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Rep. Ellison Responds to Scalise Shooting: Wild West Atmosphere of Firearm Regulation is Ridiculous

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On Wednesday, a rifle-wielding man opened fire on Republican lawmakers during a congressional baseball practice, wounding Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana and four others. The assailant, James Hodgkinson, died after officers in Scalise’s security detail fired back at him. The attack has reignited the debate over gun control. Scalise has an A+ rating from the National Rifle Association, which opposes gun-control measures. We speak with Congressmember Keith Ellison, who has been slammed by the NRA as an “Anti-Second Amendment Radical,” but he says he has been mischaracterized.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: U.S. lawmakers returned to Capitol Hill in a somber mood Thursday as their colleague, Republican House Whip Steve Scalise, remained in critical condition after he was shot Wednesday while practicing for a congressional baseball game for charity in a Washington suburb, in Alexandria. President Donald Trump said Thursday Scalise faces a much more difficult struggle to recover from his gunshot wound than first thought.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: And Steve, in his own way, may have brought some unity to our long-divided country. We’ve had a very, very divided country for many years. And I have a feeling that Steve has made a great sacrifice, but there could be some unity being brought to our country. Let’s hope so.

AMY GOODMAN: Investigators say the shooter, James Tommy Hodgkinson, obtained his rifle and handgun from licensed firearms dealers. Hodgkinson died after officers in Scalise’s security detail fired back at him. The shooting prompted some Republicans to call for lawmakers to carry weapons, while others are calling for tighter firearms restrictions. Congressmember Steve Scalise, a Louisiana Republican, describes himself on his website as a strong supporter of the Second Amendment, and has an A+ rating from the National Rifle Association, which opposes gun-control measures.

Well, our next guest has been slammed by the NRA as an “Anti-Second Amendment Radical,” but says he has been mischaracterized. We’re joined by Minneapolis—from Minneapolis by Democratic Congressmember Keith Ellison of Minnesota, co-chairman of the House Progressive Caucus, first Muslim member of Congress. Ellison is also the deputy chair of the Democratic National Committee. We also want to talk about much more, including Trump’s plans to reverse the normalization of relations with Cuba, the court’s rejection of the second Muslim travel ban and how Congressman Ellison joined with nearly 200 Democratic congressmembers in suing President Trump, accusing him of violating the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution by accepting millions of dollars in payments from foreign governments to his companies while serving as U.S. president.

Welcome to Democracy Now!, Congressman Ellison.

REP. KEITH ELLISON: Thank you. Thank you. Good to be here.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to—I want to begin with your response to the shooting of your colleague, House leader Steve Scalise.

REP. KEITH ELLISON: Well, you know, it’s a horrible tragedy. We’re pulling for Steve, praying for his recovery, understanding that the injuries he suffered, you know, are serious, and that we just know that his family, everybody in his district and the whole country is just really pulling for him to make a speedy recovery. That’s essentially how I feel about this shooting.

Of course, the larger—the larger issues, of course, all remain, don’t they? I mean, you know, the issue of just the—just of availability of firearms anywhere—and not just firearms, but serious weapons, like a high-velocity assault rifle, like the one used in this case, and, of course, the ammunition. You know, this—you know, I think we need to look at the availability of this kind of ammunition, really poses increased danger because these bullets tumble inside a person’s body and do damage in—once, after they hit the individual, they bounce around inside a person’s body and cause internal damage to internal organs. And that’s how they’re designed to work.

So, I mean, this whole firearm debate, this whole—in our country, it’s really gotten to the radical extreme. I mean, the NRA says that if we have any commonsense, reasonable restrictions on guns, firearms, then that’s just the equivalent of complete abolition. So, I noted that you mentioned that my position is mischaracterized. It is mischaracterized, because I’ve never come out to say that no American should be able to own a private firearm. What I have said is that we need to have background checks. We need to make sure people who may hurt themselves or others don’t get access to these weapons. We shouldn’t have any military-style weapons. There should be limitations on ammunition and the size of high-volume magazines or clips, other things like that. We should—the Center for Disease Control should track and monitor gun deaths and violence committed with firearms, not just—not just people who go out and shoot others, but what about the suicides? What about accidental deaths? What about all this information that, if we had it, we could have a much better picture on how to move out on policy positions?

But, yeah, the NRA, you know—and look, those guys, they’re in it for the money, simple as that. And there’s an important documentary out there called Making a Killing, and it talks about how the large financial interests that fuel their extreme position, because it pays them.

AMY GOODMAN: And not only did what happened in Alexandria happen, with a number of people shot, including the congressman, Scalise, but, within hours—

REP. KEITH ELLISON: Right.

AMY GOODMAN: —the killing—the killing of three people at the UPS facility in San Francisco, and then the gunman killing himself.

REP. KEITH ELLISON: Yeah, horrible tragedy. Well, you know—

AMY GOODMAN: These happen on such a regular basis.

REP. KEITH ELLISON: That’s what I was going to say, Amy. You know, it almost seems like every day, you know. I mean, the sad thing is that these mass shootings have become the new normal. I mean, the extraordinary thing about what happened to Steve Scalise is that he’s a member of Congress. But, of course, that’s not even the first time that happened. Gabby Giffords was shot as she was doing Congress on Your Corner in her district only a few years ago. So, even members of Congress getting shot somehow has not prompted us to take a look at what we’re doing, and what we’re not doing, when it comes to making the country safer.

AMY GOODMAN: And, of course, this week is the anniversary of the Pulse nightclub shooting—

REP. KEITH ELLISON: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: —where scores of people were gunned down, 49 people dead.

REP. KEITH ELLISON: Absolutely. I mean, it’s just a horrific tragedy. And I just want to say that our country has to hear the cries and the pleas of the families who suffer this way. And, you know, there is no explanation for our inaction, other than powerful interests, who make a lot of money selling guns and ammunition and everything else, simply stand in the way and won’t allow it. But I’m never going to stop fighting for commonsense, good gun-safety laws. And if they say that I’m some sort of an extremist, then they’re just a—that’s just the ultimate form of projection, because, clearly, you know—I mean, just so you know, Amy, I mean, I owned a few shotguns. I mean, I—you know, I’m not against that. That’s in my family history. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. But I do think, you know, just the Wild West atmosphere that we have, in terms of regulating firearms, is ridiculous. And other countries don’t do this. And, of course, as a result, they’re a lot safer, when it comes to this danger.

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