Attorney General Eric Holder joined Tom Joyner Morning Show correspondent Roland Martin to discuss various pressing topics affecting the nation; including the current gun control initiatives, overspending in the prison system, voting rights and more. Read the entire interview below.
ROLAND MARTIN : … Tonight the National Action Network will have their gala dinner honoring among other folks Bishop TD Jakes, Spike Lee, but the keynote person giving the speech tonight will be Attorney General Eric Holder who joins us right now. Mr. AG how are you doing?
ATTORNEY GENERAL ERIC HOLDER: I’m doing just fine. Good morning. How are you all doing?
ROLAND MARTIN : Doing great, you, of course, the top law enforcement official in the United States. And tonight’s speech clearly I suspect voter suppression. And the respect of the vote will be one of the critical issues you will address.
ATTORNEY GENERAL ERIC HOLDER: Yeah, I mean, there’s actually three parts to the speech. I’m going to talk about voting and the recent efforts to suppress the vote. I’m going to talk about gun violence and the efforts that the administration has underway to kind of deal with that problem. And also talk more broadly about the criminal justice system and where we are as a nation and I think where we need to be, especially in light of the fact that today is the 45th anniversary of the death of Doctor King. And kind of looked at where we were at that time and where we need to be in the 21st Century.
ROLAND MARTIN : You talk about the prison system. One of the things that’s quite interesting, I was talking to a civil rights leader, who said that they’ve actually gotten more support interestingly on the state level from republican governments on sentencing reform than they have from democratic governors. And sentencing reform is a critical issue because folks are realizing you can’t just keep locking folks up. The cost is tremendous. And I think that’s going to somehow solve a lot of our problems in this country.
ATTORNEY GENERAL ERIC HOLDER: I think that’s right. There is a growing recognition, certainly I’ve seen it, among the republicans and democrats that we can incarcerate our way out of the problems that we face as a nation in terms of cost. The last thing I saw was in 2009 and it shows that about $83 billion dollars was spent in this nation on our criminal justice system, on our prison system. And if you look at the numbers you have 1 in 28 children has a parent in children. But if you look at African-American kids that number is 1 in 9. And we have to deal with underlying conditions that tend to breed crime as opposed to simply putting people in jail all the time. That simply doesn’t work. It just doesn’t work.
ROLAND MARTIN : So much of this conversation relates to gun control. Folks talking about banning assault weapons and things along those lines. But when you have 70% of the deaths in this country due to handguns, is the conversation too narrow in terms of just oh, pass this law, all is well, when there should be a much broader discussion on gun violence that involves different pieces: mental illness, background checks, as well as just dealing with handguns that really speak to the problem.
ATTORNEY GENERAL ERIC HOLDER: Well, the President has put together a proposal that really is comprehensive in nature. We have some specific things that we want Congress to look at, to deal with the gun show loophole, to make a universal background system, so that anybody who buys a gun, whether it’s an assault rifle or a handgun, has to go through a background check. We also look at this whole question of mental illness. And we’re making sure that the right people are in fact possessing guns. You know a lot of stuff is thrown at us that what the President has proposed his intention with the 2nd Amendment. And it’s clear from my perspective as a lawyer, and I think most disinterested people would agree, that the proposals that we have made do not infringe upon anybody’s 2nd Amendment rights by saying you have to go through a background check. That you can’t have the high-capacity magazine. These are just common sense safety measures that we as a nation I think need to embrace.
ROLAND MARTIN : Will we, though, see legislation being passed? Because you have all the back and forth, and you have folks from Sandy Hook, from other places, who say, you know what, have we lost the political courage and lost that window of opportunity to make something a reality?
ATTORNEY GENERAL ERIC HOLDER: Well, you know, that’s something that really gets me. I mean a window of opportunity. Sandy Hook happened on December the 14th. We’re now at the beginning of April. Has our attention span as a nation diminished that much so that in two and a half months or so, or four months after that horrific incident, we’ve already said that we’ve moved on to the next thing when what we are talking about is something that was the worst day of my professional life, when I went up to Sandy Hook and went into that elementary school, and saw the remnants of that incidents, and saw the blood splattered carpets, the blood splattered walls, saw the pictures of those poor little angels. We have not missed the window of opportunity. This President has been out there from that day trying to make sure that we reform our gun laws in a way that is consistent with our constitutional rights. And make sure that we take us to a different place to that we protect, especially protect, the children of this nation.
ROLAND MARTIN : I have to ask, you’re speaking tonight, you’re sticking around, but how long are you sticking around? Are you going to stay around for all four years?
ATTORNEY GENERAL ERIC HOLDER: Well, I don’t know, we’ll see.
TOM JOYNER: C’mon, man! C’mon, c’mon!
ROLAND MARTIN : I got to ask.
SYBIL WILKES: We need you.
TOM JOYNER: C’mon, Mr. Attorney General, please!
ATTORNEY GENERAL ERIC HOLDER: Well, I’m happy, I’m still enjoying what I’m doing, there’s still work to be done. I’m still the President’s wing-man, so I’m there with my boy. So we’ll see.
SYBIL WILKES: Nobody fights like you against those that fight you every day, Mr. Attorney General, every day.
TOM JOYNER: I know it’s a tough fight.
ATTORNEY GENERAL ERIC HOLDER: Well, you know, it’s tough, but when you understand what the stakes are, and what the opportunity is that we have, I can deal with all the nonsense. I can deal with whatever they throw at me. I grew up tough in New York City, you know, so if this is the best they’ve got in Washington, I’m ready for it.
TOM JOYNER: You’re going to take the salary cut?
ATTORNEY GENERAL ERIC HOLDER: I’m not sure I’m ready for that. (Laughter)
TOM JOYNER: Like the President did?
ATTORNEY GENERAL ERIC HOLDER: I’ll say this, what the President did I think is right. Given the fact that some federal employees may have to be furloughed, which means a paycut. And if that happens in the Justice Department that is certainly something that I will consider. But we’re working to try to make sure that our workforce does not have to be furloughed.