PBS NewsHour full show August 6, 2019

PBS NewsHour full show August 6, 2019


JUDY WOODRUFF: Good evening. I’m Judy Woodruff. On the “NewsHour” tonight: After tragedy,
what comes next? As America mourns the weekend’s killings,
a look at what can be done to keep firearms out of the hands of who intend to do harm,
and the facts behind the talking points linking mental illness to gun violence. Then: a looming threat from Beijing. As the pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong
rage on, Chinese officials signal the potential for a military crackdown. Plus: remembering Toni Morrison, reflections
on the life, literature, and legacy of the Nobel-prize winning author. TONI MORRISON, Nobel Prize Winner: The future
was right there, right at your fingertips. And I was so happy to be among what I hadn’t
had when I was in Ohio, African-American intellectuals. And that was the company I wanted to keep. JUDY WOODRUFF: All that and more on tonight’s
“PBS NewsHour.” (BREAK) JUDY WOODRUFF: The debate over guns in America
is intensifying tonight, after mass shootings that killed 22 people in El Paso, Texas, and
nine in Dayton, Ohio. So are the investigations. The FBI today joined the investigation of
the Dayton gunman, Connor Betts, who was killed by police. Agents said that he had shown interest in
committing a mass shooting. TODD WICKERHAM, FBI Agent: We have uncovered
evidence throughout the course of our investigation that the shooter was exploring violent ideologies. We have not seen any evidence that the events
in El Paso influenced him at this point. Again, we have lots of evidence to go through JUDY WOODRUFF: President Trump plans to visit
Dayton and El Paso tomorrow. His opponents, in turn, plan to protest his
rhetoric on race and immigration and to demand action on gun violence. Dayton’s Democratic mayor, Nan Whaley, said
today she backs both sentiments. NAN WHALEY, Mayor of Dayton, Ohio: His rhetoric
has been painful for many in our community, and I think that people should stand up and
say they’re not happy, if they’re not happy that he’s coming. I’m disappointed with his remarks. I mean, I think they fall — fell really short. He mentioned, like, gun issues one time. I think watching the president over the past
few years on the issues of guns, he’s been — I don’t know if he knows what he believes. JUDY WOODRUFF: Ohio Republican Governor Mike
DeWine urged mandatory background checks for virtually all gun sales today. That was today. He also called for court action to prevent
potentially dangerous people from getting guns. We will hear about federal gun control legislation
after the news summary. The FBI also says that it is treating last
month’s mass shooting in Gilroy, California, was domestic terror. It turns out the gunman had a target list
of religious institutions, federal buildings, courthouses and the two major political parties. He killed three people and wounded 13 at a
popular food festival, before killing himself. The Chinese currency stabilized today after
sliding on Monday to an 11-year low. That calmed Wall Street, and stocks made up
almost half of Monday’s losses. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 311
points to close at 26029. The Nasdaq rose 107 points, and the S&P 500
added 37. Meanwhile, China’s Central Bank denied manipulating
its currency to gain advantage in a trade fight with the U.S. Instead, it warned Washington to pull back
from the brink of greater economic damage. But White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow
argued the Chinese are bearing the real burden. LARRY KUDLOW, Director, National Economic
Council: China’s slashing its prices. That’s killing their profits and their companies. Production and supply chains are moving out
of China. We have elasticity of demand. Our importers can shop elsewhere outside of
China. That’s hurting China. JUDY WOODRUFF: President also played down
fears of a prolonged trade fight, and he vowed again to protect American farmers after Beijing
said that it will stop buying U.S. agriculture products. Separately, President Trump has frozen all
of the Venezuelan government’s assets in the U.S. in a new blow at President Nicolas Maduro. The sanctions also mean that U.S. companies
and individuals could face penalties for doing business with Maduro’s government and his
top supporters. This is the latest U.S. move to aid opposition
leader Juan Guaido in his bid to oust Maduro. The United States fired off a new warning
to Turkey today not to attack Kurdish forces in Northeastern Syria. The mainly Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces
have fought against the Islamic State, or ISIS, but Turkey regards the Kurds as terrorists. U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said today
that a Turkish invasion would be unacceptable. He spoke en route to Japan. MARK ESPER, U.S. Defense Secretary: We want
to sustain the continued defeat at least of the physical caliphate of ISIS, right? That becomes a question if they move in and
the SDF is impacted. We’re obviously holding thousands of fighters,
ISIS fighters. And so those are some the — some of the things
we risk if there’s a unilateral incursion into Northern Syria by the Turks. JUDY WOODRUFF: In Ankara, Turkey’s President
Recep Tayyip Erdogan again talked of military action, insisting that control of the Syrian
border region is critical to Turkey’s safety. RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN, Turkish President (through
translator): It’s our country’s top priority to drain the terror swamp in Syria’s north. Turkey cannot feel safe as long the forces
in our south, which are growing like a cancer cell and being grown with the heavy weapons
of our allies, is not eliminated. JUDY WOODRUFF: Military delegations from the
U.S. and Turkey have been meeting in Ankara this week, trying to negotiate a settlement. North Korea says that it keeps testing missiles
because the United States is inciting military tensions. The North fired two more short-range missiles
into the sea early today, the fourth such test in two weeks. In a statement, Pyongyang defended the tests
and cited U.S. weapons sales to South Korea and a joint U.S.-South Korean military exercise. Back in this country, former Alaska Senator
Mike Gravel has officially dropped out of the 2020 Democratic presidential race. He said in a video today that he will back
