President Obama is gearing up for a fight over gun control but is gun control the issue. Should we focus on gun violence and mental health.
This week’s Washington Watch roundtable features Sophia Nelson, author and “Essence” magazine contributor; Armstrong Williams, host of “The Right Side”; and Dedrick Muhammad, senior director of the Economic Department for the NAACP.
MR. MARTIN: Welcome back.
Welcome back. Gun violence, a lack of diversity at the White House, a dysfunctional Congress, and also a pastor who was supposed to give the benediction at the inauguration pulls out. All of that on the agenda for our roundtable today.
I’m joined by: Sophia Nelson, author and “Essence” magazine contributor; Armstrong Williams, host of “The Right Side”; and Dedrick Muhammad, senior director of the Economic Department for the NAACP.
All right, folks, welcome to “Washington Watch.” Let’s jump right into it.
Vice President Joe Biden this week led these various meetings dealing with gun control, brought in video gaming companies, brought in NRA, brought in other folks involved in this conversation. He says on Tuesday he would give his recommendations to President Obama.
Do you believe we are going to see something real and tangible to deal with gun control in this country? To deal with gun violence in this country?
MR. ARMSTRONG WILLIAMS: Well, you know, listen. There’s no amount of legislation that you can pass to stop the kind of violence that we’re seeing today. There’re just too many criminals. You have too many people that have guns. Both sides must realize they’ve got to compromise something. Especially the background check is something that they can compromise [on].
But if President Obama actually thinks that he’s going to reduce the roles of guns enough[?] – the Second Amendment in this country, he’s got to be kidding. He’d create a storm. And, listen, many people like myself – and this is not a black-and-white issue. There are many Americans who, deep in the South – we grew up with guns. That is our culture. We’re trained. We’re responsible. We protect ourselves. We never talk about how often guns save lives because you have them in the homes. There’s another debate that we haven’t even had yet.
MS. SOPHIA NELSON: But, Roland, let me say this. I slightly disagree with Armstrong. Now, look, you know I’m an NRA person. I own guns. I – [crosstalk] –
MR. MARTIN: What you’re wearing you shot and killed and skinned it!
MS. NELSON: [Laughs.]
MS. NELSON: I live in the Commonwealth of Virginia, and so I’m a gun person.
But let me say this. I do think we can compromise. For example, the clips. Thirty, you know, rounds in a clip – we can compromise on that. I don’t see why anybody needs that. I have rounds for my shotgun and stuff like that, but I don’t need 30 rounds in my clip.
MR. MARTIN: Right.
MS. NELSON: So, there’re thing that we know that, in the horrible tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, had this very disturbed, angry, evil young man not had the amount of rounds that he had in the guns that he had, probably more of those babies would’ve survived. Some of the children were riddled with bullets as much as ten, 11 rounds in their little bodies.
MR. DEDRICK MUHAMMAD: And – and –
MS. NELSON: That’s horrible.
MR. MUHAMMAD: — you know, there is a history of good gun legislation helping to lessen gun violence. I think people point to Australia and the massive change they had after a massive gun shooting and the gun change laws that’ve brought down gun deaths. And in that country, they’re also a very gun-loving culture. So, I do think it is possible that gun legislation can help.
But what I’m concerned about is the gun legislation, I think, will be primarily focused around incidents like in Newtown, but not focused on the daily gun violence that kills so many people.
MR. MARTIN: And that’s –
MS. NELSON: [Crosstalk.]
MR. MARTIN: — the thing, you know, that – I’ve written this. We’ve discussed it on this show, and we’ve tried to have a different conversation.
I believe having a gun control conversation is narrow. I believe having a gun violence conversation is totally different, because when you look at “stand your ground” laws in Florida – the guy who says, “Turn your music down,” and then the guys don’t do it. They start cussing each other out. He gets his gun, and he fires eight shots into a[n] SUV, kills a young brother. We had his parents here on the show.
You’re talking about Trayvon Martin.
