Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand Talks "Infuriating" Inaction on Gun Control After Thousand Oaks Shooting

The New York Democrat cited the midterm-election victories of Lucy McBath and Jennifer Wexton as reasons to hope gun reform could be coming.
Scott Kowalchyk/CBS

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand decried Congress' "infuriating" inaction on gun control and offered some hope for the future of gun reform when she stopped by The Late Show on Thursday in the aftermath of a shooting that left 13 people dead in Thousand Oaks, Calif.

The Democratic senator, who was just re-elected in New York State during Tuesday's midterm elections, kicked off her appearance addressing Wednesday night's shooting at a country music bar, the nation's deadliest since the attack on a high school in Parkland, Fla. nine months ago. The motive of the shooter is still unknown.

"Well, it is extraordinarily heartbreaking and it's infuriating because Congress literally has done nothing in the face of gun death after gun death in communities all across this country. And it is because of the greed: the greed of the gun manufacturers and the greed of the NRA," Gillibrand told host Stephen Colbert.

Still, the pro-gun reform lawmaker offered some hope for future reform based on Tuesday's elections. "I do believe things are changing. And the reason why I believe that is because we had candidates run in this last election who ran on this issue," she said, citing Democrat Lucy McBath, who won a seat in the House of Representatives in Georgia's sixth Congressional district and whose son was killed as a result of gun violence. She also mentioned Jennifer Wexton, who won in Virginia's 10th Congressional District, where the NRA is located, on a platform of gun reform.

Gillibrand also said that Parkland activist Emma Gonzalez, who she described as "speaking out and calling B.S. every time a politician gives her an excuse why they won't take on the NRA," was giving her hope for the future. 

Still, Gillibrand foresaw more work ahead of Democrats to pass stricter gun laws. "We have to obviously flip the Senate to be able to do whatever the House could do, that common-sense reform," Gillibrand said. "But I think the country is in a place where we will fight this until we get it done because you need these basic reforms."

Later in her appearance, Colbert asked the senator if it was constitutional for the White House to replace former Attorney General Jeff Sessions with now-Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker, Sessions' former chief of staff at the Justice Department. "No, I don't. Because in such a senior position you need the advice and consent of the Senate," Gillibrand said. "It should have been [Rod] Rosenstein."

Gillibrand also voiced her opinion that Whitaker should have recused himself from the Russia investigation. But when Colbert pressed her on the odds of that happening, she responded, "None." She added, "He has been chosen because he is a political pawn." She then expressed her enthusiasm to get back into session and pass a bipartisan bill to protect Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

"Good luck, because you're going to need it," Colbert responded.

Gillibrand was on the show to promote, in part, her new children's book Bold & Brave, about 10 suffragettes. She said that this midterm election, she was reminded of the importance of the right to vote by all the female voters and Georgia governor candidate Stacey Abrams' efforts to restore the franchise to some state residents. "Stacey Abrams is the suffragist of today."

When asked, inevitably, whether she plans to run for president in 2020, Gillibrand responded, "I will give it a long, hard thought and consideration."

The senator, who has served since 2009, ably won reelection on Tuesday, gaining 68 percent of the vote.

Colbert's CBS colleague James Corden also discussed the shooting during Thursday's Late Late Show, with the host taking time out of the program to offer a moment of silence to remember the victims.

Before that, though, Corden recapped the tragic events and voiced his frustration about the incessant nature of mass shootings in the U.S.

"I sat in my room this morning once again struggling to find the words to express the sadness and the anger, heartbreak I felt while watching the news," he said. "What can we say that hasn't already been said? How do we continue to beg the leaders of this country to change this culture when they clearly won't? When votes and financing and tradition seem to matter more than people's lives, how do we stop this from just becoming the norm? I really hope, and I cling to the hope, that the new members of Congress will step up where their predecessors let us down."

During the subsequent moment of silence, the photos and names of the 12 people killed by the shooter in Thousand Oaks flashed on the screen.