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CNN Asks Gun Control Advocate Mark Kelly If 'Actual Change' on Gun Laws Is 'Possible'

Monday night's AC360 Later welcomed gun control advocate Mark Kelly, who pushed for stronger gun laws in front of a sympathetic panel. The segment aired hours after a deadly Nevada school shooting.

Host Anderson Cooper teed up Kelly by asking, "Mark, again, another shooting. When you see this, is actual change possible? Is – have you been able to see any results from the work you and your wife have been doing so far?" Kelly is the husband of former Democratic congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

Kelly answered that change would happen but would take time. "It's just a matter of people standing up and asking that their members of Congress take action."

"If they [Congress] didn't do anything about it after Newtown, when are they going to do something about it?" CNN's chief political analyst Gloria Borger had just said before Kelly's appearance. She added that Democrats in pro-gun states dodged the crusade, which was "probably one of the most frustrating parts to the President, who really put himself on the line on this."

Borger told Kelly that with "even you lobbying," the Senate couldn't pass a background check amendment, "what seemed like a pretty decent compromise to a lot of people."

Panel member Andrew Sullivan pouted, "Isn't that something that we could ask of the gun lobby more, which is say, can we get some real gun safety?"

Legal analyst Sunny Hostin wanted to "tighten up" what she thought were lax gun laws:

"I was looking at this and what was also odd to me was if you have just regular citizens that want to just transfer guns to each other, they don't have to register their guns. Isn't there something that can be done even on local levels to somehow tighten up the laws in places like Nevada?"

Below is a transcript of the segment, which aired on AC360 Later on October 21 at 10:03 p.m. EDT:

[10:03]

SUNNY HOSTIN, CNN legal analyst: Exactly, but it doesn't make any sense. You're talking about a 13-year-old possessing a weapon at a school. What sounds right about that? I think we really have to look at parental responsibility here, because when I first heard about this the first thing I always do is go to the law books. Right? Nevada has such, such permissive gun laws. At the age of 14, a kid can possess a gun with parental permission. That is shocking to me.

COOPER: But it sounds like from all the reports, right, he took the gun from his parents. It's not necessarily that –

(Crosstalk)

HOSTIN: Why was it available, though? Why was it available?

(Crosstalk)

COOPER: Gun safety is obviously a huge issue for –  

HOSTIN: It's a big issue. It's a big issue. Perhaps there's a mental health issue here. We don't know about it. But when does it stop? Are we going to continue talking about shootings at schools?

COOPER: Do you write a lot about this?

ANDREW SULLIVAN, AndrewSullivan.com: Not really, because it depresses me every time I try and write about it, because this is going to happen.

And when you have a country with lots of guns and you have 13-year-olds in schools who have a lot of feelings – you know what it's like to be a 13-year-old boy. You have sorts of grudges and all sorts of fear. We don't know – but you don't have to be mentally unwell to be a teenager with an axe to grind at 13 years old.

The question is, if you are going to have a country with all these guns, this is going to happen. And somehow we are all supposed to say this isn't going to happen, it's terribly sad. You see a man who comes from a Marine family, served his country and he's gunned down by a 13-year-old? It's awful. But at some point, Americans are going to have to just accept this is reality in a gun-loving country.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN senior political analyst: And there's nothing you can do about it in Washington. Right?

SULLIVAN: No, nothing.

BORGER: If they didn't do anything about it after Newtown, when are they going to do something about it? What we discovered in the Newtown debate was that it's easy to say, oh, it's Republicans. It wasn't. There are lots of Democratic senators who are up for re-election in pro-gun states. And they had as much difficulty with this issue as anybody else. And that was probably one of the most frustrating parts to the President, who really put himself on the line on this.

SULLIVAN: I don't want you to misunderstand me. I understand the Second Amendment. And if we don't get rid of it, then it should be upheld and I don't have a problem with the law being as it is, as long as we accept the consequences of our liberty, which is that people like this are going to get shot more often –

(Crosstalk)

HOSTIN: I can't accept that. Of course I accept the Second Amendment, but there are ways to regulate handgun possessions.

