, and we'll do other things which we think will help. And they didn't lose a lawsuit to do it, they came in on the front end and said they were going to do it.
And there was the awfulest reaction to them. They were treated like they had betrayed the country, like they had committed treason, and gun manufacturers and everybody, they gave them a gut shot -- it was unbelievable what happened, the reaction to them. And this is something where a free corporation decided they would change their policy in ways that plainly would make America a safer place. And the reward they got was having the other gun manufacturers and some of their allies just try to literally take their heads off. And I think it was wrong. I think what they did was the right thing.
MR. GIBSON: Mr. President, I have to get you to an 8:15 a.m. helicopter. I will do that. I just want to give you a moment to sum up here. And I want to go back to something you said a few moments ago, which was that you wake up every morning thinking more about this issue than any other.
THE PRESIDENT: Domestic -- yes, because it's the one we have made the least -- we have both made the most progress on, but we've got a long way to go. And I think about it also because I grew up in a culture where more people thought like the minority here in this room who are in dissent.
Last weekend I was up in the Ozark Mountains, and I stopped at this little country store in the middle of the Ozarks. The last time I was there, 10 years ago, it was because I was out on a turkey hunt. Most of the people I spent time with were either, if they weren't members of the NRA -- when I was hunting, you know, duck hunting, or whatever -- they had favorable opinions. As I said, when I was governor, I had both good and one horrible experience with the NRA.
But my view of this is I think we all have to realize we don't -- none of us claim that any of our positions are absolute and that we can make a perfect world, and nobody will ever get hurt, no bad person will ever get ahold of a gun, nothing wrong will ever happen. The people who are coming here to Washington, including many people in this room who have lost members of their families, understand that not every law they're advocating might have saved the particular life of the particular loved one they lost. Their loss got them interested in this, and they began to ask themselves: How can we make a safer country? How can we save more children like my children? How can we save more loved ones like my loved one?
I think, in fairness, the people who oppose them are good people; they really believe I think -- I don't know if they'll say it, but maybe after I'm gone they will -- I think they think we have some -- we either are weak on enforcement or we have some dark hidden agenda to take guns away from everybody, including lawful gun owners. And they think that would change America forever for the worse.
I don't have that agenda. I have never proposed any such rule. What I've tried to do, I'll say again, is I think that this area of our national life is an area where -- to go back to the very first question I was asked -- where I think we should not rest until we think we have done everything we can to prevent bad things from happening in the first place.
Every other area of our national life we first choose prevention. Then if things go haywire, we punish. This should not be the area where we say, because we're worried about people doing something someday that's bad, we're not going to have prevention, we'll just start with punishment. But we'll be for education, but we'll start with punishment. That's my whole take on this.
I think we could do a lot more on prevention, make it a lot safer country, and achieve the objectives of the Million Mom March, which is that all these women that are here, they want fewer stories like theirs. That's my own take on this.
So I just wanted to put this into context. I want you all to talk to each other when I leave. I've talked too much here. I learn more when I listen. Thank you very much.
MR. GIBSON: Mr. President, thank you very much. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all very much.
MS. SAWYER: Thanks for letting us stay in the house while you're away. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: It's your house, not mine. I'm just passing through. (Applause.)
END 8:10 A.M. EDT