WASHINGTON WATCH ROUNDTABLE: Will Political Leaders Have The Courage To Confront Gun Control? (VIDEO) | Roland Martin Reports

WASHINGTON WATCH ROUNDTABLE: Will Political Leaders Have The Courage To Confront Gun Violence And Gun Control? (VIDEO)

The issue of gun control and mental health is complex, but as the President said earlier this week, “The fact that this problem is complex can no longer be an excuse for doing nothing. The fact that we can’t prevent every act of violence doesn’t mean that we can’t steadily reduce the violence and prevent the very worst violence.”

But in Washington, D.C., nothing happens easily or without conflict. So, what makes this any different?

This week’s Washington Watch roundtable features Michelle Bernard, president and CEO of the Bernard Center for Women; Elroy Sailor, co-founder and CEO of the JC Watts Companies; Leila McDowell, managing director of communications for the Advancement Project; and Joe Madison, Sirius XM Radio’s “The Black Eagle.”

MR. MARTIN:  Welcome back.

The issue of gun control and mental health is complex, but as the President said earlier this week, “The fact that this problem is complex can no longer be an excuse for doing nothing.  The fact that we can’t prevent every act of violence doesn’t mean that we can’t steadily reduce the violence and prevent the very worst violence.”

But in Washington, D.C., nothing happens easily or without conflict.  So, what makes this any different?

Here in the roundtable:  Michelle Bernard, president and CEO of the Bernard Center for Women; Elroy Sailor, co-founder and CEO of the JC Watts Companies;  Leila McDowell, managing director of communications for the Advancement Project; and Joe Madison, Sirius XM Radio’s “The Black Eagle.”

Folks, welcome to the show.  Let’s get right into it.

MR. MARTIN:  I believe there is a real opportunity here when you begin to talk about dealing with gun culture, gun violence in this country.  Do you actually think that political leaders – including President Barack Obama – have the courage to go as far as they should go?  Or, are folks going to tap dance around this issue and do what is minimal, but make it appear as if it’s major?

MS. MICHELLE BERNARD:  I think the President has the moral courage and fortitude to go as far as he can possibly go on gun control.  That being said, I don’t yet have a sense that members of Congress will do everything that they can do.  But if you put the President’s moral courage and fortitude together with a major, grassroots effort by African-Americans and whites and people of color around the country to address issues of violence – particularly among children – I think it can happen.  I’ve –

MR. MARTIN:  I’ve always said about the election of President Obama in 2008 – I said, “Is this a moment or a movement?”  And the same thing – we talked about it after Jena.  Same thing after Trayvon Martin.

I do think that this moment is much different than previous instances where we’ve had mass violence.  You’ve seen the polling data – how it has shifted.  You’ve see people who are NRA members, like Senator Joe Machin, who shot a commercial with him loading his gun and firing it, come out and say we’ve got to do something.  I think that this moment is different, which is why I think a political leader – like President Obama, like members of Congress – must capitalize as best … they can on this moment.

MS. LEILA MCDOWELL:  But I think that the devil is going to be in the details.  And as African-Americans, we’re going to have to be extremely vigilant, because we understand the NRA – [a] powerful lobby that represents gun manufacturers – they really aren’t representing gun owners – you know?  They’re representing gun manufacturers.  They’ve seen the sales of Bushmaster guns actually go up.  They’ve got[ten] 8,000 new members since this horrific tragedy.  So, they have a real stake in making sure that lip service is given to gun control, but in reality, what are those policies going to look like?

And for African-Americans, what we have to be careful about is that we don’t see what happened after Columbine, where there was a great sense of “we need to secure our schools.”  “We need,” you know, “more security,” which they’re talking about now.  Four Republicans in four states have already talked about, you know, arming teachers in schools.  This is NRA’s program –

OFF CAMERA:  Right.

MS. MCDOWELL:  — as well.

OFF CAMERA:  Right.

MS. MCDOWELL:  So, we, as African-Americans, have to be careful that what happened after Columbine doesn’t happen here.  What happened after Columbine was they put in place these zero-tolerance policies.  They didn’t go in the white, suburban schools, where you have mass shootings.  They went in inner-city schools, where violence generally happens outside the schools.

And what did we see as a result?  As a result, we see six-year-olds in Georgia being handcuffed and taken to jail – taken to the police station for having a tantrum.  In Mississippi, where the Department of Justice is suing the school district there, we see a young man, for the wrong-color socks, spending two weeks in jail.  Zero-tolerance policies criminalizing kids – that came after Columbine.

We have to make –

MR. MARTIN:  Right.

MS. MCDOWELL:  — sure that these gun policies don’t just add to that criminalization.

MR. MARTIN:  Elroy, on Friday, the NRA made their big announcement, and their idea is to offer free training to put armed security guards in every school in the country.

MR. ELROY SAILOR:  Well, two issues.  I think, one, you know, I hope the President and our leaders, the NRA and all the community rights groups out there – I hope they take this opportunity to also reflect back on the number of children in urban areas who die every month.

MR. MARTIN:  Right.

MR. SAILOR:  I think the number of children who died of gun violence – and it’s not because they were in gangs.  They may be – [crosstalk] –

MR. MARTIN:  Actually, first of –

MR. SAILOR:  — by the shootings –

MR. MARTIN:  — all, we talked about that at the top of the show.  In terms of black kids, more killed who were innocent bystanders –

MR. SAILOR:  — right, right.

MR. MARTIN:  — as opposed to those involved.  And you’re right.  We have seen – we add the numbers up, [and] we’ve seen multiple

MR. SAILOR:  Right.

MR. MARTIN:  — multiple Newtowns.

MR. JOE MADISON:  Here’s my solution.  I think we take a book from Emmett Till’s mother.  When they brought Emmett Till’s body back, as we all know on this panel, she demanded an open coffin, so that the world could see what she did.

They were babies that had their faces blown off.  There were teachers that had the back of their heads blown off.  We ought to have a congressional hearing.  Those photographs that are now state evidence in Connecticut should be on the floor of the United States House of Representatives, and the world should see exactly what a Bushmaster bullet does to the face of a child.  I guarantee you that that would change the debate.  And then let the president of the NRA stand there with those photographs and explain to us why we need these weapons in our society.

That would change the debate.

MR. MARTIN:  Mamie was courageous in doing so, and earlier this week someone suggested that as well.  I just don’t believe that folks have that level of courage.

MR. MADISON:  Well, that’s the question.

MR. MARTIN:  But not only did she request that, but also the fact that “Jet” magazine and “The Chicago Defender” put it on the front page, and they –

OFF CAMERA:  Absolutely.

MR. MARTIN:  — of his body.

And also, what’s critically important as well – and I think you’re right, because when you see the result of the damage, it changes.  That’s why I also think it’s wrong in this country when the media says, “Oh, no.  Let’s not show the bodies from Iraq or Afghanistan.”  No, sometimes you need to see –

MR. SAILOR:  [Crosstalk.]

MR. MARTIN:  — the result of some things to understand exactly what it means.

MR. MADISON:  You want to keep your gun?  Well, keep your gun.  Gun, ammunition.  Load it.  Shoot it.  Now, don’t stop where it’s shot.  Stop where it ends.

MS. BERNARD:  Absolutely.

MR. MADISON:  And – but you’re right.  I don’t know if they have the courage.

But let me tell you something we don’t have – I mean that we have today that we didn’t have with “The Chicago Defender,” the paper you ran, and Johnson’s publication:  the Internet.  It goes viral.

MR. MARTIN:  Right.