Reporter: Mr. Mayor, after so many mass shootings in America in the past, why does an incident like the one today still happen?
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg: Because there are too many guns and the guns are in the hands – a lot of them – of people that Federal law says shouldn’t have guns. The Federal laws, existing laws, which have been challenged in the courts and found Constitutional by the Supreme Court – existing laws say you can’t sell a gun to a minor, to a person with a criminal record, to a person with psychiatric or drug problems. And yet we continue to have at gun shows the people buying guns without background checks on they- whether or not they fit into those categories, or over the internet without background checks to see if they fit into those categories, or a very small percentage of unscrupulous gun dealers around the country who sell guns knowing full well that the people that are buying them are either buying them for somebody who wouldn’t be allowed to or in fact themselves aren’t allowed to buy guns.
Reporter: Congress used to debate gun control. Doesn’t even happen now.
Mayor: It doesn’t happen now because I think all of them have been cowed by a handful of advocates who think that the right to bear arms allows you to go out and kill people at random. That’s not overstating it very much. The bottom line is the Supreme Court has held that reasonable restrictions on guns are Constitutional under the Second Amendment, and what’s happened here is a handful of very aggressive, very activist people have gone to Congress and said, ‘If you’re rational on this we’re going to work against your reelection. If you stick with us, most people may still vote for you but for sure we will stay away from supporting your opponent.’ So they’ve used a very small threat to have a very big impact on one of the things that elected officials care about most, and that’s getting reelected.
Reporter: People are going to say if there were more people in the theater this morning that were armed not as many people would have died.
Mayor: Let me ask you the question – would you want to be in that theater if people started pulling guns and shooting at random? I don’t think so. That’s one of the dumber things anybody’s ever said. The last thing we need is to stop guns, not to have more people shooting. And if you want somebody with a gun to shoot, that’s what we call our police officers. They’re trained, there’s oversight, there’s the courts knowing what they do all the time. Those are the people who are there to protect us. When you start taking things into your own hands, all you do is you ratchet up the risks to you, to your family. If you have a gun at home you are 22 times as likely to be killed by a gun than if you don’t. Think about it. If somebody walks up to you and they say, ‘Give me your money,’ and you say, ‘Wait a second, I’m going to pull out my gun,’ what do you think they’re going to do? They’re going to shoot you. You just give them the money, most times they’ll just walk away. It is just irrational to say the solution to a problem is more of the same. It is too many guns on the street. We are the only developed country in the world that has more guns than people.
Reporter: Do you see a difference between people arming themselves with assault rifles and handguns?
Mayor: We used to have a ban on assault rifles. Governor Romney, when he was the Governor of Massachusetts, actually passed in the Massachusetts legislature a ban on assault rifles and he said he was very much in favor of that. Today, apparently he’s not in favor of it. President of the United States, Barack Obama, also running for the next elect- to be President in the next four years, he when he got elected in ’08 says he was in favor of bringing back that ban on handguns, but in three years he’s done nothing. He has not made any attempt as far as I can see to bring that back. Both of them should explain to the public why they – if they do – think that we should have assault rifles and guns in the hands of people where Federal law says no, or if we shouldn’t have it what they’re going to do about it. Not general platitudes, not, ‘I think it’s terrible,’ ‘This was a movie,’ this is not Hollywood. This is real life. There are today at this moment families of I think it’s a dozen people, and maybe more will die from their injuries, who I don’t think if you asked them, ‘Should we have more people with guns,’ would say yes.
Reporter: Did the assault ban do anything to protect the public?
Mayor: When the assault ban was there, there were fewer murders than there are today. Today we have about 34 murders with illegal guns every single day. To put it in perspective, if you remember, 32 people were killed at Virginia Tech and it was one of the biggest news stories covered since the assassination of a President, JFK, and RFK Jr. and Martin Luther King Jr. 400,000 Americans have been killed with illegal guns since Martin Luther King Jr. and RFK were assassinated in 1968. 400,000 Americans is more Americans than died in World War II.
Reporter: People are going to say, though, a person who goes out and does something like this is deranged and they’re going to find a gun no matter what. What’s gun control really going to do?
Mayor: No, that’s not true. If it’s harder to get guns, fewer people will have guns. And the harder you make it, the fewer people will have guns. And there’s nothing wrong with you having a gun. When I was a kid I had a rifle – .22-caliber rifle in the Boy Scouts and target practice. It was allowed- you were allowed to have a rifle then and I did. Today I don’t have one. Nobody in my family has one. But if you comply with the law you will have responsible people who know the danger that a weapon or the responsibility that somebody who has a weapon in their hands has. And they will act responsibly. And all of the experience shows that. You can never guarantee that everybody who’s a minor, everybody who’s a drug addict or psychiatric problems or criminal record won’t get a gun. But the more difficult you make it, the fewer there will be, and the safer you and your family will be.
Reporter: What should lawmakers do?
Mayor: Lawmakers should close the loopholes that prevent the enforcement of the existing laws being effective. There is a loophole that says at guns shows you don’t have to do a background check except- gun shows are designed for what’s called the casual seller, and when somebody comes up with 500 weapons at their booth at a gun show, that’s not a casual seller. You want to make sure if the- if gun dealers across this country have to do background checks, and they do under Federal law, you should have the same background checks at gun shows. It’s not onerous, and it’s rational to have- if you have it one place you should have it at another place. Number two, you should fill the database. We ask you to check the database to make sure that the buyer does not have physiatrist problems, for example, or criminal records. And what happens? Some states have put nobody into the database so the database is incomplete and you can’t find out who shouldn’t have. And then we should fund the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms bureau. Let them have- they haven’t had somebody I think in three years that’s run that agency. This is sav- this is about people’s lives. It’s about you and your family. It’s about the police officers who we ask to go out and to put their lives on the line all the time. And I can just tell you, the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do is – and I try to do it, if it happens I want to be the one to do it – get to the hospital before the family shows up to look the mother, the father, the wife, the husband, the child in the eye and say, ‘I’m sorry, your loved one has been killed.’ And it’s not easy. That’s why- but mayors have to do that. That’s- mayors are the ones that go to the hospital at three in the morning, and legislators don’t, and I’ve always thought if the legislators had to actually see the pain to explain why they haven’t done anything, then they would do something. And unfortunately we have an organization of 700 mayors across the country – Republicans and Democrats and independents from rural and urban areas, north, south, east, west – and mayors sit there and say, ‘We’ve got to stop this carnage.’ And the legislators just go about, ‘Well, I wonder whether it will help or hurt my reelection campaign. And I’ve called on both the presidential candidates to stand up and say what they’re going to do. This is one of the bigger problems in this country. We are killing each other, and we’re the only civilized country that’s doing that. We have other problems too – they should explain how we’re going to get jobs, they should explain what we’re going to do about immigration, explain what to do about fixing public education. Our kids are falling further and further behind. All of these problems. And instead what do they talk about? And what do you interview them about? You interview them about tax returns and gas. I don’t know how to break this to you but those aren’t the things that the public cares about. Those aren’t the things that are important. Those are peripheral things made for television and deliberately promoted to avoid answering the tough questions. Because the real answer is if you want to be President of the United States, you should stand up and say, ‘This is what I believe and this is what I’m going to do. And if you don’t vote for me, there are things more important than winning an election.’ What about looking in a mirror, what about looking your kids in the eye and say, ‘This is what I did today, and here’s why I did it.’
Here’s a partial transcript from Bloomberg’s office: