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I have to admit it. I've gotten so used to Meet The Press's Dancin' Dave slobbering over his Villager guests that I didn't expect much from his Wayne LaPierre interview yesterday. (You can argue that news orgs keep giving credibility to Wacky Wayne by virtue of inviting him on in the first place, but still.) Gregory clearly did his homework and called out the NRA exec on virtually every single point. Well, most of them: I do find it deeply offensive that LaPierre keeps referring to mentally ill people as "monsters,"
DAVID GREGORY: So here's something you said on Friday that struck me. Because I think this is really the nub of the argument about armed security.
WAYNE LAPIERRE: What if, when Adam Lanza started shooting his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School last Friday, he had been confronted by qualified, armed security? Will you at least admit it's possible that 26 innocent lives might have been spared? Is that so abhorrent to you that you would rather continue to risk the alternative?
DAVID GREGORY: Because that's your standard is that fewer people should be killed. That's the goal here. And the standard is, if it's possible, your words, if it's possible that lives could be spared, shouldn't we try that? That's your standard, isn't it?
WAYNE LAPIERRE: I tell you, my standard is this. You can't legislate morality. Legislation works on the sane. Legislation works on the law abiding.
DAVID GREGORY: Fairness--
WAYNE LAPIERRE: It doesn't work on criminals. It doesn't work on the--
DAVID GREGORY: If it's possible to reduce the loss of life--
WAYNE LAPIERRE: There are--
DAVID GREGORY: --you're up for trying it.
WAYNE LAPIERRE: There are monsters out there every day, and we need to do something to stop them. And they're not--
DAVID GREGORY: If it's possible to reduce the loss of life, you're worth trying it, correct?
WAYNE LAPIERRE: If it's possible to reduce the loss of life--
DAVID GREGORY: That's what you say.
WAYNE LAPIERRE: Yeah, I want it. That's what I'm proposing.
DAVID GREGORY: Okay. So let me widen the argument. Let's stipulate that you're right. Let's say armed guards might work. Let's widen the argument out a little bit. So here is a magazine for ammunition that carries 30 bullets. Now isn't it possible that, if we got rid of these, if we replaced them in said, "Well, you could only have a magazine that carries five bullets or ten bullets," isn't it just possible that we can reduce the carnage in a situation like Newtown?
WAYNE LAPIERRE: I don't believe that's going to make one difference. There are so many different ways to evade that, even if you had that. You had that for ten years when Dianne Feinstein passed that ban in '94. It was on the books. Columbine occurred right in the middle of it. It didn't make any difference. I know everybody-- that this town wants to argue about gun control. I don't think it's what will work. What will work is this. I'll tell you this.
DAVID GREGORY: But (INAUDIBLE PHRASE) this a matter of logic, Mr. LaPierre. Because anybody watching this is going to say, "Hey, wait a minute. I just heard Mr. LaPierre say that the standard is we should try anything that might reduce the violence." Are you telling me it's not a matter of common sense that, if you don't have an ability to shoot off 30 rounds without reloading that just possibly you could reduce the loss of life?
WAYNE LAPIERRE: David--
DAVID GREGORY: That Adam Lanza may not have been able to shoot as many kids--if he didn't have as much ammunition?
WAYNE LAPIERRE: I don't buy your argument for a minute. There are so many--
DAVID GREGORY: It's not possible?
WAYNE LAPIERRE: There are so many different ways he could have done it. And there's an endless amount of ways a monster--
DAVID GREGORY: But here's some-- don't take it from me. Here's Larry Alan Burns, federal district judge of San Diego, he sentenced Jared Loughner, appointed by President Bush, a gun owner, and supports the N.R.A.. Here's what he wrote in The Los Angeles Times: "Bystanders got to Tucson shooter, Jared Loughner and subdued him only after he emptied one 30 round magazine and was trying to load another. Adam Lanza, the Newtown shooter, chose his primary weapon as a semi-automatic rifle with 30-round magazines. And we don't even bother to call the 100-rounder that James Holmes is accused of emptying in an Aurora, Colorado movie theater a magazine, it's a drum. How is this not an argument for regulating the number of rounds a gun can fire? I get it. Someone bent on mass murder, who has only a ten-round magazine or a revolver at his disposal probably is not going to abandon his plan and instead try to talk his problems out. But we might be able to take the "mass" out of "mass shooting," or at least make the perpetrator's job a bit harder."
