I want to tell our viewers, too, Trump's indictment is not the only heated topic, as we well know Washington.
Debate over the role of guns in America is again rising after another deadly elementary school shooting, this time in Nashville, where a 28-year-old former student armed with an AR-15 military style rifle killed six people, three of them nine-year-old children.
Republicans in Washington responded to the tragedy by saying it is too soon to judge.
President Biden admitted he believes he has exhausted all of his executive authority to act on gun violence.
But Wednesday evening, in a remarkable moment, the growing tension between the two parties boiled over into the hallways of Congress.
Jamaal Bowman: The solution is not arming teachers.
Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY): We have got guns here to protect us and he does not believe the kids should have somebody to protect them.
Lisa Desjardins: Ashley, I want to talk to you about this first.
You had an extraordinary work of journalism that you're part of this week in The Washington Post about the AR-15, the gun that divides us.
I want to ask you, why is that gun so politically powerful?
Ashley Parker: Because at this point, as we sort of say, it was a huge -- I should say, it was a huge series of multiple stories across all desks in the newsroom.
But it has really become an American icon, which you saw from that video you just played.
Everyone has a strong opinion about it.
It is incredibly polarizing.
Those opinions are incredibly different depending on where you live, what your beliefs system is, whether or not you own one of these weapons.
But it was also -- I mean, it started with a very deliberate marketing campaign by the gun manufacturers.
You have to go back to the AR-15 was originally invented as a weapon of war to help our troops in Vietnam.
It was not very popular at gun shows.
It was sort of - - would be in the back.
True gun enthusiasts didn't love it.
They thought it was cheap for hunting, not really a sportsman's gun.
And then it has been described as sort of Barbie dolls for men, although men are not the only ones, of course, who have this weapon, but there is tremendous revenue to make in the AR.
Because if you buy a handgun, that is kind of the end of it.
But you can buy an AR and then you can go back and you can customize it and you trick it out.
And so it's sort of like you get the Barbie but then you can get the dream house and then you can get the outfit.
So, this is a very deliberate effort that has now become sort of just embedded in the fabric of our nation in how people define who they are and who they aren't.
Lisa Desjardins: Domenico, what's the polling on guns?
We had a decade where there was an assault weapon ban in this country.
And at that point, that idea was relatively popular.
Now, the country is split.
Who moved in that?
Obviously, people moved more toward gun rights, I suppose.
Luke Broadwater: Well, we are seeing a couple things happen here when it comes to guns, which is really interesting.
I mean, you are seeing more people than ever before be supportive of gun restrictions than we have seen in the past.
At the same time, Republicans are headed in the other direction.
So, when you look at -- for example, we did a big poll last year.
We talked to gun owners, we talked people writ large on this, and 60-plus percent of people were in favor of an AR-15 ban.
The difference was only 40-something percent of independents and 25 percent of Republicans were in favor of that ban.
It was really kind of skewed by just how many Democrats were so in favor of an AR-15 ban.
And when you have that kind of split and when you have these districts in the country that are, I would say, maybe three dozen now that are truly competitive districts, when you have that be the case, I mean, when I was covering politics starting out in 2006, I had 129 competitive districts or potentially competitive districts on my list.
Now, it is only in the 30s.
When you have that, you have way more orthodoxy.
And for Republicans, that really means guns as one of the principal issues that they stand from on.
Lisa Desjardins: Mario, what about Democrats?
We know that the Democratic base wants more gun legislation, they want more action from President Biden.
But he said he has run out of things he can do.
But I also don't hear him stumping on this.
Is there a reason that we don't hear more from the president on this?
Mario Parker: No.
I mean, he has -- we saw him in Monterey Park, California, two weeks, right, two weeks before this latest incident.
He has said that he has issued a steady flow of executive orders.
And earlier this week, he said, you know what, there is nothing else he can do beyond the executive order.
He has to figure out a way to get something done in Congress.
And as we just outlined, it is a fraught situation.
He pointed to the big money that is involved there, right?
And so we ran some numbers that show that the NRA, for example, spent $16 million in last year's midterms, donated to 257 GOP candidates alone.
That's quite a big number, and then spent another $8 million on lobbying as well.
So, that is the big money that Democrats and Biden administration are up against.
Lisa Desjardins: Inevitably, this brings us back to our home turf, Congress, Luke.
