CNN's Sciutto Wonders If Gun Control Is In 'Sweet Spot' After Orlando

CNN's Jim Sciutto clearly slanted towards gun control advocates during an interview of Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar on Monday's New Day. Sciutto contended, "You'd have to think that this would be the...political sweet spot on the gun issue...whetting everyone's fear — both parties...want to keep guns out of terrorists' hands." He also underlined, "I've been talking to a lot of folks in Orlando and elsewhere — this, sort of, amazement that even now, 49 people dead in that club — if not now, then when? When is something going to get it through?" [video below]

Sciutto also played up that the Minnesota politician's "Republican colleagues...catch a lot of flack for not standing up to the NRA. But it's true that, really, both parties...share that fear of standing up to what is a very powerful lobby. Is it fair to say that the responsibility is shared across the aisles?"

The journalist, acting as a fill-in anchor on the morning newscast, did present gun rights advocates' arguments in his first question to his guest: "You support Senator [Dianne] Feinstein's proposal, which would allow the attorney general to deny a gun sale if there's any reasonable belief that the buyer was likely to engage in terrorism — that, of course, a lower standard than probable cause. What do you say to the Republican response — that this is a slippery slope; that's it's designed to, sort of, chip away at the Second Amendment rights?"

Senator Klobuchar responded, in part, by pointing out that Donald Trump "has said that people that are on the terror watch list shouldn't be able to go out and purchase a weapon." She added that the perpetrator in Orlando "had been suspected of terrorism, and you at least want to give law enforcement that ability to deny him a weapon; and then, this never would have happened."

Sciutto asked his "sweet spot" question later in the segment. The liberal senator immediately emphasized, "That's what we said after those dozens of children." The CNN journalist interjected, "In Newtown" before she could complete her answer. Klobuchar also underlined, "We don't want to just pass something that doesn't make any difference at all; that wouldn't save a child; that wouldn't save the next nightclub from being attacked. And so, we want to do something that means something; that still preserves the Second Amendment right. You're right — there are those sweet spots — and that's what we want to convince our colleagues of over the next few days."

When Sciutto wondered if the "the responsibility is shared across the aisles," the Democrat underlined that some of her colleagues "have also been endorsed by the NRA in the past," and continued that "the bulk of them are on the Republican side. And I think whatever people — whatever endorsements they've had — whatever support — our job is to stand back from that and just say, okay — regardless of what one interest group says, what is the right thing to do?" The substitute anchor ended the segment by remarking, "Saving lives seems a simple goal."

The full transcript of Jim Sciutto's interview of Senator Amy Klobuchar from the June 20, 2016 edition of CNN's New Day:

JIM SCIUTTO: The Senate will vote today on several gun measures — just one week after the worst mass shooting in modern American history — four separate bills, including two aimed at preventing those on terror watch lists from buying weapons; as well as two others on expanding background checks. Will anything change after this horrible tragedy?

Here to discuss is Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar. She is from the great state of Minnesota. Senator Klobuchar, thanks for joining us this morning.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR, (D), MINNESOTA: Thanks so much, Jim.

[CNN Graphic: "Senate To Vote On Gun Control Measures Today"]

SCIUTTO: So Senator, I know that you've been active on this issue for a number of years. In the wake of Orlando, you support Senator [Dianne] Feinstein's proposal, which would allow the attorney general to deny a gun sale if there's any reasonable belief that the buyer was likely to engage in terrorism — that, of course, a lower standard than probable cause. What do you say to the Republican response — that this is a slippery slope; that's it's designed to, sort of, chip away at the Second Amendment rights?

[CNN Graphic: "Sen. Klobuchar On Gun Control Push In Senate"]

KLOBUCHAR: Well, first of all, this is a set group of people that have been suspected of terrorism. Someone just didn't make it up that day. They've been on one of the lists — either they are on the list, or they have been on the list in the past. And it simply gives our law enforcement that kind of discretion.

I'm actually kind of surprised. They're — our Republican presidential candidate has said that people that are on the terror watch list shouldn't be able to go out and purchase a weapon. And you have the fact that they have repeatedly talked about not just going after terrorist groups, like ISIS and al Shabaab — where they are in the enclaves — but also here at home; and they influence people, either in an organized effort or by social media. And I agree with our Republican colleagues that that has to be part of the focus.

But clearly, then, you have a set list of people that our law enforcement has identified as having been suspected that they might go into and commit some kind of incredibly violent act, as this man did and massacred 49 people at this club. It's an unbelievable story, and I don't understand why they wouldn't want to go to where we know this guy was. He had been suspected of terrorism, and you at least want to give law enforcement that ability to deny him a weapon; and then, this never would have happened.