I’m talking about the same thing: inner-city Chicago. In this country, we have a problem with gun violence. It is a cultural problem we have, and for some reason, we only want to talk about gun control, but not deal with the mindset of Americans.
MR. WILLIAMS: You know, I want to reiterate your point –
MS. NELSON: That’s right.
MR. WILLIAMS: — because if you get caught up in talking about assault weapons, assault weapons don’t do nearly the damage as handguns!
MR. MARTIN: Right.
MS. NELSON: Right.
MR. WILLIAMS: I mean it’s about – you’re right. We have a problem with violent gun owners – violence that we don’t address.
MS. NELSON: Well, the culture’s angry, and we’re on a much shorter fuse, and you’re seeing more and more incidences of these lone gunmen. They always fit a similar profile, which I think is interesting, that we don’t talk about. But –
MR. WILLIAMS: White males?
MR. MARTIN: Say it.
MS. NELSON: — yes.
MR. MARTIN: Say it! White males.
MS. NELSON: White males. But I’m saying if you go to inner cities, like, Chicago’s had this epidemic of violence – right? And it’s being –
OFF CAMERA: “Had”?
MS. NELSON: — well, but I’m saying – I’m talking about recently
MR. WILLIAMS: [Chuckles.]
MS. NELSON: I’m talking –
MR. WILLIAMS: Right.
MS. NELSON: — it’s been in the news more, because we focus on these tragedies when they happen in suburban areas of wealth, or whatever, but we don’t care about, seemingly, the young, black people that die every day in inner cities in our country.
So, what I’m saying is there’s a culture of violence beyond just guns, whether it’s stabbing, baseball bats – whatever we’re doing. Our words are angry.
MS. NELSON: We’re angry!
MR. MARTIN: But also, the mistake that I think also is happening in this town, on Capitol Hill and in the White House, is that while you’re talking about gun control, you[’d] better also be having a real conversation about mental illness in this country –
OFF CAMERA: That’s right.
MS. NELSON: Amen.
OFF CAMERA: That’s right.
MR. MARTIN: — because when there are budget cuts on the city, county, state federal level, what’s one of the first areas that gets cut? Mental illness, and that’s also a big problem we have in America.
MR. MUHAMMAD: But also poverty, unemployment – because, again, the mental health issue is a lot for these kind of lone gunman shootings. But. again, I think the concentrated ghettoes of mass poverty –
MR. MARTIN: No, no, no –
MR. MUHAMMAD: — disenfranchisement –
MR. MARTIN: — no, no. But even –
MR. MUHAMMAD: — is also –
MR. MARTIN: — in those places, because part of the deal – and we’ve had Dr. Steve Perry on the show and others. Part of the issue that you have with these cats – you talk about a short fuse – is because folks have anger issues.
MS. NELSON: Absolutely.
MR. MARTIN: They are walking around upset, and then what happens –
MR. MUHAMMAD: Traumatic stress –
MR. MARTIN: — is the guns –
MR. MUHAMMAD: — disorders that are –
MR. MARTIN: — the gun is what’s giving them power –
MS. NELSON: Sure. Sure.
MR. MARTIN: — because a logic says –
MS. NELSON: “I’ll take you out.”
MR. MARTIN: — if I don’t have a gun, okay, I’mma think my way out of this situation; but because I[’ve] got my gun, I’m going to –
MR. MUHAMMAD: Um-hum. Gonna shoot.
MR. MARTIN: — shoot my way out.
MR. WILLIAMS: What about the videogames?
MR. MARTIN: Well, that’s part of the –
MR. WILLIAMS: That’s part of it.
MR. MARTIN: — the deal.
MR. WILLIAMS: That’s part of the problem.
MR. MARTIN: Hold tight one second. I’m going to a break. Gotta pay some bills, and then Sophia’s gon’ to tell us in the break how she shot an’ killed that animal she wearin’.
MS. NELSON: [Laughs.]
MR. MARTIN: Back on “Washington Watch” in a moment.
MS. NELSON: Oh, I love this show. It’s my favorite show in the world.