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Guests: Senators Chuck Schumer & Ted Cruz

By Meet the Press, Meet the Press - January 20, 2013

MR. DAVID GREGORY: And, good Sunday morning. This is Inauguration Day for President Obama, the public ceremony is tomorrow. But according to the Constitution, his second term officially begins today. Moments ago, the vice president was officially sworn-in. And at noon today, the president will take his official oath of office during a small private ceremony in the Blue Room of the White House. So the stage is set as well at the U.S. Capitol for the inaugural address and public swearing-in tomorrow. The president kicked off the weekend festivities yesterday with a day of service, and the first lady hosted a special concert for children of military families last night.

(Videotape)

MICHELLE OBAMA (The Kids Inaugural: Our Children, Our Future/Last Night): This is what inauguration is all about. It's about celebrating who we are as Americans and all the things that make this country so great. And when I think about who we are, when I think about what makes America great, I think about all of you.

(End videotape)

GREGORY: On Tuesday, it's back to work for Congress, and there are two big issues that are going to dominate the beginning of the president's second term, guns and the nation's debt. Joining me now to debate those issues, Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer of New York and newly elected Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas. Welcome back as Senator Cruz to MEET THE PRESS. Welcome to both of you. I want to start on this gun debate because as I say, even before the second term is officially underway, this debate is well underway. Here are the highlights of what the president wants to accomplish with comprehensive gun control. Universal background checks. He'd like to pursue a ban on high-capacity magazines. An Assault Weapons Ban that, of course, lapsed in 2004. And he'd like stricter laws on gun trafficking. But Senator Schumer, just as I challenged Wayne LaPierre of the NRA on this program, very hard, when-- when this initially came up, I challenge you as well with a question of, is this really going to make a difference? And Rich Lowry wrote something that caught my attention in the National Review. And I'll put it up on the screen. He write this, "Unfortunately, no one can write a law against mothers' owning guns that one day might be turned against them by deranged sons who then commit horrific acts of murder-suicide. Shooting rampages are very hard to prevent because they are so often committed by disturbed young men without criminal records who don't care if they are caught and usually want to die. These are adult facts that don't intrude on the childish world of White House policymaking. He notes Adam Lanza in Newtown, his own mother, of course, passed a background check.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY/Chairman, Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies/Finance Committee): Right. Here's the bottom line. These laws are not perfect. And you'll always find certain exceptions, but they make a huge difference. Every major person who has studied the Brady Law which is the most significant gun safety law we've passed since in the last 20 years has said it has reduced gun violence dramatically. Law enforcement is totally for the Brady Law. And the idea that felons or people who are mentally infirm or people who are spousal abusers should be allowed to buy guns, most everyone agrees on that, even when you believe"¦

GREGORY: But there's no overwhelming evidence that the Assault Weapons Ban dramatically reduced this incident of violence, nor was there an uptick in this kind of violence once the Assault Weapons Ban lapsed.

SEN. SCHUMER: Well, the bottom line is that during the 10 years that the Assault Weapons Ban was in effect, the use of those weapons in crimes went down a significant percentage.

GREGORY: Senator, are there-- is there any gun regulation, any restriction of gun rights that you could accept that you could vote for?

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): Well, sure. I-- I think the fact that we have background checks when-- when people buy firearms and we prevent felons and those with serious milt-- mental-- mental illnesses from acquiring them, I think those make perfect sense.

GREGORY: So, universal background check is something you could support?

SEN. CRUZ: Well, the current state of the law is those background checks are in place when a licensed firearm dealer sells firearms. And I think there's a lot of room for improvement on the quality.

GREGORY: But 40 percent of the sales are-- are private citizen to private citizen. That's the loophole we talk about.

SEN. CRUZ: Well, it-- that-- that statistic is actually pretty bogus. It-- it's based on a study before the background checks were put into place and-- and so-- we've-- that-- that study is highly questionable, that 40 percent.

