This evening, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo called into The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer to discuss yesterday’s shooting at Umpqua Community College and the need for federal action on gun control. Audio of that interview is available here, and a rush transcript is available below:
Wolf Blitzer: Joining us now to discuss the news, Andrew Cuomo of New York. Governor, thanks very much for joining us. I know you’ve called for a national gun policy. What is stopping this from happening? You see how angry the president is right now.
Governor Cuomo: Political courage, Wolf. That’s what is stopping it. Political courage by the elected officials in Washington and apathy by the American people.
Wolf Blitzer: How do you change that?
Governor Cuomo: I'm sorry?
Wolf Blitzer: How do you change that?
Governor Cuomo: Well first, I am amazed that the American people must have lost so much faith in the system that you can watch every few weeks basically the same horrendous scene replay on the screen and they haven't spurred to action. I believe it the American people's belief that Washington is so gridlocked and so dysfunctional that there's no purpose. With the elected officials themselves, they are afraid of this issue. That’s what it is. I say that as an elected official. We passed a law in New York right after Sandy Hook when New Yorkers thankfully said enough is enough, and we passed the law just about a week after Sandy Hook – the smartest, toughest gun law in the country and it – there is a political cost to it, Wolf. There is a segment of the population in New York, in this country that is Second Amendment zealots, frankly, because there is no Second Amendment right for a mentally ill person to have a gun or a criminal to have a gun but they’re Second Amendment zealots and I passed the law and I came down in popularity. You know what? From my point of view, fine. It’s called political capital and that's why I ran for office and I believe my law saves lives. The frustration for me is: I close the front door of the state to guns and guns are coming in the backdoor. They’re coming in from Virginia, South Carolina, et cetera. I lose a member of my staff 43 years old, beautiful guy to random gun violence just two weeks ago. So big politicians in Washington don't want to take the vote. They don't want to offend the gun lobby because it is about the money and it's about the political support and they would rather hold on to their political capital than take a vote. I’d like to see the Democrats threaten shutdown over this issue the way the conservatives say, “If I don't get a tax cut I’m going to shut down the government.” Let the Democrats say, “I’m going to shut down the government if we don't get a gun control law.” Make this election a referendum
on gun control from the presidential to every congressional race, and then we'll see, because the American people get it, Wolf. It’s the elected officials who don't get it. But the American people get it.
Wolf Blitzer: I know you're passionate on this and understandably so given what has been going on in the country. Is the National Rifle Association, the so-called gun lobby, is it that powerful it controls these members to avoid doing what you say is common sense?
Governor Cuomo: It's not the NRA alone, it's the NRA strikes a chord that is out there. There is, you know, you know in New York 35, 40 percent of the people say, “Second amendment, don't touch my gun, and don’t touch my right to have a gun. It’s a slippery slope. Government will then confiscate the guns.” It’s a very difficult political issue. One of the most difficult. And they want to stay away from it. I get it. But it is also one of the most pressing national issues, and it's frankly an issue with this government could do something, and it's an issue that could actually be talked about in the campaign that would mean something. You know, we talk about hair styles. We talk about every kind of irrelevant issue. This is the issue. And I would nail down every candidate's position and make from the presidential all of the way down, what will you do when you get to Washington on this issue?
Wolf Blitzer: One final question before I let you go, Governor, I know your time is running out. We did a poll on can and asked how President Obama is handling the gun issue in the country. Look at this, only 35% approve of the way the President is handling it and 59% disapprove. What should the president do right now to get, what you call, common sense gun legislation inactive?
Governor Cuomo: If I were the president now, I would do, he has a luxurious position in some ways. I would do it all. I would not hold back on the advocacy – and he’s not, I credit him – and keep it going all through the campaign. I would make it an issue in the presidential election and congressional races and whatever he can do by executive action I would do. I was there during the Clinton years as you know Wolf, I was the HUD Secretary and President Clinton was very aggressive on actions with the ATF by executive action. But whatever you could do by executive action, and this is where the bully pulpit comes in and he can drive his agenda and put his bill out there and make every Democrat in Congress who is running state their position on that bill and I would run this election as a referendum on guns because I believe the American people get it. You’re going to lose 30 percent, 35 percent – but you know what? This isn't about winning 100 percent. It’s about doing what is right and restoring faith and trust in government and getting something done for the people of this country.
Wolf Blitzer: All right. Governor, appreciate your calling in. Thank you so much for joining us.
Governor Cuomo: Thank you, Wolf.