I think a lot of Americans just don't understand why Congress is sort of shouting in the hallways but not actually having real conversation here about it.
What is your understanding?
Luke Broadwater: I mean, the parties are so divided on this issue.
Even if you could get some kind of consensus around some very minor changes, it is really hard to get the votes to do that with the House now in the hands of Republicans.
And you would still need nine Republicans in the Senate to join whatever proposal.
And the party has just embraced the AR-15.
I don't know any other way to say it.
I mean, it is very common for Republicans to pose for Christmas pictures with their families holding AR-15s.
It's like every time there is talk of a ban, sales of the AR-15s go through the roof.
I think it's more than one in ten Republicans owns an AR-15.
So, we are literally talking about taking the guns from their houses when you start talking about an assault weapons ban.
Lisa Desjardins: Although a ban usually is moving forward.
I don't think there's any proposals for -- yes.
Luke Broadwater: Correct.
But that is the way they view it, and it activates them.
And so, yes, the parties are so divided.
And they did pass some legislation last Congress and almost all the Republican senators who I talked to about in the halls say, we want to see that implemented first before we try to pass anything else.
Lisa Desjardins: Ashley, the NRA has come up here.
Mario brought it up.
It's not just the NRA anymore, is it, or is it that is motivating this?
Ashley Parker: No, it is not at all.
Mario is right about all of those figures, but the NRA, in general, is far weakened, far less of a player than it was a decade ago.
But as Domenico was saying, what it really comes down to is this is key orthodoxy in the Republican base.
And so it doesn't matter that something might be popular across the nation.
These Republicans just feel that they cannot take -- forget about a tough vote, they can barely take any vote for what a lot of people would term common sense gun restrictions and win their party's primary.
It comes down to fear from the base and it's also become a political symbol, right?
I mean, Luke was describing the pictures we see of the children with ARs on Christmas cards, but it is also that symbol.
Members of Congress are wearing that as lapel pins.
They used all where flags.
Now, they've added ARs.
It is a way to own the libs.
It is the closest way to sort of instantly show your political identity.
Domenico Montanaro: I'll say this, though.
Politics can be like an aircraft carrier.
And sometimes you don't even notice you're on the aircraft carrier, you don't even notice it's turning around when you are on the aircraft carrier because it moves so slowly.
And what we have seen with the NRA, but with the decline of the NRA as well, there have been pro-gun restriction groups that have stepped in like every town, the Giffords Group, and Mike Bloomberg, who is a billionaire New Yorker who ran for president but also has a lot of money to donate to a group like every town, which he has funded.
They have made real differences at the statewide level because when you have politics at the federal level being as split as it is, a lot of these fights of going to the states, and a lot of Democratic groups have kind of gotten hip to some of these strategies that Republican groups have used over the years.
And you are starting to see the tide turn somewhat.
I'll be really interested in the next 15 and 20 years where we are at then.
Lisa Desjardins: We have just a couple of minutes left, but one last question on gun issue.
I wonder is this an issue of, anyone who might know something about this, Republicans just are less familiar with people being harmed by guns and maybe Democrats are less familiar with people who own guns?
I mean, is that -- because it seems like people who say, if you know someone who was killed by an AR-15, that is an issue.
You don't -- I don't know.
Just a theory, everyone is not -- Ashley Parker: Guns at this point have touched every single slice of life, right?
Parents, they have been in schools, they have been in churches, they have been in predominately black supermarkets, they have been country music concerts in Las Vegas.
It is hard to say that someone cannot imagine a situation they are in where one of these weapons might show up.
Lisa Desjardins: All right.
We have just about a minute left.
Now, here is a question I am excited to ask to see.
We talk about this historic time.
Mario and I both agree this is a time we're lucky to be reporters.
I want to ask each of you quickly, what adjectives would you choose to describe this time right now?
Domenico Montanaro: Scary, crazy, exciting.
Mario Parker: Extraordinary, exhilarating, critical.
Lisa Desjardins: Nice.
I'll put you on the spot.
Luke Broadwater: I don't know, divisive and fraught.
Ashley Parker: I don't know if deja vu is even an adjective, and I recognize that this is unprecedented, but it all, just having covered Trump since 2015, feels so familiar, every single bit of it.
Lisa Desjardins: I would say, incredible, important, exhausting.