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders for the nomination. Gravel is 89. He didn’t actively campaign or appear in any
of the Democratic debates. And Nobel Prize-winning novelist Toni Morrison
has died in New York after a brief illness. She pioneered American multiculturalism in
her novels, and was the first African-American woman to win the Nobel Prize for Literature. Toni Morrison was 88 years old. We will explore her life and legacy at the
end of the program. Still to come on the “NewsHour”: grappling
with the scourge of mass shootings. What can be done to stop them?; the facts
behind the political talking points linking mental illness to gun violence; a turn to
Hong Kong and the risks faced by the pro-democracy protesters there; plus, much more. We return now to El Paso and how that community
continues to grapple with the weekend’s deadly attack. Our Dan Bush is there. He has been reporting from both sides of the
border today. Hi, Dan. So, first, we know you have been talking to
people in El Paso. Tell us a little of what they’re saying. DANIEL BUSH: So, I’m here right next to the
Walmart, Judy, where the shooting took place. You can see maybe behind me people from the
community have been trickling now day after day to pay their respects, to drop off flowers. It’s a community that’s trying to cope with
this tragedy. I spoke to one woman who was working inside
the Walmart at the time, who said she felt so defenseless, crouched in an electronics
aisle, that she decided to take up shooting classes and potentially get a concealed carry
permit. Another mother who was not at the scene of
the shooting who said that her and her husband bought their 8-year-old son a bulletproof
backpack to take to school. El Paso’s school district begins just a little
later this month. So people are really trying to figure out
how to move forward. And, at the same time, the Latino community
here, Judy, in particular has been thrust into the national debate over race and President
Donald Trump’s rhetoric around immigration. And I spoke to several people here who said
that they do find the president partly responsible for this attack and feel that they have in
fact been targeted by the president for his words on immigration. JUDY WOODRUFF: Bulletproof backpack. And, Dan, what about on the Mexico side of
the border in Juarez? What are people saying there? DANIEL BUSH: It’s interesting, Judy. There’s a mixed reaction the other side of
the border. I spoke to a lot of people there who said
that they were not that surprised by this shooting. They said that there are so many mass shootings
in America that, to them, they have come to accept this as a regular part of American
life. They said that they do resent President Trump’s
attacks on Mexicans, on Latinos generally, but that, to them, the political debate playing
out in the U.S. doesn’t really impact their lives in a concrete way. And another thing, this Walmart actually is
a popular shopping destination with many people on the other side of the border, who said
that, for some goods like shoes and some clothes, it’s actually cheaper to come here. There’s a bus that goes right from the center
of Juarez to this Walmart for about $1 50. A lot of people come up here and said that
they’re going to continue to do that, just because these two cities on either sides of
the Rio Grande River are so interconnected. One man told me, Judy, that he is going to
be back here as soon as he can. JUDY WOODRUFF: So interesting. Dan Bush, thank you for your reporting, Dan
Bush there in El Paso on the border. And all this leads to an urgent question being
asked this week: What are lawmakers in Washington doing to deal with gun violence? Our Lisa Desjardins is here to explore where
things stand. So, Lisa, I know you have been talking to
a lot of people. What are they saying about whether there’s
any movement at all on this issue? LISA DESJARDINS: Well, a sign that one thing
is a little different came from the Republican leader of the U.S. Senate in a statement last
night. Mitch McConnell said the president reached
out to him, and McConnell said these words, that the president encouraged him and Republicans
in the Senate to engage in bipartisan discussions of potential solutions to help protect our
communities, and then added, without infringing on Americans’ constitutional rights. You see there the political balance. But this is new from Senator McConnell, saying
that he has now directed the four committee chairs who oversee this area of law, including
guns and mental health, to find some kind of bipartisan agreement. Now, Judy, at the same time, there is a somewhat
bipartisan bill that has already been passed by the House of Representatives. It is a bill that would increase background
checks, make mandatory background checks at most gun shows, for example. It has eight Republicans supporting it. One of them is Peter King, and he has this
message for Senator McConnell: REP. PETER KING (R-NY): I believe it’s essential
that Senator McConnell allow this to come to a vote. He doesn’t have to support it. He doesn’t have to get behind it. Just let it come to a vote. And I think that, if anything good can come
from the horrible tragedies of this weekend, it’s that we can get this legislation passed. LISA DESJARDINS: But, Judy, speaking to Senator
McConnell’s office today, they said there’s no chance that he will bring that bipartisan,
somewhat bipartisan background check bill up for a vote because the president has threatened
to veto it. It is not clear if he will allow any background
check to come up for a vote. Talking to the other senators involved in
trying to find a bipartisan agreement, it’s not really clear what direction they’re going
to go in yet. JUDY WOODRUFF: Interesting, because the president
suggested the other day that maybe some kind of background checks, he could support. So, Lisa, I know you have been looking at
all the legislation ideas that are out there. What exactly has been proposed so far? LISA DESJARDINS: So, I looked at every bill
that has come up this new Congress; 8,000 bills on every subject have been proposed. Let’s look at how many deal with guns. Of that universe, about 100 — exactly 110
bills contain the word gun. Of those, Judy, only five bills have seen
committee action. And some of those aren’t really about the