WAYNE LAPIERRE: I don't think it will. I keep saying it, and you just won't accept it. It's not going to work. It hasn't worked. Dianne Feinstein had her ban, and Columbine occurred. [Editor's note: With several armed guards nearby.] It's not going to work. I'll tell you what would work. We have a mental health system in this country that has completely and totally collapsed. We have no national database of these lunatics.
23 states, my (UNINTEL) however long ago was Virginia Tech? 23 states are still putting only a small number of records into the system. And a lot of states are putting none. So, when they go through the national instant check system, and they go to try to screen out one of those lunatics, the records are not even in the system.
I talked to a police officer the other day. He said, "Wayne," he said, "let me tell you this. Every police officer walking the street knows s lunatic that's out there, some mentally disturbed person that ought to be in an institution, is out walking the street because they dealt with the institutional side. They didn't want mentally ill in institutions. So they put them all back on the streets. And then nobody thought what happens when you put all these mentally ill people back on the streets, and what happens when they start taking their medicine."
We have a completely cracked mentally ill system that's got these monsters walking the streets. And we've got to deal with the underlying causes and connections if we're ever going to get to the truth in this country and stop this--
DAVID GREGORY: Again, a lot of people would agree with that. There are a lot of difficulties with regard to getting that kind of mental health information, because there's privacy laws, there are states not contributing to a national registry. Isn't part of the issue background checks? I mean you have 40% of sales that go on without any background checks. Are you prepared to back broader background checks, if you don't think that the ammunition road is the way to go?
WAYNE LAPIERRE: We have backed the National Instant Check System. We have backed putting anyone adjudicated mentally incompetent into the system. Now, I know where you're going with this. They come with this whole, "Ah, the gun show loophole." There's not a gun show loophole. It's illegal for felons to do anything like that, to buy guns.
What the anti-second amendment movement wants to do is put every gun sale in he country under the thumb of the federal government. Congress debated this at length. They said if you're a hobbyist or collector, if someone in West Virginia, a hunter, wants to sell a gun to another hunter, he ought to be able to do it without being under the thumb of the federal government.
DAVID GREGORY: But if you want to check and screen more thoroughly for the mentally ill, why not screen more thoroughly for everybody and eliminate the fact that 40% can buy a weapon without any background check?
WAYNE LAPIERRE: We-- we don't prosecute anybody under the federal gun laws right now. That's one of the--
DAVID GREGORY: But that's not a response to my question, Mr. LaPierre. What I hear you saying is, "Well, you can't do anything about the high capacity ammunition magazines because it simply won't work, yet you're proposing things that you don't know will completely work. But you're into the art of the possible, because your standard is anything that has a chance of work we ought to try, except when it has to do with guns or ammunition. Don't you see that people see that as a complete dodge?
WAYNE LAPIERRE: You know what N.R.A. supports, David? N.R.A. supports what works, and we always have. We funded the (UNINTEL) Child Safety Program. We have accidents down to one tenth of what they used to be. We have supported prison building. We have supported programs like Project Exile where, every time you catch a criminal with a gun, a drug dealer with a gun, a violent felon with a gun, you prosecute him 100% of the time.
If you want to control violent criminals, take them off the street. That's what every police officer out there knows works. We've supported the Instant Check System. We supported getting these records into the Instant Check List.
DAVID GREGORY: But you don't deny that there are-- that even the Instant Check System has huge holes, just like the mental health registry has huge holes.