[CNN Graphic: "Bill Bars Gun Sales To Terror Suspects On Watch Lists"]

SCIUTTO: Let me ask you — as I had the opportunity, a short time ago, to speak to Democratic Congressman Steve Israel. I asked him the question of the chances of something passing this week on the Hill. Here's what he had to say.

SCIUTTO (from pre-recorded interview): You've been in Congress a long time. What's your betting that something gets passed this week?

REP. STEVE ISRAEL, (D), NEW YORK: My betting right now is it will not get passed—

SCIUTTO: Yeah—

ISRAEL: Because Paul Ryan has said we — we're not even going to have a vote on it.

[CNN Graphic: "Will Congress Act On Gun Control After Orlando Terror Attack?"]

SCIUTTO: So — so that's the read from the House side. I wonder if you feel the same on the Senate side. What — what are the chances of something getting passed in the wake of this horrible tragedy?

KLOBUCHAR: Well, first of all, we are having votes in the Senate. Now, so far, I don't know that it's going to be different than when we had votes in the past, but there is one thing that's different: people are starting to talk. There are starting to be negotiations gone on. I think that's very important. And we not only have the bill to ban people who are on that terror watch list from purchasing a weapon, but we also have the background check bill that was put out there — similar to the version that was put out there by two 'A' NRA-rated legislators in the past — Senator [Joe] Manchin, Senator [Pat] Toomey — and what that bill would say is, look, at least close this loophole that allows people to buy these guns at gun shows without any kind of a background check; and more and more of the sales are gravitating.

We are not saying don't buy guns. I come from a huge hunting state. I look at all these proposals and say, would this hurt my Uncle Dick in his deer stand? He loves to hunt. And my answer is no, it wouldn't hurt him because he's not on the terror watch list, and because he would be able to pass the background check.

SCIUTTO: You'd have to think that this would be the sweet spot — right? The political sweet spot on the gun issue — you know, whetting everyone's fear — both parties want to be tough on terrorists; they want to keep guns out of terrorists' hands — that this would be the one that could get passed. But I have to — echoing — I've been talking to a lot of folks in Orlando and elsewhere — this, sort of, amazement that even now, 49 people dead in that club — if not now, then when? When is something going to get it through?

KLOBUCHAR: That's what we said after those dozens of children—

SCIUTTO: In Newtown—

KLOBUCHAR: Those little first-graders were killed in Newtown. And you just keep bringing it to the American people. We know that the vast majority of American people want to see better background checks; and they also don't want people that are on a terror watch list to go out and purchase a weapon. We also know the vast majority of gun owners agree with that. And so, that's what we are working — to convince our colleagues we are open to talking with them; to negotiating.

But I can tell you one thing, Jim — and that is that we don't want to just pass something that doesn't make any difference at all; that wouldn't save a child; that wouldn't save the next nightclub from being attacked. And so, we want to do something that means something; that still preserves the Second Amendment right. You're right — there are those sweet spots — and that's what we want to convince our colleagues of over the next few days. If we don't make it tonight, it is not the end, because there is still room to continue to work with them; and to the American people: contact them and tell them, we must do something here.

SCIUTTO: Let me ask you: as you know, your Republican colleagues — they catch a lot of flack for not standing up to the NRA. But — but it's true that, really, both parties are — aren't they — share that fear of standing up to what is a very powerful lobby. Is it fair to say that the responsibility is shared across the aisles?

KLOBUCHAR: There are, of course, Democrats that have also been endorsed by the NRA in the past. I would think if you look at the numbers, though, the bulk of them are on the Republican side. And I think whatever people — whatever endorsements they've had — whatever support — our job is to stand back from that and just say, okay — regardless of what one interest group says, what is the right thing to do? And we even have polls saying that the majority of NRA members believe we should have better background checks, and that terrorists shouldn't be able to get weapons — just walk into a store and buy a weapon if you're on a terror watch list. So, my hope is that my colleagues will step back and do the right thing.

I remember those parents of the kids that were massacred in that school in Newtown. They were in — they were in advocating for background checks — right? They knew that wouldn't have saved their babies; but they decided it was the provision that could get agreement that would save the most people's lives — because states that have background checks have much-reduced suicide rates; much-reduced homicide rates related to guns. And that is why they were there, and they had the courage to do that — to put aside their personal belief that they would have done even more; and say, let's just get this done. And that's what we're asking our colleagues to do today.

SCIUTTO: Saving lives seems a simple goal. Amy Klobuchar, thanks very much.

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