gun debate. They might just have funding for sort of a
gun program involving education or something like that. So there really is not very much action, honestly,
on guns. Most of it is being driven by Democrats. It’s interesting to note, the most popular
of those bills are the background check bill that passed the House, and also a Republican
bill on concealed carry that would allow someone with concealed carry permits in one state
to have them in every state. That is also not moving. So you see the partisan divide. JUDY WOODRUFF: So, what are the — from your
talking to people — and I know Congress not in town right now, but does anything stand
chance of passage? LISA DESJARDINS: I will say, Senator Lamar
Alexander’s spokesperson toned me today he has taken this as a mission, as a task from
Senator McConnell, to find some kind of bipartisan plan that can pass. But I had to balance that, Judy, with others
I spoke to, people who are key bipartisan voices here that would make a difference,
who told me on the phone that didn’t want their names used that they just don’t see
the room. It’s another month from now until when the
Senate returns. And in the voice of one person, if Newtown
didn’t change anything, if the universal background checks didn’t pass then, they’re still discouraged. I asked, well, aren’t you making this sort
of a fait accompli? Aren’t you actually adding to the problem
with that thinking? They said, maybe, but we feel it so strongly,
we just don’t think change is coming yet. We will see. JUDY WOODRUFF: A lot of people are going to
be discouraged by that. LISA DESJARDINS: They are discouraged now. I think that’s right. JUDY WOODRUFF: Lisa Desjardins, thank you
very much. LISA DESJARDINS: You’re welcome. JUDY WOODRUFF: So, as has happened before
in the aftermath of gruesome mass shootings, once again this week, two principal and competing
narratives have emerged, as people try to grasp how such things can happen and what
might be done to prevent them. As Amna Nawaz reports, some point to guns,
their large numbers and easy access in this country. Others, often voices on the right, including
President Trump yesterday, urge a greater focus on mental health treatment, saying that
that could identify potential shooters before they act. AMNA NAWAZ: Judy, guns kill an average of
100 people each day in this country, about 36,000 a year total. For a look at the role guns play in our lives
and in violence we live with, I’m joined by Mr. Garen Wintemute. He’s an emergency medicine physician at University
of California-Davis Medical Center, where he’s the director of the Violence Prevention
Research Program. His research for decades has focused on injuries
and the prevention of firearm violence. Dr. Wintemute, welcome to the “NewsHour.” Thank you for making the time. I want to ask you about the laws,because you
have looked extensively at them. In the wake of these mass shootings, people
want congressional action. They want legislation. What is being done on the federal or state
level to improve gun safety and reduce gun violence? DR. GAREN WINTEMUTE, U.C. Davis Medical Center:
I think one promising strategy is the extreme risk protection order, or, as we call it here,
a gun violence restraining order. It has a number of virtues. It is effective. It is very tightly focused on people who exhibit
high-risk behavior, such that there is a threat in the near future. It’s temporary. It is designed to lessen risk at a time of
crisis. We are today in the wake of a series of mass
shootings. And it’s important to point out that ERPOs,
as we call them, while they were thought to be primarily useful for prevention of suicide,
were generally enacted at the state level following mass shootings, and have been and
are being used in efforts to prevent mass shootings. AMNA NAWAZ: And I want to be clear about these. These are the same as the so-called red flag
laws people have heard so much about recently? DR. GAREN WINTEMUTE: It is the same. Those of us who work in the field don’t like
the term red flag laws, so we use a term that actually describes what it is we’re talking
about. AMNA NAWAZ: Can I ask why you don’t like it? What’s inaccurate about it? DR. GAREN WINTEMUTE: Sure. So, first off, it’s, as we say, very nonspecific. Red flag about what? Bugs in the basement? It’s also — I think this concerns me the
most. It is a term that inspires fear. And we don’t want to make people afraid. We want them to feel empowered. So we use terms that describe what the intervention
is and convey a sense that this is something that people can do, which is precisely the
point. AMNA NAWAZ: So, there’s two additional bills
that have had some kind of bipartisan support behind them. One is expanding background checks to include
every gun sale or transfer. And the other is concealed carry related,
that states who have and allow concealed carry would recognize permits from other states. Would either of those contribute to reducing
gun violence in America? DR. GAREN WINTEMUTE: Let me take expanded background
checks first. There is very good evidence, from our work
and others, that denying the purchase, denying access to firearms by people who are prohibited
from having that access substantially reduces their risk of violence in the near future. We and others have identified a series of
concrete flaws in the way background check policies are written and implemented that
I think need to be fixed in order for them to have their maximum effectiveness. I will give you one example. There are at least nine of these. Prohibiting events very often are not reported,
even when they are required to be reported. Mass shootings in Sutherland Springs, Texas,
in Charlottesville, South Carolina, at Virginia Tech, all occurred because shooters who were
prohibited persons were able to pass background checks and acquire their firearms because
the prohibiting events were not in the data the background checks were run on. Now, reciprocity — let me just use recent
events. Both Texas and Ohio, where we have had mass
shootings just in the past few days, are places with concealed carry, at least one with open
carry, where it’s hard for me to imagine that among the people wisely running away from
that shooting scene were a substantial number of people who were themselves armed. We have this collective adolescent fantasy,