GREGORY: I don't know, Wayne LaPierre never questioned that study when I brought up that point. He had a question about the feasibility and-- and correcting-- collecting records, but there's still a loophole that a lot of people would like to correct.

SEN. CRUZ: You know, there actually isn't the so-called gun show loophole. That doesn't exist. Any licensed firearm dealer who sells at a gun show has to have a background check. It-- it's a requirement that applies to every licensed firearm dealer. What it doesn't apply to is personal sales one-on-one. And that's true whether it's at a gun show or not.

GREGORY: Senator Schumer, is this the most likely area of agreement"¦

SEN. SCHUMER: Yes.

GREGORY: "¦the universal background check, even more than Assault Weapons Ban or magazine ban?

SEN. SCHUMER: I would say this is the sweet spot in terms of actually making us safer and having a good chance of passing. This is it. Right now, I-- I'm the author of a Universal Background Check Bill. I'm talking to pro-gun Democrats, excuse me, and Republicans. And I think you're going to see very likelihood in the next week or two, a proposal that has broad support for universal background checks. And I would say this to my friend, Ted, if you are a-- someone who's not a felon, you go into a gun store, a registered firearm dealer and buy 20 guns, which you can, they'll do a background check on you, you can sell them to anyone you want, felon or anybody else. So there are huge holes in this law. And I would say this the last time we made progress on the pro gun safety side was tightening up this law for mentally ill people in 2007. I carried the law, and the NRA actually didn't oppose it. So I think, we have-- this is the best chance of getting something done. And I think you're going to find much broader support than we've ever imagined.

GREGORY: It's interesting-- it's interesting, Senator Cruz. The president said, look, to those Americans who live in states, like your own, where there are very strong gun rights representatives, you're the ones who have to rise up and pressure those senators and congressmen to-- and demand an assault weapons ban, a ban on magazines. And I wonder if the National Rifle Association has helped his cause with an ad that was released this week that talked about armed security guards, the president is skeptical that those could work, did not rule it out. But talking about the president's children and that issue of security, watch a portion of that ad.

(Videotape)

MAN: Are the president's kids more important than yours? Then why is he skeptical about putting armed security in our schools when his kids are protected by armed guards at their school?

(End videotape)

GREGORY: Over the line?

SEN. CRUZ: Look, I'm going to let people to decide to run what ads they want. I do think there's a fundamental point here, and that-- and there is a point of hypocrisy when it comes to gun control. That many of the proponents of gun control are very wealthy, live in communities where they can outsource police protection. But you have a lot of people that are worried about preserving the safety of their own home. If you're talking to a single woman living in Anacostia, who-- who has the misfortune to-- to live next to a crack house, to hell her she doesn't have a constitutional right to keep and-- and bear arms, I think is fundamentally wrong.

GREGORY: This is-- but Senator, this is a narrower point about armed guards in school. This has happened to be an ad is factually inaccurate. The president's children are protected by the Secret Service, and that's not their own choice. And yet you're trying to make a broader point, which I understand. But you think this is a-- this is a constructive part of the debate in moving the public mood?

SEN. CRUZ: What I don't think is constructive is what the president is doing right now, which is in-- within minutes of that horrible tragedy in Newtown, the president began trying to exploit that tragedy to push a gun control agenda that is designed to appeal to partisans, designed to appeal to his political partisans.

GREGORY: Mm-Hm.

SEN. CRUZ: Number one, it would have done zero to prevent the crime in Newtown. Number two, many of the provisions are contrary to the constitutional protection of the Second Amendment. But number three, they don't work. You know, Chuck said a minute ago the Assault Weapons Ban was tremendously successful. The Assault Weapons Ban was one of the least successful bills that has ever been put in place. And in fact, when the ban expired, there were roughly 700 murders using all rifles. Today, there are roughly 300. There's less than half. This is not designed to actually solve the problem of violent crime. This is designed to assuage liberal partisans who want to push their agenda forward.

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