Transcript: Presidential Debate Discusses Gun Control

The following is an excerpt from CNN’s transcript of the presidential debate from last night.

QUESTION: President Obama, during the Democratic National
Convention in 2008, you stated you wanted to keep AK-47s out of the
hands of criminals. What has your administration done or planned to
do to limit the availability of assault weapons?

OBAMA: We’re a nation that believes in the Second Amendment, and
I believe in the Second Amendment. We’ve got a long tradition of
hunting and sportsmen and people who want to make sure they can
protect themselves.

But there have been too many instances during the course of my
presidency, where I’ve had to comfort families who have lost somebody.
Most recently out in Aurora. You know, just a couple of weeks ago,
actually, probably about a month, I saw a mother, who I had met at the
bedside of her son, who had been shot in that theater.

And her son had been shot through the head. And we spent some
time, and we said a prayer and, remarkably, about two months later,
this young man and his mom showed up, and he looked unbelievable, good
as new.

But there were a lot of families who didn’t have that good
fortune and whose sons or daughters or husbands didn’t survive.

So my belief is that, (A), we have to enforce the laws we’ve
already got, make sure that we’re keeping guns out of the hands of
criminals, those who are mentally ill. We’ve done a much better job
in terms of background checks, but we’ve got more to do when it comes
to enforcement.

But I also share your belief that weapons that were designed for
soldiers in war theaters don’t belong on our streets. And so what I’m
trying to do is to get a broader conversation about how do we reduce
the violence generally. Part of it is seeing if we can get an assault
weapons ban reintroduced. But part of it is also looking at other
sources of the violence. Because frankly, in my home town of Chicago,
there’s an awful lot of violence and they’re not using AK-47s.
They’re using cheap hand guns.

And so what can we do to intervene, to make sure that young
people have opportunity; that our schools are working; that if there’s
violence on the streets, that working with faith groups and law
enforcement, we can catch it before it gets out of control.

And so what I want is a – is a comprehensive strategy. Part of
it is seeing if we can get automatic weapons that kill folks in
amazing numbers out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill.
But part of it is also going deeper and seeing if we can get into
these communities and making sure we catch violent impulses before
they occur.

CROWLEY: Governor Romney, the question is about assault weapons,

ROMNEY: Yeah, I’m not in favor of new pieces of legislation on
– on guns and taking guns away or making certain guns illegal. We,
of course, don’t want to have automatic weapons, and that’s already
illegal in this country to have automatic weapons. What I believe is
we have to do, as the president mentioned towards the end of his
remarks there, which is to make enormous efforts to enforce the gun
laws that we have, and to change the culture of violence that we have.

And you ask how – how are we going to do that? And there are a
number of things. He mentioned good schools. I totally agree. We
were able to drive our schools to be number one in the nation in my
state. And I believe if we do a better job in education, we’ll –
we’ll give people the – the hope and opportunity they deserve and
perhaps less violence from that. But let me mention another thing.
And that is parents. We need moms and dads, helping to raise kids.
Wherever possible the – the benefit of having two parents in the
home, and that’s not always possible. A lot of great single moms,
single dads. But gosh to tell our kids that before they have babies,
they ought to think about getting married to someone, that’s a great

Because if there’s a two parent family, the prospect of living in
poverty goes down dramatically. The opportunities that the child will
– will be able to achieve increase dramatically. So we can make
changes in the way our culture works to help bring people away from
violence and give them opportunity, and bring them in the American
system. The – the greatest failure we’ve had with regards to – to
gun violence in some respects is what – what is known as Fast and
Furious. Which was a program under this administration, and how it
worked exactly I think we don’t know precisely, where thousands of
automatic, and AK-47 type weapons were – were given to people that
ultimately gave them to – to drug lords.

They used those weapons against – against their own citizens and
killed Americans with them. And this was a – this was a program of
the government. For what purpose it was put in place, I can’t
imagine. But it’s one of the great tragedies related to violence in
our society which has occurred during this administration. Which I
think the American people would like to understand fully, it’s been
investigated to a degree, but – but the administration has carried
out executive privilege to prevent all of the information from coming

I’d like to understand who it was that did this, what the idea
was behind it, why it led to the violence, thousands of guns going to
Mexican drug lords.
OBAMA: Candy?

CROWLEY: Governor, Governor, if I could, the question was about
these assault weapons that once were once banned and are no longer

I know that you signed an assault weapons ban when you were in
Massachusetts, obviously, with this question, you no longer do support
that. Why is that, given the kind of violence that we see sometimes
with these mass killings? Why is it that you have changed your mind?

ROMNEY: Well, Candy, actually, in my state, the pro-gun folks
and the anti-gun folks came together and put together a piece of
legislation. And it’s referred to as an assault weapon ban, but it
had, at the signing of the bill, both the pro-gun and the anti-gun
people came together, because it provided opportunities for both that
both wanted.

There were hunting opportunities, for instance, that haven’t
previously been available and so forth, so it was a mutually agreed-
upon piece of legislation. That’s what we need more of, Candy. What
we have right now in Washington is a place that’s gridlocked.

CROWLEY: So I could – if you could get people to agree to it,
you would be for it?

ROMNEY: We have –

OBAMA: Candy?

ROMNEY: – we haven’t had the leadership in Washington to work
on a bipartisan basis. I was able to do that in my state and bring
these two together.

CROWLEY: Quickly, Mr. President.

OBAMA: The – first of all, I think Governor Romney was for an
assault weapons ban before he was against it. And he said that the
reason he changed his mind was, in part, because he was seeking the
endorsement of the National Rifle Association. So that’s on the

But I think that one area we agree on is the important of parents
and the importance of schools, because I do believe that if our young
people have opportunity, then they are less likely to engage in these
kinds of violent acts. We’re not going to eliminate everybody who is
mentally disturbed and we have got to make sure they don’t get


OBAMA: because I do believe that if our young people have
opportunity, then they’re less likely to engage in these kind of
violent acts.

We’re not going to eliminate everybody who is mentally disturbed,
and we’ve got to make sure they don’t get weapons. But we can make a
difference in terms ensuring that every young person in America,
regardless of where they come from, what they look like, have a chance
to succeed.

And, Candy, we haven’t had a chance to talk about education much,
but I think it is very important to understand that the reforms we’ve
put in place, working with 46 governors around the country, are seeing
schools that are some of the ones that are the toughest for kids
starting to succeed. We’re starting to see gains in math and science.

When it comes to community colleges, we are setting up programs,
including with Nassau Community College, to retrain workers, including
young people who may have dropped out of school but now are getting
another chance, training them for the jobs that exist right now.

And in fact, employers are looking for skilled workers. And so
we’re matching them up. Giving them access to higher education. As I
said, we have made sure that millions of young people are able to get
an education that they weren’t able to get before.


CROWLEY: Mr. President, I have to – I have to move you along
here. You said you wanted to…


CROWLEY: We need to do it here.

OBAMA: But – but it’ll – it’ll – it’ll be…


OBAMA: … just one second.


OBAMA: Because – because this is important. This is part of
the choice in this election.

teachers was important to growing our economy, Governor Romney said
that doesn’t grow our economy.


CROWLEY: The question, Mr. President, was guns here, so I need
to move us along.

OBAMA: I understand.

CROWLEY: You know, the question was guns. So let me – let me
bring in another…

OBAMA: But this will make a difference in terms of whether or
not we can move this economy forward for these young people…

CROWLEY: I understand.

OBAMA: … and reduce our violence.

CROWLEY: OK. Thank you so much.