if I may, that an armed civilian is going to step up and prevent these events. The data show that that almost never happens. And the reason I said that it might be counterproductive
is this. States vary widely in their criteria for issuing
CCW permits. Some states set the bar quite high. Others set it quite low. High bar states, with good reason, would just
as soon not have people with low bar permits inside their borders. AMNA NAWAZ: Well, you mentioned states having
different rules. Of course, that means that guns can move across
different state lines as well. How much of a problem is that? And if you could, if there is one piece of
legislation that you think would have an immediate effect to reduce gun violence, what would
that be? DR. GAREN WINTEMUTE: I think the one thing I would
put at the top of the list would be to expand background checks and make — at the same
time make them much more thorough and effective. I have to say, however, firearm violence is
a very complex problem. And the correct answer to what’s the one thing
is, there is no one thing. We need to do a bunch of things simultaneously
in order to have the effect that we want. AMNA NAWAZ: Dr. Garen Wintemute of the University
of California-Davis, thank you very much. DR. GAREN WINTEMUTE: Thanks for having me. AMNA NAWAZ: And to help us assess the role
mental health plays in gun violence and gun-related deaths, we turn to Jeffrey Swanson. He’s a professor of psychiatry and behavioral
science at Duke University School of Medicine. His research was part of a report released
today by the National Council for Behavioral Health titled “Mass Violence in America: Causes
Impacts and Solutions.” Professor Swanson, welcome back to the “NewsHour.” I want to begin with what the president has
said in the wake of this latest round of mass shootings. This is a quote. He said: “Mental illness and hatred pulls
the trigger, not the gun.” How should we understand the overlap between
mental illness and people who perpetuate gun violence in America? DR. JEFFREY SWANSON, Duke University: Well, mass
shootings, I mean, we’re just in this national nightmare. Everybody wants it to stop. And mass shootings are so frightening and
so irrational, and we want an answer to why they happen. And what the president said is a very simple
answer, it’s mental illness. And I understand why he said that, because
it resonates with what lots of people already believe about mental illness. But the facts are that the vast majority of
people with mental illnesses are not violent towards other people, they never will be. And our report just released today, which
suggests that the prevalence of mental illness among perpetrators of mass shootings or mass
violence is about the same as it is in the general population, so it’s a very complex
problem. Fix mental health is a slogan. It’s not a solution to anything. And if it is, it’s a solution to a quite different
public health problem, which is the problem of people with mental illnesses out in the
community who need better mental health care. AMNA NAWAZ: Let me ask you about something
we have heard, though, from other people on the president’s team as well, which is that,
look, in order to be someone who carries out this kind of heinous attack, you have to be
mentally ill in some way. What do you say to that? DR. JEFFREY SWANSON: Yes, I understand that too. To say that someone who goes out and massacres
a bunch of strangers, I mean, that’s not the act of a healthy mind. It might be a person who’s alienated and troubled
and angry and resentful, who’s marinating in hate, someone who is indifferent and hopeless,
who has all kinds of problems with all kinds of causes. But it doesn’t mean that they have one of
the mental illnesses defined by psychiatry, as, you know, a disorder of thinking or mood,
like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder or depression. Tens of millions of Americans have these illnesses,
and the overwhelming majority of them are not violent towards other people. They would love to have a conversation about
improving mental health care. And it’s too bad we have it on the day when
there’s a mass shooting. There are many solutions, I think, that we
could talk about to try to address mass shootings. Mental illness is one contributing factor. But it’s just one of many. And if we cured mental illness, our problem
of violence in society would go down by about 4 percent. So it’s not that there’s no relationship at
all. It’s just it’s not quite the place you would
start. But we can certainly talk about it. AMNA NAWAZ: Well, let me ask you — let me
ask you about one of the proposed solutions we have heard about so far, which is these
so-called red flag laws, right, the idea that you can identify someone who’s potentially
violent in advance and make sure they either don’t have a weapon or take away the one that
they have. What do you make of those — of those possible
solutions? DR. JEFFREY SWANSON: Well, I think they’re a good
idea. I think they’re an important piece in the
puzzle of gun violence prevention, because the fact is that we have kind of a disconnect
between the laws that are designed to prevent certain people from accessing guns at the
point of sale and actual risk. There are lots of people who are prohibited
from guns, maybe because they had an involuntary commitment 25 years ago, and they aren’t posing
a risk to anyone. Meanwhile, there are lots of people who do
pose a risk, angry, impulsive people who would pass a background check because they don’t
have any gun-disqualifying record. So a tool like this is focused not on mental
illness. It’s focused on behavioral indicators of risk. So, if you’re a neighbor, and the person next
door is acting in a really threatening, menacing way, and is amassing firearms, in many states,
there’s nothing you can do about that if that person isn’t criminally accused, hasn’t done
anything or committed a crime. In one of the states that has an extreme risk
protection order law, you can reach out to law enforcement. They can investigate it. And if there’s probable cause, they can get
a civil court order to remove that person’s firearms temporarily, for their own good. It’s not criminalizing. And you can do the same thing if your family
member, under the most of the statutes — if let’s say a relative of yours is in a suicidal
crisis and has guns. Your loved one is, let’s say, depressed and
