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February 6th, 2013
11:06 AM ET

Reps. Cummings, Rigell on House bipartisan gun control bill, say Americans are 'begging' lawmakers to do something'

This morning on "Starting Point with Soledad O'Brien," Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) & Rep. Scott Rigell (R-VA) discuss a new House bipartisan gun control bill.

Transcript available after the jump.


O'BRIEN: Democratic Congressman Elijah Cummings joins us. He's from the state of Maryland. Republican Scott Rigell from Virginia joins me as well. Nice to have you both with us.

So I want to start with you, Congressman Cummings. You have a very personal attachment to this issue. I know that your nephew was a college student who was murdered. Tell me a little bit about that.

REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), MARYLAND: A year and a half ago, my nephew, Christopher Cummings, was an honor student, 20 years old at Old Dominion University in Virginia. He was robbed at 5:00 in the morning and shot to death, and his roommate was also shot. And I got to tell you, I can feel the emotion right now that I felt when I went into his room, and to see his blood and body tissue spread over the walls. It's a very painful thing.

And I think when the Sandy Hook incident came up, I got to tell you, so that it brought it all back up. And people want solutions to this gun violence problem, and I'm so glad to be joining with Scott and others to try to do some common sense legislation that will help resolve those kind of matters.

O'BRIEN: So Congressman Rigell, why don't you walk us through this what you're calling common sense legislation? What exactly will it accomplish?

REP. SCOTT RIGELL (R), VIRGINIA: Well, Soledad, it's really focused on two groups of people: folks who are gun traffickers, and straw purchasers. These groups are hurting lawful gun owners like myself. I'm a lifetime member of the NRA, and I'm proud of the work that the NRA has done in so many areas, and I'm a strong defender of our Second Amendment, but there's a group of folks out there, gun traffickers and straw purchasers, who are circumventing the laws. The penalties are not stiff enough. And as I put it, we need really to change the culture in America to where it's really not OK to buy a gun for someone else. Right now, the penalties are so low that there's a high incidence of this, and this is hurting our country.

O'BRIEN: How will the two bills, the one that's been proposed by the Senate and now this one that you have, how will they work together? I mean your bill leaves out a lot of stuff. It focuses on trafficking and tracking, but it doesn't cover mental health, it doesn't really cover background checks. Those, I think people would say, are critical elements. How do you bring them together?

RIGELL: Well, we were really focused on common ground and I think Elijah might even comment on that, that focusing first on what we agree on.

CUMMINGS: Yes, Soledad, one of the things that we noticed is that there are a lot of broad proposals, and certainly Vice President Biden has brought forth some very good ideas, but we've got to figure out exactly what it is that we do agree on. And the thing that bothers me is a lot of times we will agree on certain things, but because we concentrate on our disagreements, we end up doing nothing. And I think it would be very, very sad, considering what happened at Sandy Hook and what seems to be happening almost on a daily basis now with young people being killed, we've got to find some solutions. And I think Americans are not asking us to do something; they're begging us to do something.

RIGELL: And the other group, Soledad, that's begging us to do something are the law enforcement officials and the prosecutors. They're telling us how frustrated they are, as Representative Maloney highlighted in the piece that you ran there, with their inability or the difficulty that they have in prosecuting and deterring the bad folks.

So that's one reason there are so many law officials behind us yesterday at the press conference and really from across the country who couldn't physically be here with us that are supporting this. It makes sense and it is common ground. We're working hard to get it advanced throughout House.

CUMMINGS: And Soledad, keep in mind what Scott said: We're aiming at the criminal element. These are people who are trying to get around the laws that already exist, and so we're trying to figure out how do we make sure that that person, who has a criminal record, and then goes to someone who does not have a criminal record, tells them to buy a gun - how do we really show them that we are not going to stand for that? I just think this will help that situation.

Filed under: Gun control • Gun violence
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