It's Handguns Now? Soledad O'Brien Repeatedly Asks Democrats About Limiting Handguns

The day after a gun control advocate told CNN that America's gun problem includes handgun shootings, Starting Point anchor Soledad O'Brien began asking Democratic politicians if they would consider legislating handguns.

"Well, is going to the assault weapons far enough?" O'Brien asked Democratic Rep. Ron Barber (Ariz.) on Tuesday. "I think it's 80 percent is handguns involved in gun violence. Does this, do you think open up a conversation toward limiting handguns?" she questioned Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) the same day.

On Monday's Starting Point, the director of Mayors Against Illegal Guns told CNN that America's gun problem extends to handguns:

"I think the country has reached a point where it recognizes the scope of the problem. And is ready, not just to move against the kind of problems that cause mass shootings like this to dominate the headlines, but to deal with the kinds of problems, once the cameras leave, that murder 34 people every day. And those murders are normally not done with assault rifles. They're done with handguns."

On Tuesday and Thursday, O'Brien asked three Democrats what they would do about handgun laws. She questioned Barber and Manchin on Tuesday, and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (Conn.) on Thursday.

"There are some people who would say," O'Brien told Blumenthal, "that the bulk of the violence is actually handguns, and to not take a look at handguns really leaves a massive portion of where the actual violence is taking place, sort of unchallenged. Would you agree with that? And what would you do about that?" she asked him.

"If you look at the overall gun violence, something like 80 percent is actually caused by handguns, or attributed to handgun violence. So, you know, is that leaving out a major portion in the debate? And what is the legislation that could actually make change and would affect a lot of people?" O'Brien asked Barber.

A transcript of the segments is as follows:

STARTING POINT
12/17/12
8:30 a.m. EST

MARK GLAZE, director, Mayors Against Illegal Guns: I think this is different. You know there are moments that most of us are old enough to have lived through, and it feels like something changed. I know I felt that way after the Oklahoma City bombing. Everybody felt that way after 9/11. And on the issue of gun violence, with this escalating and rapidly quickening series of mass shootings, I think the country has reached a point where it recognizes the scope of the problem.
And is ready, not just to move against the kind of problems that cause mass shootings like this to dominate the headlines, but to deal with the kinds of problems, once the cameras leave, that murder 34 people every day. And those murders are normally not done with assault rifles. They're done with handguns. And more and more often, the kind of junk handguns that are increasingly popular on city streets.

STARTING POINT
12/18/12
8:00 a.m. EST

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Well, is going to the assault weapons far enough? I mean, if you – or, you know, should you be focusing, when it comes to gun legislation and gun control, should it be on the 30-round clips? Should it be the assault weapons? If you look at the overall gun violence, something like 80 percent is actually caused by handguns, or attributed to handgun violence. So, you know, is that leaving out a major portion in the debate? And what is the legislation that could actually make change and would affect a lot of people?

Rep. RON BARBER (D-Ariz.): I think first of all, we have to be realistic about what possibly can be done. I've heard over the last few days some people who are heavily supported by the NRA who have come out saying, finally, we have to do something and we're going to be looking at legislation regarding assault weapons, military-style weapons and extended clips that'll, as I say, have lots of bullets in them that can really do serious harm in a very short period of time. You know, a handgun is something else. But I think I'm after a legislation -- I want to see legislation enacted that takes away the availability of these kinds of weapons that can do so much harm in such a short period of time. You know, in 10 minutes, the shooting in Connecticut was completed, and 26 people died, including 20 little ones. For me as a member of Congress, as a person who has been through a shooting tragedy where this extended clip issue was present, and as a grandfather, I have to stand up and be counted on this. And I'm going to do everything I can to make sure that we limit the firepower and that we get services to people with mental illness. We have to do both.

STARTING POINT
12/18/12
7:30 a.m. EST

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: When you look at these assault-type weapons, they're estimated to be somewhere between 2 to 8 percent, some of the numbers that I've seen, that are involved in gun violence. So that leaves you, I think it's 80 percent is handguns involved in gun violence. Does this, do you think open up a conversation toward limiting handguns?

Sen. JOE MANCHIN (D-W.Va.): Soledad, hopefully you will have proud members of the NRA and defenders of the Second Amendment like myself, they'll say I think it's time to have this intelligent conversation. The military assault rifles, is it something that's needed in our society?

Was it designed for the purpose of our military and our first responders and police defending us as a nation? And those are the discussions we should be having, along with the other things we've talked, the mental health and violent culture. But we're having a hard time getting people of different philosophical beliefs to come out and sit down. They're afraid to speak out thinking that one side or the other might attack them. It might be politically not popular. Again, I remind you, we're talking about children here. Never in my life did I ever think that I would ever see, Soledad, children slaughtered in America. I just never – I can't comprehend it. I was with my grandchildren this past weekend, I just can't comprehend it. My heart goes out. I'm hurting. I think all America is hurting right now.

STARTING POINT
12/20/12
7:30 a.m. EST

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: There are some people who would say by focusing on the assault weapons, a ban on assault weapons at the end of the day removes 2 to maybe 8 percent of the violence. That the bulk of the violence is actually handguns, and to not take a look at handguns really leaves a massive portion of where the actual violence is taking place, sort of unchallenged. Would you agree with that? And what would you do about that?

Sen. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-Conn.): I do agree that handguns are a threat on the streets of big cities like Bridgeport, Hartford, New York, killing children. And the President is right to focus on our children who are the victims of this horrific massacre last Friday, but also day by day, the drive-by shootings in many of these big cities. And so better tracing, better kinds of apprehension of stolen handguns, often the source of violence in our big cities, and law enforcement will tell you, and I've worked with them for 20 years as the state's attorney general, before that as a federal prosecutor in Connecticut, that the proliferation of handguns is a major threat to them as well as to our children.
 

Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro was a News Analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division from 2010 through early 2014