bereaved or drinking heavily and has guns, and this might save their life, because lots
of people attempt suicide. If they use anything else, they’re very likely
to survive. If they use a firearm, it’s so lethal, that
they almost never survive. If we just want to stop so many people from
dying, we could focus on limiting access to lethal means. And I think this law actually is one of the
few things that can find some common ground and bridge the gap between people who want
to do gun control and people who think that it’s people and not guns who kill people. AMNA NAWAZ: Common ground, something we’re
all looking for these days. Professor Jeffrey Swanson, Duke University
School of Medicine, thank you very much. DR. JEFFREY SWANSON: Thank you for having me. JUDY WOODRUFF: Stay with us. Coming up on the “NewsHour”: what, if anything,
could break the political gridlock stalling gun legislation; sitting down with Democratic
presidential candidate Governor Steve Bullock of Montana; plus, remembering the life and
legacy of Nobel Prize-winning author Toni Morrison. But first: China’s central government strongly
condemned today what it calls extreme violence from protesters in Hong Kong. The condemnation came after a day of clashes
and a general strike that disrupted public transportation and blocked major roads. Jonathan Miller of Independent Television
News has the story. JONATHAN MILLER: The most violent, most sustained
popular challenge to the Communist Party of China in decades was today met with Beijing’s
strongest denunciations in nine weeks of turmoil. Don’t play with fire, the spokesman for China’s
state council warned. He branded the ringleaders deranged, as he
threatened a blow from the sword of the law lay in store for them. Their insurrection was doomed, he said. YANG GUANG, Spokesperson, China State Council
(through translator): I must warn all criminals not to misjudge the situation and mistake
our restraint for weakness. They must not underestimate the firm determination
and tremendous strength of the central government and the people of the whole country to safeguard
Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability and to safeguard the fundamental interests of the
country. JONATHAN MILLER: Yang Guang offered no solutions
and didn’t address grievances. Instead, he reminded Hong Kongers who was
boss. YANG GUANG (through translator): The People’s
Liberation Army is an incomparably strong and powerful force and is safeguarding the
security of every inch of the sacred territory of the motherland. JONATHAN MILLER: Last week, the PLA’s Hong
Kong garrison released this video, showing its troops training to confront protesters. Asked today if he could rule out intervention,
Yang Guang said China would never allow any turbulence that would threaten national unity. Hong Kong law provides for the PLA to deploy
if the territory’s semiautonomous government hits the panic button. Yesterday’s disturbances alone resulted in
148 arrests, police firing 800 tear gas canisters and 140 rubber bullets. Rubber bullets were not used by the PLA at
Tiananmen Square 30 years ago, when the army killed thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators. Today, three masked Hong Kong protesters held
a press briefing to decry what they called the lack of self-discipline by police. They apologized for the inconvenience yesterday’s
day-long strike had caused. MAN: The pursuit of democracy, liberty and
equality is the inalienable rights of every citizen. We, therefore, call on the government to refrain
from exterminating our right to pursue these universal values. JONATHAN MILLER: As Hong Kong cleaned up after
yet another long weekend of chaos, many returning to work spoke of their enduring support for
protesters. MATTHEW YUNG, Financial Analyst: Chaos is
caused by the government, not the protester. I think they will try every peaceful means
with the largest march since Hong Kong returned the sovereignty to China. We had two million people marching on the
street. And government still doesn’t listen. JONATHAN MILLER: It’s true. Less than two months ago, a third of Hong
Kong’s population marched peacefully in protest against a reviled extradition bill. And now it’s transformed into a fully-fledged
civil resistance movement, defiantly rejecting the lengthening reach of Beijing, who is deaf
to Hong Kongers’ demands, unsympathetic, and whose patience has now worn thin. And now we turn back to guns in America. And we look at the politics. Joining me is former U.S. Representative Carlos
Curbelo. He’s a Republican who represented Florida
for four years, until 2018. Congressman Curbelo, thank you very much for
joining us. I want to ask you first why you are speaking
out on this issue. You did serve in Congress. You were defeated last November by someone
else who had a stronger record on gun control, if you will, a woman whose father had been
killed in a gun accident — in a gun incident. So what has — what has compelled you to continue
to speak out about it? CARLOS CURBELO (R), Former U.S. Congressman:
Judy, good evening. For me, this issue stopped being a partisan
issue a long time ago. While I was in Congress, we had the pulse
shooting in Orlando, Florida. And, after that, I joined with Seth Moulton,
a Democrat from Massachusetts, to introduce a version of the no-fly, no-buy legislation,
which could have prevented that tragedy, had it been in place before then. Then, of course, we had the horrible massacre
in Las Vegas, and, again, came together with Democrats to try to get a bipartisan solution,
universal background checks, 72-hour waiting periods, raising the minimum age to 21 for
all gun purchases, red flag laws. These are commonsense solutions that will
save lives in our country. And mental health is a major challenge, but
mental health cannot be used as an excuse to refuse to act on gun reform. JUDY WOODRUFF: And, in fact, we just heard
Amna Nawaz, my colleague, interviewing a psychiatrist at Duke University who says all the research
shows that most gun violence is not committed by people who are — who are mentally ill. But I want to drill down on what kind of legislation,
what changes can be made practically in this current political environment. What can happen, do you think? CARLOS CURBELO: Well, in the wake of this
horrible tragedy, we have seen some Republicans come out strongly in favor of red flag laws. Senator Lindsey Graham, who chairs the Senate
