U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, Ron Johnson, debated gun laws with fellow Senator Diane Feinstein, a Democrat from California, in the wake of the largest mass shooting in U.S. history Friday in Aurora, Colorado.
The following is a transcript of their interview on the Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace, taken from that program's website:
CHRIS WALLACE: Joining us now discus what happened in Colorado and whether there is any better ways to protect Americans from a twisted mind are Senator Dianne Feinstein, a longtime advocate of stricter gun control, and Senator Ron Johnson, a strong supporter of gun rights.
Senators, welcome back to "Fox News Sunday."
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN, D-CALIF.: Thank you, Chris.
SEN. RON JOHNSON, R-WIS.: Good morning, Chris.
WALLACE: Senator Feinstein, let's go with the big picture. Another case of someone slaughtering innocent people on a college campus, in a restaurant, now, in a movie theater. What are your thoughts?
FEINSTEIN: My thoughts are these -- pure and simple -- weapons of war don't belong on the streets. This is a powerful weapon. He had a hundred round drum. This is a man who planned it, who went in and his purpose was to kill as many people as he could in a sold out theater.
I think -- you know, we've got to sit down and really come to grips with what is sold to the average citizen in America. I have no problem with people being licensed and buying a firearm. But these are weapons that you are only going to be using to kill people in close combat. That's the purpose of that weapon.
You can put a hellfire switch on it. You can fire semi-automatic very rapidly. This drum was huge. He had a hundred bullets in it, and he went out to kill a lot of people. I think that these weapons ought to be stopped. I think the sale and transfer. That's what my bill did for 10 years and since my bill expired. What happened was, there have been --
WALLACE: The assault weapons ban.
FEINSTEIN: The assault weapons ban. There have been 452 instances, 650 people have been shot, 300 have died of those 650. And it's unnecessary.
WALLACE: Let me bring in Senator Johnson.
The Supreme Court has spoken. The Constitution means when it says -- when it says that Americans have a right to bear arms.
But let's look at this case. Does the suspect James Holmes -- does he have a constitutional right to buy an AR-15 assault rifle, along with a magazine that holds a hundred rounds that makes it so easy to commit this kind of slaughter?
JOHNSON: First of all, Chris, this is a horrible tragedy and our thoughts and prayers go out to all the victims and the community of aurora.
The fact of the matter is, though, he's sick and demented, you know, evil individual. And, unfortunately, I don't think society can keep sick and demented individuals from obtaining any type of weapon to kill people. I mean, somebody who wants to purposely harm another individual is going to find a method of doing it.
Case in point, if you wanted to kill people in that theater what was the first he did? He walked in the doors and he threw some incendiary devices. He could have made some other explosives.
This isn't an issue about guns. This is just really an issue about sick, demented individuals. And it's a tragedy and I don't think there is a solution here in Washington to solve this problem.
WALLACE: I was going to ask you about that. I mean, what -- is there anything that we as a society can do to protect ourselves from these kind of twisted minds?
JOHNSON: Unfortunately, I believe so. I mean, I wish there was, I wish I could wave a magic wand and make this tragedy go away. I wish I could wave a magic and pass a law to prevent something like this from the future.
But the fact of the matter is, I really don't think there is, other than look to our families, look to our communities, starting with our education system. You know, we've got to re-instill values in what we're teaching our children.
WALLACE: Senator Feinstein, you were a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors back in 1978 when one of your former colleagues and we have some of the horrific film here, one of your former colleagues shot and killed the mayor, as well as fellow supervisor Harvey Milk, and you have been a strong supporter of gun control ever since.
But most of your fellow Democrats have deserted you on this issue over the last 20 years. How come?
FEINSTEIN: Well, it's a hard issue because the gun organizations go out to defeat people in states where they can and they pour a lot of money in. And some people lost office after they voted for the legislation before.
But, you know, I have respect for Senator Johnson, but let me say I believe that people use these weapons, because they can get them. I believe that a revolver and a rifle and shot gun isn't going to do the damage. It's the big clips. It's a hundred rounds. You cannot get him to dislodge the gun because he fires so rapidly and has so many bullets.
Why do you need this? You don't need it for hunting. Most states have limits on the number of bullets you can have for a clip. You don't need it for self defense.
Why do you need it? Why do we make it available?
WALLACE: It's a very good question. Let me --
FEINSTEIN: Why can't we go into a gun show and buy any of these .50 calibers?
WALLACE: Let me let Senator Johnson answer it. Why do you need those?
