"Face the Nation" transcripts December 16, 2012: Newtown tragedy

SCHIEFFER: All right. Well, I want to thank you both. Please stay around because we want to talk to you on "Page Two." I want to go next to New York Democrat Chuck Schumer, who sits on the Judiciary Committee, which oversees issues relating to guns. Senator, thank you for coming.

SCHUMER: Good morning, Bob.

SCHIEFFER: I think I should note that we tried to get a Republican from the Judiciary Committee but all of the members were either unavailable or we -- or said no. I know you are a strong advocate for gun laws. Where do you see this going now?

SCHUMER: Well, I think we could be at a tipping point for two reasons, a tipping point where we might actually get something done. First, this was not a single incident. It followed a series of others. In the last few months, we've had mass shootings in Oregon, in Wisconsin and Colorado. When the public sees these as isolated incidents, they're less upset than when they occur one after the other. And the public will not accept -- the public will not accept as a new normal one of these incidents every month, these mass shootings. Second, of course, it involved children. And it's so poignant to see those pictures. And I read the story in the newspaper where the families waited in the firehouse, and when they found that a young child had survived, they called the parents out, and there were other parents waiting. What agony, what horror. So I think we can get something done. I think we have to do things that protect the second amendment rights of legitimate gun owners, but three things that we should focus on: We don't know the details yet, so you can't say that any of them would have stopped this incident, but you can say they are parts of the pattern. One is to ban assault weapons, to try and reinstate the assault weapons ban. The second is to limit the size of clips to maybe no more than 10 bullets per clip. And the third would be to make it harder for mentally unstable people to get guns. Each has had something to do with these other incidents -- obviously, assault weapons. The clips -- you may remember, when Jared Loughner in the Gabby Giffords shooting tried to reload, that's when he was tackled. And it seems most of the people who were involved had mental instability. So those are the three areas that I think we will focus on, and I'm hopeful that there can be some kind of change.

SCHIEFFER: Senator, I'd like your -- your view on why is it that it is so hard to get anything done in this era -- area? Because you know, it's not just that Congress is reluctant to pass laws. Members, as we found out this weekend when we tried to get guests to come on and talk about this on "Face the Nation," people are just reluctant to even discuss it. They -- it's -- it's the thing that -- I think they're more reluctant to talk about this than they are about raising taxes, when you come right down to it.

SCHUMER: Yeah, well, that may well be true. We've been gridlocked. You have both sides off in a corner, and I, as somebody who wrote the Brady law and was the House author of the assault weapons ban, spend more of my time trying to stop bad things from happening than being able to do good things. But I think we need a new paradigm, Bob. It's not any one person making another speech or whatever. We need a new paradigm because both sides are in their corner and they could come to the middle. First, those of us who are pro-gun-control have to admit that there is a second amendment right to bear arms. I know that my colleagues on the pro-gun side say how can the liberals; how can the left say the first, third, fourth, fifth, sixth amendments should be read expansively and the second amendment should be seen so narrowly through the pinhole of, well, it's only militias? And the NRA, and other groups even further to the right, have engendered fear in the average gun owner. In large parts of America, guns are a way of life, that, you know, the left wants to take that hunting rifle your Uncle Tommy gave you when you were 14. Once we establish that there is a constitutional right to bear arms, we should have the right admit, and maybe they'll be more willing to admit, that no amendment is absolute. After all, the first amendment has limitations. You can't scream "Fire" in a -- falsely scream "Fire" in a crowded theater. We have limits on libel and pornography. Well, the kinds of things like the Brady law, the assault weapons ban, limitation to clips, making sure mentally unstable people don't get guns, do not interfere with the fundamental right but at the same time make us safer. Every amendment should have some balance and some limitation. And if, together, we can come to the middle on that, maybe we can make some real progress, instead of each side being off in their corner, one side saying "Ban guns, get rid of guns," and the other side saying "Don't you touch anything about guns."

SCHIEFFER: What should the president do?

SCHUMER: Well, the president has been strong on this issue. During the 2012 campaign he didn't shy away from his positions. I'm sure he took some flack in the red states and many parts of America. And I think that the president...

SCHIEFFER: You know, I don't want to dispute what you said, but I don't remember the president saying anything about this. And I think some people that were pro more and stricter gun laws, including the Brady group, say he doesn't get a very good grade on that.

SCHUMER: Well, look, I -- I've talked to the president. He cares about these issues. His positions are crystal clear. The problem has been the gridlock that I talked about. And no one person, not even the president, can break that until we get a new paradigm. And that's what I'll be attempting to talk about and do over the next several months.

SCHIEFFER: All right. Well, Senator, thank you so much for being with us this morning.

SCHUMER: Thank you.

SCHIEFFER: We'll be back in one minute with the governor of Connecticut.


SCHIEFFER: Joining us is Connecticut's Governor Dan Malloy. He is in Newtown this morning. Governor, thank you so much for finding time for us. Is there anything new this morning on what motivated this person to commit this awful crime?

MALLOY: I have not heard anything this morning that would explain what transpired on Friday morning. The investigation continues, as it will until we, you know, turn over every page and every piece of evidence to understand what possibly might have motivated this. But this is -- this is mental illness. This is, you know, dressed in evil, I suppose. And it just -- you know, it just overwhelms a community, overwhelms a state. And, obviously, as we sit here Sunday morning, it overwhelms a nation.

SCHIEFFER: We -- we understand that these guns that he took to the school were actually his mother's guns. Do we know any more about her? I mean, why would she have a collection of guns? What was that about?

MALLOY: Well, apparently, she -- she collected guns. There have been stories of her friends in the gun collecting arena. We have the permits. We know when they were sold, each one of these weapons. We certainly know -- we certainly know the impact of those weapons. But, you know, she came from a -- New Hampshire and apparently had owned guns most of her life. That's what we're -- that's what we're reading in the paper. But that all will be looked into as well. I mean, there is a reality here that we have 32,000, 33,000 deaths as a result of gun violence in the United States. Eighteen thousand of those are suicides. If you have a gun in your home, it's -- there's a good chance it's going to be used against you or a family member, 32,000 a year is what we're talking about.

SCHIEFFER: You have some very tough gun laws in Connecticut. Is there anything else that needs to be done here, either at the local or at the national level?