COOPER: Let me bring in Mark Kelly, husband of former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, who was obviously injured in the Tucson shooting in 2011. Mark, again, another shooting. When you see this, is actual change possible? Is – have you been able to see any results from the work you and your wife have been doing so far?

MARK KELLY, husband of Gabrielle Giffords: Well, Anderson, change is always possible. But for the past 30 years, you have got to give the gun lobby a lot of credit. They have built an enormous amount of influence on Capitol Hill. They have done a very good job, which has made it very difficult for us even after Newtown to get something as commonsense as expanded background checks passed.

But I truly believe we can do something about it. It's just going to take a little bit of time. You know, things in Washington, as we all can see, move very slowly, especially recently. But if people get engaged – and I really believe that a lot of people care about this issue. And they don't want us to stay where we are with regards to gun violence, which is 15 to 20 times the death rate from guns than any other country we would ever want to be compared to. So we can do something about it. It's just a matter of people standing up and asking that their members of Congress take action.

BORGER: But, you know, you had, Mark, you had Democrats and Republicans last time joining together on a – what seemed like a pretty decent compromise to a lot of people and it still – it still couldn't get anywhere, even with you lobbying –

(Crosstalk)

KELLY: It wasn't quite – it wasn't quite enough. But it was close. I mean, we fell short by a handful of votes on the Manchin- Toomey bill, and next time it comes up maybe it will be different. I think people – people are starting to get tired of this. You just think about what has happened since Newtown. And it seems to be a regular occurrence. And Anderson mentioned that right at the top of the show that maybe people aren't paying attention to things like this, but I think they do. And they see this and they make phone calls. And eventually I think we're going to see this at the ballot box.

COOPER: But haven't what we have seen at the ballot box and in polls so far that though a lot of people say, okay, we would like to see some sort of change, the level of intensity of feeling is not as strong in the general public as it is among those who very strongly believe in maintaining the gun rights as they are, or even expanding them?

(Crosstalk)

BORGER: Right. And that was the kind of –


KELLY: You are absolutely right.

BORGER: Go ahead, Mark.

KELLY: Yeah, Anderson, you are absolutely right. And that's part of the issue. It's the intensity of the single-issue voter. The gun rights people are very good moving – Gabby and I are gun owners. We understand that people want to have guns to protect themselves. I have guns in my house. They are locked up. Obviously, in this case it doesn't seem like these parents did a good job of securing their guns. But the intensity of the voter that votes on this issue is – it's quite lopsided. Is it going to be that way forever?

(Crosstalk)

SULLIVAN: Isn't that something that we could ask –

KELLY: I'm not convinced.

SULLIVAN: – we could ask of the gun lobby more, which is say, can we get some real gun safety?

(Crosstalk)

COOPER: But they do a lot – I mean, Mark, correct me if I'm wrong. You probably know this more than I, but the little -- I read NRA literature. They do talk about gun safety, how to secure your weapon in your home quite a bit. They have an education program on gun safety.

KELLY: You're right. The NRA does a better job than anybody, I think, talking about gun safety.

(Crosstalk)

KELLY: But where they fall short is the responsible gun ownership.

SULLIVAN: People who don't have that and have guns need to be stigmatized. They need to be shamed for –

HOSTIN: This all comes down to parental responsibility in this particular case. But, Mark, what's fascinating to me about Nevada, you don't even have to register your gun in Nevada. And, apparently – and I was looking at this and what was also odd to me was if you have just regular citizens that want to just transfer guns to each other, they don't have to register their guns. Isn't there something that can be done even on local levels to somehow tighten up the laws in places like Nevada?

KELLY: Well, you know, I spent some time at the Nevada state legislature before they voted on a bill that expanded background checks, similar to what the Manchin-Toomey bill did. And it got through the House and it got through the Nevada Senate or the – well, the House is the Assembly there, and then it went to the governor's desk and it was vetoed. So it fell short by the governor's signatures. But, you know, there are members of the legislature in Nevada and citizens in Nevada, and these things poll really high. So, I mean, it can get passed in Nevada. It fell short this time. I'm sure it's going to be – it's going to come back again, especially in light of this horrific shooting.

— Matt Hadro is a News Analyst at the Media Research Center. Follow Matt Hadro on Twitter.