Judiciary Committee, is prepared to move that legislation. We have also seen some House Republicans join
the legislation that would require universal background checks. It would close all of the loopholes when it
comes to universal background checks. JUDY WOODRUFF: But, right now… CARLOS CURBELO: So, this is a good sign. The question, Judy, is whether Republican
leadership, specifically in the Senate, will allow this legislation to move forward. When I was in the House, we worked hard. We tried to convince leadership to allow this
legislation come to the floor. And they didn’t. JUDY WOODRUFF: But, again, my colleague Lisa
Desjardins reported just a few minutes ago that, right now, the Senate majority leader,
Mitch McConnell, is saying he is not going to put that background check legislation on
the floor, ostensibly because, he says, President Trump would veto it, wouldn’t support it. So what is it that’s holding — holding back
the president? What’s holding back other Republicans? CARLOS CURBELO: Well, the president in his
remarks did say that he was in favor of stronger background checks. So the White House will have to explain why
he would veto universal background check legislation. I can tell you this, Judy. Last November, a lot of Republicans lost because
of this issue, especially in suburban America. Voters are losing their patience. They want to see action on gun reform. They understand it’s a constitutional right. They don’t want to confiscate anyone’s guns. They just want laws that keep guns out of
the hands of dangerous people. That’s reasonable. It’s common sense. And if Senator McConnell wants to keep his
majority, he should really consider allowing some of this legislation to move forward. JUDY WOODRUFF: If that’s the case, though,
Congressman Curbelo, why are — do we not hear from more Republican members who say
they’re changing their minds, that they’re prepared to vote on this? CARLOS CURBELO: Well, we have seen some statements
recently, Judy. But the reason why a lot of members of Congress
don’t act or don’t compromise or don’t move towards the center is because they fear a
primary challenge. And without question, this is a potent issue
in Republican primaries. The NRA is a very powerful organization. But what I can tell a lot of my former Republican
colleagues, who — many of who are my friends, is that there are other organizations out
there, like Everytown USA, for example, that are willing to come out in support of Republicans
that take a reasonable approach to gun reform, that support some of these obvious measures
that do not diminish Second Amendment rights, but do keep innocent people safer. JUDY WOODRUFF: Is there something about the
way the arguments are being made that you think could be shifted, could be changed that
would bring more current opponents on board? CARLOS CURBELO: I think, unfortunately, it’s
going to take political pressure. And we have already seen some Republicans
reacting, colleagues who when I was in Congress wouldn’t even consider universal background
check legislation or red flag legislation. Some of these members of Congress have made
strong statements in the wake of this tragedy. And, hopefully, those statements will turn
into votes, and we can heal on this issue, we can start taking steps to solve this issue. And, by the way, Judy, it’s not just for the
sake of gun reform. The American people want to see their Congress
work and compromise and find common ground. If we get a compromise on gun reform, that
will help start to restore a lot of the trust and confidence that Americans have lost in
Congress and in government more broadly. JUDY WOODRUFF: Former Congressman Carlos Curbelo
of Florida, thank you very much for joining us. We appreciate it. CARLOS CURBELO: Thank you, Judy. JUDY WOODRUFF: We now continue our series
of conversations with Democratic presidential candidates. Steve Bullock is the two-term governor of
Montana. And he joins me now. Governor Bullock, thank you for being here. GOV. STEVE BULLOCK (D-MT), Presidential Candidate:
Judy, it’s great to be with you. JUDY WOODRUFF: So, you are the governor of
a state of a little over a million people, very red, very conservative. Donald Trump won it by over 20 points. Why should Democrats support you? GOV. STEVE BULLOCK: Well I think that, yes, I’m
the only one in this race that actually won in a state where Trump won. He took Montana by 20 points. I won by four; 25 percent to 30 percent of
my voters voted for Donald Trump. If we can’t win back some of these places
we lost, we’re not going to win. And it’s also more than that. Even with what is right now a 60 percent Republican
legislature, we have been able to Democrat that you can get meaningful things done that
impact people’s everyday lives. And people want both the economy and D.C.
to work for them. I mean, outside of Washington, D.C., I think
I have a little bit of different perspective than most folks here. JUDY WOODRUFF: You have called yourself progressive,
and you have favored things like the Earned Income Tax Credit. You were able to expand Medicaid in the state
of Montana. But there are other Democrats, like Bernie
Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, who would say the country needs big and bold after Donald
Trump, it needs things like the Green New Deal, like Medicare for all. GOV. STEVE BULLOCK: Yes. And I call myself progressive, and believe
it, because at the core of that word really is progress. We need to be able to make a meaningful difference
for people’s lives. We can’t just talk about the challenges. We have to actually first be able to hear
Americans, and address those challenges. So I want to make sure that, as I’m proposing
things, it’s not like with Medicare for all. I don’t discount it because it’s like you
couldn’t get it done necessarily. I do discount it in as much as I don’t think
that’s the best policy solution. And the most progressive solution is to make
sure everybody has health care that’s affordable. And you can do that without upending what’s
been about — it took about 70 years to get to where we were when the Affordable Care
Act passed. So, let’s build on that. Let’s not just rip it apart. JUDY WOODRUFF: Guns, uppermost in our minds
right now, as you know. Your own family has been touched by gun violence. You have talked about your then 11-year-old