JOHNSON: First of all, criminals will always get whatever they want.
WALLACE: Answer the specific question.
JOHNSON: I mean, for example, the left used the term assault rifles. They're really talking about semi-automatic weapons that really are use in hunting. That's what happens in Wisconsin. These are rifles that people use in hunting.
And just the fact of the matter is, is that this really is not an issue of guns. Again, we are talking about sick people doing things that you simply can't prevent.
It's really an issue of freedom. I swore an oath to defend the Constitution. And part of that Constitution is the Second Amendment that guarantees the right to bear arms. These types of laws infringe upon that right and I just -- I don't agree with them.
WALLACE: Let me ask you, we're not talking about hand guns. Does something that would limit magazines and carry 100 rounds, would that infringe on the constitutional right?
JOHNSON: I believe so. People will talk about unusually lethal weapons. I mean, that could be potentially a discussion you can have.
But the fact of the matter is, there are magazines, 30-round magazines that are just common all over the place, and you simply can't keep these weapons out of the hands of sick, demented individuals that want to do harm.
WALLACE: Let me --
JOHNSON: And when you try and do it, you restrict our freedoms.
WALLACE: Let me flip around though here, because I've heard more and more people, surprising number of people, to me in the last couple of days, say the problem isn't too many guns, it's too few. And if somebody in that theater had been armed, they could have stopped the shooting --
FEINSTEIN: Well --
WALLACE: Let me -- stop carnage, taken down the shooter and defended themselves. Do you agree with that?
JOHNSON: Well, it's certainly one of the rationales behind conceal and carry, where criminals actually have to be a little concerned before they commit a criminal act that maybe somebody could stop them. And I think that is the truth. That somebody, a responsible individual had been carrying a weapon, maybe -- maybe -- they could have prevented the death and injuries. I mean, that's just the truth.
FEINSTEIN: And maybe you could have had a firefight and killed many more people. These are people in a theater. This is a --
WALLACE: You had a massacre as it with him undefended, Senator.
FEINSTEIN: That's right. That's right, because he had such a big clip.
WALLACE: Now, what if someone had a gun and been able to stop him.
FEINSTEIN: I would be very surprised if hunters in your state hunted with a 100-round ammunition feeding devices. In the bill I did, we exempted 375 rifles and shot guns by name so that no weapon used for hunting was affected at all. It just the military style assault weapon.
WALLACE: OK. Go ahead, Senator.
JOHNSON: But the result of that ban, it didn't solve many problems. I mean, we've had bans here in Washington, D.C. We've had bans in Chicago.
And you can argue statistics, but I take statistic and I say it has no measurable affect. You could actually argue this made matters worse.
FEINSTEIN: I don't agree.
JOHNSON: I don't want to get in to statistics. We are talking about basic freedoms in the Constitution Second Amendment, and I am a strong defender and believer in that Constitution.
WALLACE: I want to talk about the politics of this, get back with you, Senator Feinstein. The Brady gun control campaign named after James Brady, Reagan's press secretary who was shot in the assassination attempt in 1981, has given President Obama an F for his failure to lead on this issue. And on Friday, the day of the shooting, Jay Carney, the White House press secretary, came out and said he is going to offer no new policy as a result of this shooting.
Are you disappointed in the president?
FEINSTEIN: Well, I would hope there would be a sane national conversation on guns.
WALLACE: Has the president right on this?
FEINSTEIN: President Bush said he supported the continuation of assault weapons legislation. President Obama, Mr. Romney, I think they should give it a lot of consideration.
I think this is a bad time to embrace a new subject, but there has been no action. There has been no action because there is no outrage out there. People haven't rallied forward.
They -- when I did the legislation, I had Lloyd Bentsen, secretary of the treasury, standing with me, chiefs of police, police officers, sheriffs, because one out of the five police officers is killed with an assault weapon. There was a tremendous amount of support and even then, it was very tough. So it's a lot tougher now because the gun organizations have become so strong.
WALLACE: I'm going to give you the final word, Senator Johnson. Are these massacres horrible as they are and people here in Washington are looking for solutions, are they just a fact of life and death in America?
JOHNSON: Well, I hate to say it, but they probably are. Listen, I understand Senator Feinstein has seen gun violence up close and personal. I don't doubt her sincerity for a moment.
But I also, I really would hate to see a tragedy like this used to promote a political agenda to reduce American's freedoms. Enough have been taken away and we don't want to lose anymore.
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