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Sen. Warner: Gun Laws Alone Won't Solve Problems


This is MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. Good morning. I'm David Greene.


And I'm Steve Inskeep.

Every morning, the staff of this program sits around a table and talks through the news of the day. And yesterday, the talk grew a little heated. One of our colleagues noted that people talk about gun control after last week's shootings at a Connecticut school, but it's not always clear what different people mean by gun control or what could really work.

GREENE: Lawmakers in Washington are under pressure to become more specific. President Obama yesterday established a task force on gun violence, which he admits is a complicated problem.


INSKEEP: And next, we'll hear a supporter of gun rights whose views are evolving. Virginia Democratic Senator Mark Warner owns guns, shoots on his farm, has been A-rating from the National Rifle Association for his support of gun rights, and has not supported new gun laws in the past.

SENATOR MARK WARNER: And then, last Friday, something that, not as a senator, but it as a dad, kicked me in the stomach more than anything, you thought, oh, my God, you know, how do we keep our kids safe? That day happened to be the day when my college-aged daughters all came home from school and kind of said dad, you work up there. What are you going to do about this? And the answer of kind of, well, just to enforce the existing gun laws didn't seem satisfactory to me.

INSKEEP: So what more needs to be done?

WARNER: Listen, I can give you chapter and verse on every aspect of the budget negotiation. I am not an expert on all the particulars of the various proposals on gun legislation. It appears to me that, you know, as technology has moved forward and our firearms have become more effective - mostly for our troops in the field in Iraq and Afghanistan, particularly with these high capacity magazines...

INSKEEP: Mm-hmm.

WARNER: ...that as these weapons that were built for the battlefield are slightly modified and then sold to the public, that we need to take a look at that. I don't think that, you know, changing gun laws alone is going to completely solve the problem. Clearly, we have to take a fresh look at issues around mental illness. But the idea that we can simply say OK, status quo, just doesn't feel right in my gut. You know, enough is enough.

INSKEEP: Senator, I mentioned on Twitter that I was going to talk to you and asked people, as I often do, if they had any questions. And people were really specific, yes or no questions. They want to know, for example, should the 1990s ban on assault weapons be renewed?

WARNER: The question is I've gone through an immediate tutorial on what defines an assault weapon. I'm not sure the definitions that were used in '94 are the same definitions to be used in 2012 or 2013.

INSKEEP: Oh, because the weapons have evolved.

WARNER: Are there ways that we should look at these high-capacity magazines so that, particularly people who are not militarily trained, can't get off so many rounds so quickly - yeah. That seems to me to be a place that responsible people can look for part of a solution. You know, I guess, Steve, what I'm saying is as I dig more into this, there isn't a very appropriate time for anyone to drill down, I don't have a bill to offer today.

If I can find a way here where we can find some common ground on this, and I hope other legislators who have been strong supporters of the Second Amendment as well are going to say, hey, you know, we got to be able to answer our kids and our constituents a lot better that we were actually part of the solution. You know, the one thing that I do know is the status quo is not acceptable.

INSKEEP: Senator, I want to ask about one other thing. Our sports commentator Frank DeFord was on the air this week, and he said that gun control advocates will take an opportunity like this to push their positions, and gun rights advocates will push back on their positions. And it's a predictable dance and nothing will really change, he said, unless sportsmen, hunters decide that they are willing to push for what they might see as reasonable gun restrictions. Do you think that's right?

WARNER: I think we need to hear their voices in this conversation, and I think they will. And I, again, hope that those listeners who are hunters and gun hunters will step up, as well.

INSKEEP: Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, always a pleasure to speak with you. Thanks very much.

WARNER: Thanks so much, Steve. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.