nephew being shot to death on a school playground, what, 25 years ago. When you campaigned for reelection in 2016,
you were against universal background checks. GOV. STEVE BULLOCK: Sure. JUDY WOODRUFF: Now you are for them. Why the change? GOV. STEVE BULLOCK: Things like universal background
checks, it’s not just Democrats that say they would like this. I mean, NRA members say this makes sense. And, as a gun owner I mean, I’m calling on
other gun owners to say, we all want to keep our communities safe. We can do it in ways that — with, as an example,
universal background checks. JUDY WOODRUFF: But you acknowledge your position
changed… GOV. STEVE BULLOCK: Absolutely. JUDY WOODRUFF: … because of what you have
seen. Some people are saying President Trump’s language,
his rhetoric has contributed to part of what’s going on. How do you see it? GOV. STEVE BULLOCK: Yes. I — certainly, in — he has — you know,
I would never want to put the blood of people all across this country on one person’s hands. But for him to say we have to speak with one
voice when it comes to speaking out against racism and white nationalism and bigotry,
when so much of the language that he’s used over this last two-and-a-half years has included
racism, equivocating on white nationalism, and bigotry. So you can’t say this just the day after shootings,
when you haven’t lived it for last two-and-a-half years. I do think that, you know, when tacitly even,
white nationalists might think, well, this guy, if he equivocates on Charlottesville,
he has my back, I don’t think that helps at all with what we are as a country. JUDY WOODRUFF: Campaign finance. You have been waging a legal battle against
so-called dark money. This is money from donors who aren’t identified. You recently won a lawsuit against the Trump
administration having to do with foreign money, transparency. My question is, without a constitutional amendment
to overturn the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which, as you know, lifted restrictions
on corporate political spending… GOV. STEVE BULLOCK: Sure. JUDY WOODRUFF: … is there a way to keep
dark money out of American politics? GOV. STEVE BULLOCK: Oh, I think there absolutely
is. Even in Montana, with a two-thirds Republican
legislature, we passed a law that said, if you are going to spend in our elections — I
don’t care if you’re a 501(c)(4). I don’t care what you call yourself. In the last 90 days, you have to disclose
all that spending in contributions. JUDY WOODRUFF: So, two other things. You would, then, support an amendment to overturn… GOV. STEVE BULLOCK: I would love to see the 28th
Amendment passed. JUDY WOODRUFF: … the Citizens United? GOV. STEVE BULLOCK: Absolutely. JUDY WOODRUFF: So you’re fighting dark money. But we know that you are also tonight in Washington
scheduled to attend a closed-door fund-raiser with a registered lobbyist as one of the co-hosts,
a man named Jay Driscoll. This has been reported by the Center for Public
Integrity. He’s lobbied 35 or so clients just this year,
many of whom give corporate money, but don’t disclose. GOV. STEVE BULLOCK: Yes, but they certainly don’t
give corporate money to me. I mean, the fact that we could even be having
this conversation is what I want to add, is the sunshine and transparency. And as much as many of the presidential candidates
now have super PACs, some may even take corporate PAC money, I have said no PACs, know super
PACs, all individuals, and disclose completely, under the allowable rule, so that we can have
this conversation, so that one individual helping out a fund-raiser certainly isn’t
going to be influencing my everyday actions. And I think that it’s — to me, more nefarious
is the lack of transparency and sunshine. JUDY WOODRUFF: The environment. You don’t support the Green New Deal, which
critics say is too radical. But if climate is an existential threat, why
not do something dramatic? GOV. STEVE BULLOCK: Oh, no, and we do have to take
bold and immediate steps. I mean, I’m from the West. Our fire seasons are 48 days longer than what
they were about four decades ago. So, rejoining Paris. The auto industry didn’t even want the removal
of these fuel-efficiency standards. Investing in technology and research, so we
can get more renewables onto the grid. We know the scientists say we have to be carbon-neutral,
not as a country, but as a world, by 2050. I think we could do it by 2040 or even earlier. JUDY WOODRUFF: All right, we will leave it
there. Governor Steve Bullock, thank you very much. GOV. STEVE BULLOCK: Thanks for having me, Judy. JUDY WOODRUFF: And our series of conversations
with the Democratic presidential candidates continues tomorrow with billionaire philanthropist
Tom Steyer. Finally tonight, an appreciation of author
and Nobel laureate Toni Morrison, who died last night. Jeffrey Brown looks back at how she helped
to transform modern American letters. This tribute is part of Canvas, our ongoing
arts and culture coverage. JEFFREY BROWN: As editor, teacher, and, most
of all, writer, Toni Morrison changed and enhanced American literature. In 2012, on the campus of Howard University,
where she’d been an undergraduate, she looked back to her younger self just starting out
in the world. TONI MORRISON, Nobel Prize Winner: I was so
confident and capable. The future was, you know, right there, right
at your fingertips. And I was so happy to be among what I hadn’t
had when I was in Ohio, African-American intellectuals. And that was the company I wanted to keep. JEFFREY BROWN: She worked as a book editor
first, and was nearly 40 when her first novel, “The Bluest Eye,” was published, followed
by “Sula,” “Song of Solomon,” and other books, 11 novels, children’s books, and essay collections
that made her reputation for bringing to the fore a distinctly African-American story rooted
in the history and the legacy of slavery, written in a powerful voice like no other. TONI MORRISON: “Sethe was trying to make up
for the hand saw. Beloved was making her pay for it.” JEFFREY BROWN: “Beloved,” widely considered
her masterwork, was published in 1987 and won the Pulitzer Prize. A 1998 film version starred Oprah Winfrey
as a mother who escaped her Kentucky master and, upon capture in Ohio, killed her own
daughter, rather than have her forced back into a life of slavery. Morrison spoke to the “NewsHour”‘s Charlayne
Hunter-Gault when the novel first came out. TONI MORRISON: I read an article in a 19th
century newspaper about a woman whose name was Margaret Garner. It was an article that stayed with me for
a long, long time, and seemed to have in it an extraordinary idea that was worthy of a
novel, which was this compulsion to nurture, this ferocity that a woman has to be responsible
for her children, and, at the same time, the kind of tensions that exist in trying to be
a separate, complete individual. JEFFREY BROWN: In a recent documentary film,
“Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am,” Morrison spoke of her goals as a writer. TONI MORRISON: I didn’t want to speak for
black people. I wanted to speak to and to be among. It’s us. So, the first thing I had to do was to eliminate
the white gaze. Jimmy Baldwin used to talk about, the little
white man that sits on your shoulder, and checks out everything you do and say. So I wanted to knock him off, and you’re free. Now I own the world. I can write about anything, to anyone, for
anyone. JEFFREY BROWN: Morrison was awarded the Nobel
Prize for Literature in 1993, the first African-American woman to win, praised by the Academy for her
— quote — “visionary force.” And she was given the Presidential Medal of
Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, by Barack Obama in 2012. Morrison was on the bestseller list again
in 1997 for her novel “Paradise,” set in an Oklahoma town called Ruby. And the “NewsHour”‘s Elizabeth Farnsworth
talked to her of the period when freed men left plantations, sometimes under duress. TONI MORRISON: The isolation, the separateness
is always a part of any utopia, and it was my meditation, if you will, and interrogation
of the whole idea of paradise, the safe place, the place full of bounty, where no one can
harm you. But in addition to that, it’s based on the
notion of exclusivity. All paradises, all utopias are defined by
who is not there, by the people who are not allowed in. JEFFREY BROWN: In 2005, Morrison wrote the
libretto for “Margaret Garner,” an opera based on the story from which she wrote “Beloved.” Composed by Richard Danielpour, it starred
Denyce Graves. At the time, Morrison told me how moved she
was by the experience. TONI MORRISON: There’s this other thing, which
is a kind of restoration, redemption that the opera can offer via its music, its words,
its singers, and its stage, to the audience, so that, when you leave, you know more, you
felt more, and you felt more deeply. But, somehow, you are more human than you
were, or you feel more human, more humane, more capable than you did when you came in. JEFFREY BROWN: More human, more humane, more
capable, words that express what Toni Morrison herself created in a literature that so deeply
affected her readers. Morrison died Monday in New York. She was 88 years old. And joining us now is one of many writers
who were influenced by Toni Morrison. Tracy K. Smith is the former poet
laureate of the United States. Her latest volume is “Wade in the Water.” She’s a professor and head of the Lewis Center
for the Arts at Princeton University, where Toni Morrison taught for many years. Tracy, it’s nice to talk to you again. First, talk about Toni Morrison the writer. What stood out for you in the language, the
stories she told? TRACY K. SMITH, former U.S. Poet
Laureate: Well, I feel like what stands out for me is the amazing vigor and resourcefulness,
the beautiful aesthetic sense that drives her work, the way that we can be moving forward
and deeper into a world that is made up of characters, voices, and then suddenly we’re
in what almost feels like a spirit level. Her work activates a beautiful human urgency
that stems from the social conditions that her characters — her characters live in,
are touched by. But it never stops being poetry. It never stops being a living language. And I think that’s something that’s been hugely
inspiring to so many writers, myself included. JEFFREY BROWN: And what story did she tell
over her life as a writer? TRACY K. SMITH: I feel like Morrison provides
us as Americans with a vocabulary for acknowledging and grappling with the effects, the ongoing
effects of slavery upon all of us, no matter who we are. She reminds us that the lives of blacks who
are often at the center of that story exist on a mythic scale that were central to what
America is, what it believes itself to be, and what it might actively be pushing against
as well. It’s a story that lives in history, but I
think it takes art to bring those questions and those realities into an urgent kind of
contact with who we are as people. Morrison used to talk about, you know, crossing
the mere air that sits between yourself and another person and how difficult that is sometimes. But it’s the language of literature and art
that helps us to do that. It pulls us out of ourselves and makes us
beholden to other people who might be strangers to us. JEFFREY BROWN: You were talking about the
influence she had on you and so many writers personally. Tell me a little bit about that. You knew her as a — you were a young writer. She’s there on campus. What is that like? Who was she to you? TRACY K. SMITH: Oh, gosh, I remember — I
remember, in my first year on this campus, I was given a classroom that sat in what was
essentially a vestibule outside of Toni Morrison’s office. And on maybe the third or fourth week of class,
she walked through that space on her way into her office, and my heart stopped. I knew she taught here, but I had never seen
her. And I felt this huge welling of awe and gratitude
just arrest me. And I thought, oh, this is — I’m in the presence
not only of greatness, but I’m in the presence of the real. I’m in the presence of, you know, the living
word, Logos in a way. Of course, she was so generous and present
and devoted to her students, and had a really beautiful way of breaking down that sense
of awe and making herself useful to the young people that she was teaching. But she never stopped being great. JEFFREY BROWN: That’s for sure. Tracy K. Smith on the life and work of Toni
Morrison, thank you very much. JUDY WOODRUFF: She never stopped being great. And that is the “NewsHour” for tonight. I’m Judy Woodruff. Join us online and again here tomorrow evening. For all of us at the “PBS NewsHour,” thank
you, and we’ll see you soon. END

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